Review: The Dark Knight Rises
The Dark Knight Rises is the long awaited conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s legendary Batman Saga. Taking eight years after The Dark Knight, we find a retired Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) realizing that he must pick up the cape and cowl one last time to defeat the dictator-esque terrorist known Bane. A masked force of nature whose master plan to destroy Gotham isn’t far from becoming a reality.
And yes, even though this review is a bit late it’s still SPOILER FREE!
But it doesn’t come in black.
I’m very pleased to say that The Dark Knight Rises is a worthy conclusion to what will certainly be remembered as one of the best trilogies of all time. Christopher Nolan knew exactly what he had to do to end this saga with just the right amount of closure, and he achieved it, more or less.
The fantastic sense of spectacle is the greatest attribute of Rises. This story is huge, taking us to thoroughly engaging and awe inspiring heights that we haven’t seen in this Batman universe. It’s fantastically directed and boasts some of the most thrilling action sequences I’ve seen in quite some time. Nolan also manages to keep the Caped Crusader’s final journey moving at a relentlessly brisk pace, leaving the audience wondering where the past three hours went.
I was excited to see a narrative that was far more focused on the arc of Bruce Wayne, which was where I felt The Dark Knight lacked. Whereas Knight felt too much like Joker’s movie, Rises is inherently about Bruce Wayne. This time around we experience him coming face to face with his own physical and spiritual vulnerability. Thanks to Christian Bale’s best approach to the part yet, we really get a sense of his struggle “Rising” back to his former glory as the defender of Gotham.
The rest of Rises’ cast is a dream-team in every sense of the word. Tom Hardy ferociously embodies the hulking terror of Bane, proving that he is an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. Despite not being quite as iconic and memorable as Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker, Hardy still makes Bane as intimidating as hell. I’ve been hearing that many people have had troubles with taking this villain seriously due to his buzzing voice (a cross between Sean Connery and the teacher from Charlie Brown). For me, his voice hardly dampened his ruthless physical performance.
All the whining Batman fans of the internet can calm down, because Anne Hathaway absolutely knocks it out of the park as Selina Kyle/Catwoman (which she is never referred to as in the film). Hathaway perfectly delivers the sly quirk that we all love from the comic book character and ends up being one of the highlights of the entire movie (despite her vague lack of purpose in the story). Returning and new additions to the Batman saga deliver fine performances as well, including Joseph Gordon Levitt, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman.
However, my favorite performance of the film would without a doubt go to Michael Caine as Wayne’s infamous Butler, Alfred. Despite his small amount of screen time, Caine delivers the most emotionally potent character of Rises. One of his moments in the final act nearly brought me to tears. This final return to the classic character made me realize that Alfred really represents us within the film, the audience. Just like us, he’s the only one who knows Wayne’s secret identity and has to witness the suffering he endures as Batman. It’s almost heartbreaking knowing that Bruce has no one else to go to without Alfred.
What Didn’t Work
Although it’s going to be tough for all you diehard Christopher Nolan fans to stomach this, The Dark Knight Rises is not a perfect movie by any means. I felt that it was the most flawed of all three installments. That might sound a bit harsh but to be fair, saying Rises isn’t as good as its predecessors shouldn’t really be considered a negative criticism. Both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are amongst the best comic book adaptations ever created and Rises is still undoubtably a great one.
The biggest issue I had with Rises lies almost entirely within its first act. I appreciate that Christopher Nolan wanted to make this movie as big as he possibly could, but he stuffed a few too many subplots and bloated exposition in this segment. The film literally feels like it’s bursting at the seams. If Nolan gave more time for these subplots to breathe, the film could have felt much more organic in its storytelling. However, with a runtime that clocks in at nearly three hours, there wasn’t much space to expand on them. I bet anything that Nolan had to tighten this first act in the editing process to “shorten” Rises. However, once the pieces are set and Bane’s master plan begins to unfold, the film takes off like a god damn rocket.
I hate to be nit-picky but the film also has a few plotholes that bothered me. I won’t go into details for spoilery reasons, but some of them beg for a pretty big leap of faith from the audience.
One recurring praise I’ve noticed for the film is its conclusion and how perfect it is. To me, the ending of Rises felt bittersweet upon my gut reaction to it. It did wrap up the trilogy in a nice little bow, but it wandered a little too far down the predictable route. Compared to the other game changing endings that Nolan usually attaches to his works, the ending of Rises seemed a little too conventional and basic for me. However, after spending some time mulling it over, I concluded it as not the ending the franchise deserved, but the one it needed…..See what I did there?
We should be thankful that the capper to Nolan’s trilogy is as awesome as it is, because it could’ve been a disaster (the weak third installment trend). Although it’s not a perfect film, The Dark Knight Rises is the biggest and most jaw dropping cinematic experience you’ll have this summer.
Think of it as Christopher Nolan’s Return of the Jedi, a flawed spectacle