The Dark Knight Rises Review OR In A Word: EPIC

I just saw The Dark Knight Rises, and WOW it was crazy!!  And I loved it.  I was on the edge of my seat for pretty much the entire movie.  It was a rough go of it for our friend the Batman but he, not surprisingly, rose up and beat the hell out of the bad guys.

But first, the Man of Steel trailer!!  In my theater they showed like 7 other trailers before Man of Steel and I was losing my mind jonesing for some Superman.  And then FINALLY it came up and it turns out that Superman’s a hitchhiking fisherman now.  Then he flew, though, and I was very happy.  Watching Superman fly is like my fourth favourite thing in the entire world.  I sat through the ENTIRE final season of Smallville just to see Clark turn into Superman and that show was pretty damn terrible by the end, so that shows you how much I love seeing Superman being Superman.  Anyway, I learned absolutely nothing about the movie from the trailer, so yeah… Superman likes to fish, I guess.

Now onto The Dark Knight Rises!!  I suppose that before we get to that I should point out…


Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na SPOILERS!!

Seriously, if you haven’t seen the movie yet, I’m going to spoil it SO bad.  So go away until you’ve seen it!!

Okay, so The Dark Knight Rises.  It was EPIC.  The sheer scope of this movie was insane.  It was like The Dark Knight Returns, Knightfall, and No Man’s Land all smashed together into one movie.  Which sounds like a lot, and it really was… it was nearly three hours long!!  But surprisingly, it all wove together super well into an absolutely nutso and fantastic movie.

When I first heard that Bane was going to be the villain, I thought Christopher Nolan had totally jumped the shark.  Heath Ledger’s AMAZING Joker had set an unbelievably high bar, and the generally mindless, busting stuff up Bane struck me as the absolute worst way to go next.  But they figured out a way to a) make Bane work in the real world, and b) make Bane AWESOME.  That voice was so creepy and bizarre, he carried himself with such confidence and swagger, and he was SUPER scary.  With the Joker, he was frightening but unpredictable enough that you would probably figure you’d have a 50/50 chance of surviving meeting him.  He was insane, sure, but goofy and not necessarily homicidal ALL of the time.  If you ever meet Bane, chances are he’s going to kill you at some point because that’s just what he does.  However you encounter Bane, ultimately it’s going to end badly for you.  Combining this precise, brutal killing machine with the master plan of the League of Shadows was a fascinating combination.  He’s brute force incarnate, but he’s also extremely strategic and cunning.  It made for such a good villain.  Plus he looked super cool.  They made the mask work, and his wardrobe, especially that jacket, was perfect.

Also, I might have cheered a little when he broke Batman’s back.  I love Batman, but that was SO classic!!

So yeah, Bane was fantastic.  Also fantastic was that I actually dug Batman in this movie.  In both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, I felt like Batman was the least interesting character on the screen.  His voice was ridiculous, he was always so serious but in a dull way, and I’m not big into the costume.   I think the build up to him returning as Batman had me jonesing for some Batman action (however silly the recluse Bruce Wayne thing was), and the lack of a gratingly annoying romantic subplot helped me like him a lot more too.  When the lights went out in the tunnels in that motorcycle chase, I was beside myself with excitement.  When he came back to Gotham City and we heard his voice for the first time, I might have been a smidge emotional.  I still don’t love Nolan’s Batman and how Bale plays him, but this was BY FAR the most I’ve liked him in any of the movies. 

Joseph Gordon Levitt’s John Blake, or Robin John Blake, was great too.  I felt like he was the real heart of the movie.  Gordon was all laid up in the hospital and Batman was off being Howard Hughes for a while and then Bane broke him.  Blake was there for everything, tying it all together and constantly taking on Bane and later his regime however he could.  I LOVED that the movie ended with him about to take up the mantle.  Even though he was a new character with no real comic book basis, he was so well done that I thought the ending was very earned.

The plot of the movie was rather massive in scope, from bringing back Batman to Bane’s gradual growth to breaking Batman to Bane’s takeover to the resistance and Bruce recuperating and then the final battle.  Compared to a normal superhero movie, this was so much bigger.  Even in The Avengers, which had a much meatier plot than its predecessors, it was still a few small skirmishes and then the big final battle.  For The Dark Knight Rises, the big final battle happened in the middle of the movie and the bad guy won, and then the second half of the movie was dealing with the repercussions of that and leading to a bigger, more finale battle at the very end.  Funny they both ended with nukes, though.

While this movie was huge, it worked really well and it flowed along decently, especially when you consider how much was going on.  There were bits when a character would sort of disappear for a while, but they were always back before you missed them too much.  Some of the early sections dragged… there were a lot of lengthy speeches, and I hated the entire Alfred storyline, so there were things they could have trimmed.  But all in all, the plot kept moving and the action kept coming and I was perpetually on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what would happen next.  It felt like there were real stakes, and I got VERY invested in everything VERY fast.

Now, I loved The Dark Knight Rises like crazy but I do have some criticisms.  They really didn’t affect my enjoyment of the movie, so I’m just going to run through them quick.  Bane was so awesome and I was super behind Batman and the plot kept barreling forward, so I was totally sucked in and loving it.  These are more after the fact quibbles:

  • I didn’t love Anne Hathaway as Catwoman.  I didn’t hate her, but she just didn’t have that Catwoman vibe to me.  Both in look and attitude, it wasn’t Catwoman.  Also, whenever I see Anne Hathaway I feel like she’s about to break into song, which is really not what you’re looking for in Selina Kyle.   
  • In all three movies Gotham was totally generic and had no character.  Gotham City is not New York City.  It’s dark and weird and gothic and even the new bits feel old.  This was just a run of the mill city.
  • I can’t even handle Michael Caine’s Alfred.  The accent is wrong and he’s so overwrought all the time.  I wanted Bruce to punch him in the face after the eighth time he was harping on about him settling down.
  • Also, I don’t give a hoot about Rachel at all.
  • Batman’s armour and his vehicles still look silly.  I know the bike can do cool things, but it also looks ridiculous.  Ditto the helicopter.
  • Batman kept getting the rug pulled out from under him when Batman is the one who should be pulling out the rug.  The bad guys were a few steps ahead of him instead of the other way around.  You shouldn’t be able to outsmart Batman, much less continually outsmart Batman.
  • Along the same lines, there were a lot of twists and turns, especially near the end, and it was maybe a bit much.  It got a little bonkers there with everything going awry and/or flipping around on you.

There were also a ton of other little things I loved.  Gary Oldman and Marion Cotillard were fantastic, and I especially liked the Talia al-Ghul reveal.  That totally caught me by surprise.  The special effects were great and integrated beautifully into the movie.  Cillian Murphy coming back for a cameo was a good time, and the court in general was nicely done and frightening.  Also, I loved Bruce throwing the rope down into the prison after he escaped.  That was such a Batman move.

I could say more, but I’ve blathered on enough.  Suffice it to say, I loved it.  It’s a totally absorbing movie… it’s got an epic, kind of insane plot, and it sucks you right into it and gets you super invested in what’s going on and never lets you go.  I think I liked The Dark Knight a little bit better, but that’s mostly because Heath Ledger is so very brilliant in it and that performance just can’t be topped.

However, it’s impressive what a completely different sort of movie The Dark Knight Rises is.  Comparing the two is almost like apples and oranges.  The Dark Knight was sort of insular, focused on the inner workings of Gotham City and one anarchist making trouble.  The Dark Knight Rises was just EPIC, with an entire revolution and HUGE action set pieces and the complete upheaval of everything.  The Dark Knight was about a tour de force performance while The Dark Knight Rises was about spectacle in scope, visuals, and plot.  And both are great, of course (I didn’t much care for Batman Begins).

So the Nolan Batman trilogy is over now.  Another one will start soon enough, I’m sure, but Nolan’s set a high bar.  Luckily, it’s a very specific bar, with the dedication to realism and the world around Batman that’s as much Nolan as it is source material.  The well is in no way dry, and there are so many different ways other filmmakers can approach Batman in the future.  I’m not particularly sad that this take on Batman is over, now that I think about it.  Nolan’s done some amazing stuff, but it feels like everything we need to know about Batman in this world has now been told.  Nolan condensed everything important into these three movies, and now the story’s been told.  I’m curious to see what comes next, and I really hope that Warner Bros. has the sense to do what they did with Nolan in the first place and hand the franchise over to a smart, creative director and let them build their own world.

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