There is a moment that caught me off guard in The Dark Knight Rises. Bruce Wayne and his loyal butler Alfred share a moment where a breaking point has been reached. We get a touching speech or plea from Alfred asking Bruce about burying members of the Wayne family, and that he refuses to bury yet another under his watch. I shed a tear. Normally, this might be a normal reaction to an emotional moment in the movie (or if you’re a sissy apparently), but my friends and family have come to know me as one thing: an emotionally dead robot. For a movie to have that impact on someone like me means there is a connection to these characters, to this story, to this trilogy. that resonates deeply to garner such a reaction. I think shows how terrific the storytelling and direction under Christopher Nolan was and is. By the end of this movie, the journey is over and I am relieved that it is over. Not because of how overwhelmed I am after 165 minutes of this roller coaster ride, but because it had to end. There was nowhere else to go. In that, we have both the strength and the flaw of the movie.
It has been eight years since the death of Harvey Dent and the disappearance of “The Batman”. He has taken the fall for the crimes committed by the horribly disfigured Dent/Two-Face and in the common theme of the movies is symbolism. Batman was supposed to be the symbol of justice, the right overshadowing the wrong, the hero that emerges from the dark shadows to bring stability in bad times. However the question that plagues the minds of Commissioner Gordon and Batman is that they have perpetuated this lie, that the peace time that has occupied Gotham City is based on an ideal that should not exist, and how does that make it right? Does the end justify the means? The movie investigates this idea and its effect on the citizens of this (seemingly) thriving city. There are obvious political and social overtones, but for now, let’s finish this synopsis just to set the table. We get introduced to Bane right off the bat (yes, went there, deal with it) as you can tell that he is the man with the plan in an awesome sequence involving a new take on hijacking airplanes. You also see the blind faith that his minions put into the man with the mask, not unlike those that put their faith into Batman when he first emerged. He obviously has his sights set on Batman and Gotham City. Bruce Wayne, on the other hand, is a broken man, a Howard Hughes recluse that no one has seen in years, merely a symbol himself like his alter ego. Only when he meets Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) does his suit beckon him once again. It is then that he realizes the danger yet to come.
I will say it is hard to write a review on a movie that people need to witness themselves, because I think everyone will have a different reaction to it, so I will not go into further details of the plot. That way you can jump into it and draw your own conclusions. Lets talk about the cast. Bale is always good, consistent in his quest for a purpose, especially in trying fight for his city and rising (Boom) to the challenge throughout the movie. Michael Caine is in a smaller role, but is still equally powerful as Wayne’s confident/father figure. The exchanges the two of them have will be sorely missed once the final reel rolls off the projector. Gary Oldman is always good, but really comes off great as man struggling with the lie. In trying to find the justice in his actions, in a city of legacy built by deception. Morgan Freeman is good as well, but you probably want to find out how the newbies did. Let us start with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake, as the idealistic cop who gets an audience with Commissioner Gordon. He did a fine job in playing understated, if not determined police officer trying to hold on to hope in a city of despair and confusion.
The girl duo of Marion Cotillard and Anne Hathaway also did a great job in providing characters for both Bruce Wayne and Batman respectively to play off of. Hathaway (who, thankfully, is never referred to as Catwoman at all in the entire movie), brings a certain sass in a woman trying to run from her past and the determination to make sure she always gets her way. That and that suit on that bike. Holy crap.
Of course now we get to Bane. Tom Hardy does an admirable job as the most effin’ evil friggin’ villain I have seen dominate the screen in a long time. He just resonates pure evil and man, I wanted to see Batman kick his ass back into 1993. While not as good as Ledger as the Joker (who would be?), Hardy does terrifically in being the ‘voice’ of the oppressed, yet bringing an insane vibe in that muffled delivery of his (which is not as big of an issue understanding him as everyone made it out to be). This is a man on a mission, where no one can get in his way and that look in his eyes, pretty much the only other thing we can see Hardy emote with, is terrifying. It also comes off as purposeless, however because you want to know why he gets to be such a dick but it never really gets explained in a meaningful manner. I got Bane being the unbeatable villain, but what I really wanted was why he turned into such a monster. If Bruce Wayne could get to the point where he sees nothing but vengeance, why not see the reason why Bane followed that path of refusing to be beatable? A minor quibble but one that bugged me throughout the movie.
The movie itself is a clinic in why Christopher Nolan is one of the best storytellers out there. Visually, the picture is beautiful, and does not need 3D or any of that garbage that Nolan refused to do. The pacing is a bit slow in the first hour, but let us face it, eight years have passed, there must a slow burn to the process in catching up with our favorite Gothamites. Every sequence carries a purpose in the movie, and nothing is wasted. The music by Hans Zimmer also is beautiful yet demanding. It takes a hold of you and carries you from scene to scene, and provides the best mood setting in the trilogy in my opinion. It also tends to overpower the dialogue but that might be a result of the theater as opposed to sound editing. It is still friggin’ epic as all hell.
Obviously we all know this is the last of the trilogy so there was a set plan for this to end. While it is good that Nolan and Co. have decided to have a distinct end to their take on the Bats, I feel that it suffered in the same regard. We all see it coming and I felt no shock value of the path of Batman and his journey to ‘rise’. In fact, I felt rushed along towards the end in order to wrap up certain storylines. As product of the hype machine, I understand having the most anticipated movie come into town that we all have been guessing what the proper ending should be. We were all probably looking for the conclusion to be foreshadowed in the movie and unfortunately, I felt became formulaic during the whole movie. After all, it is a superhero movie so there are certain rules the film must follow. However, it is only minor distraction because it does the formula justice. The movie felt predictable and somewhat pretentious at some points. It wanted to throw us off the path by slipping in random events or characters that seemed to dissolve as the movie went on. Granted, it was not so blatant that I felt Nolan was trying to ‘Shyamalan’ us (the act of throwing in crap to throw people off the scent despite having to do with the twists and turns the movie may offer up), but it did not help with the aforementioned slow pacing. However, this movie still ranks better than 95% of the movies out there this year and these minor problems in my mind, but so comes with the territory of following the best movie of the trilogy (Obviously now determined to be The Dark Knight).
Again, I want to offer up that this is one of the top 3 movies I have seen this year. It is a great movie and proves that the trilogy idea of having a beginning, middle, and concise ending to a set of stories is the way to go. Nolan and Bale have made their mark in not only comic book movie history, but in the cinema world on how to tackle a character and setting in the modern world. The expectations were extremely high and they have met them. I do wish it was exceeded, but it did its job. It did not overwhelm and did not (thank the lord) underwhelm. Go see the movie, go love the movie, and see what it does for you. Go shed a tear too while you are at it, you might not see another trilogy tackled as masterfully as this one.
And please don’t go check out This Is Not The Dark Knight Rises Review. You’ll be glad you didn’t.