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Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises Review - by Joshua Handler

Bane (left, played by Tom Hardy) faces off against Batman (right, played by Christian Bale)
Warner Bros. Pictures

The Dark Knight Rises Review
by Joshua Handler
2012, 164 minutes
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language

Note: This review is SPOILER-FREE. 

After waiting for the finale to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy for four years, the end has finally arrived…and what a disappointment.  The Dark Knight Rises is by no means a bad film.  It is simply one that does not come even close to being as good as its predecessors for many reasons.  Though this review may seem like a slam on the film, I truly did think that this was a good movie, but also a very flawed one. 

The Dark Knight Rises follows a psychologically and physically shattered Bruce Wayne eight years after he went into exile due to Harvey Dent’s crime.  However, when Bane, a physically powerful man tries to destroy Gotham, Wayne gradually tries to come to terms with his scars and rise once again to save Gotham.

The Dark Knight is a masterpiece of cinema.  It is one of the all-time greatest films because it was more a crime thriller than simply a superhero movie.  It was emotional, terrifying, and deeply disturbing.  The Joker was a villain that was simultaneously hilarious and unnerving.  He was unpredictable.

In The Dark Knight Rises, the main villain is Bane, played expertly by Tom Hardy.  Bane is a mercenary who is more physically powerful than even The Dark Knight himself.  Bane is a good villain, scary and intense, but he is too traditional and one-dimensional.  Bane always seems more like a monster, not a human being.  He is a man with a frightening mask, but he has little soul and nothing more compelling than any other villain.  He is predictable.  I do realize that no villain in a comic book adaptation could ever equal Heath Ledger’s Joker, but in this film, the much-hyped follow-up to a masterpiece, Bane was underwhelming.

Though Bane’s character was underwhelming, the majority of the film’s problems come from the story.  To start with, the story was much too complicated with too many plot lines.  The Dark Knight was complex and complicated while still being coherent, but The Dark Knight Rises is complex and complicated, but incoherent.  Nolan tries to stuff so much into this film that it becomes cluttered.  This may be a result of him trying to wrap up the series and please fans of the comics. 

Nolan throws in many twists in the film that seem only there to try to please hardcore comic fans.  These twists come one after another and after a certain point, they feel ridiculous.  While I realize that pleasing fans of the comics may be a necessity, this film’s predecessor was so lacking in these outrageous twists and was so committed to being a pure crime film that reverting back to odd twists simply didn’t cut it for me. 

This film feels more like a part of a trilogy than The Dark Knight.  The Dark Knight could stand alone with little prior knowledge of Batman/Bruce Wayne’s history.  The Dark Knight Rises feels like a third part, not a standalone film.  It relies heavily on references to the previous two films and doesn’t feel original enough.  

Another issue with the film is that this film is too bleak and depressing.  While Batman Begins and The Dark Knight weren’t anywhere near fun or funny, they were still entertaining.  The Dark Knight Rises, on the other hand, is (for the most part) not entertaining.  It is depressing and made me feel awful when it was over.  I can handle any amount of doom and gloom, when in the right movie, but in this case it just felt like overkill.  In The Dark Knight Rises, there is no hope and no entertainment, only characters beating each other down mentally and physically.

This film did not engage me emotionally and by the end, I did not care who lived or died.  I think I was too worn out by watching the characters’ pain and despair that I didn’t even care anymore.

Now that I have discussed all of the negative aspects, I will now tell you why this movie is worth seeing.

The acting, particularly that of Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Tom Hardy as Bane, and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman/Selina Kyle is superb.  Each actor tries to get into their character as best they can, especially Bale.  He is given the most time to explore his character.  He reaches deep down into Bruce Wayne and conveys all of the pain pent up over the eight years that Wayne had been in exile.  This is one of his greatest performances to date.

Hathaway is sexy, witty, and cunning as Catwoman, a cat burglar who steals from Gotham’s rich.  She is electric every minute that she is onscreen and seems completely devoted to her role.  Tom Hardy (as I said before) is a powerful screen presence and does well with what he has to work with.

In addition to the superb acting, the technical aspects of the production are great.  Though the production gets too big for its own good, the sound and visual effects are amazing.  The visual effects never look fake (have any effects in Nolan’s films looked anything less than real?).  So are the stunts.  The opening scene is brilliantly staged and truly thrilling with stunts that are jaw dropping.

I also appreciated Nolan’s attempts to relate the film to the discontent of the “99%”.  How he does this, I do not want to say.  I would never give away any plot details. 

Overall, The Dark Knight Rises is merely a good film.  It disappoints on so many levels and though it is impossible to make a better Batman film than The Dark Knight, this one doesn’t even come close to reaching greatness.  However, Nolan really did seem to try.


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