The Dark Knight Rises (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
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The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

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TItleChristopher Nolan has finally ended his seven year run with Batman.  I loved the series of comic episodes that comprised the first film, which felt like a zippy trade paperback done right.  The intensity of the second film had diminishing effects in the long-run, but is still an intensely felt chess match loaded with dark humor.  The Dark Knight Rises atleast ends successfully with five minutes of well delivered pathos, but not before making sure everyone is on the same page emotionally and with the overarching narrative of not impossible to decipher images delivered with repetition over almost three hours of punches and explosions.

This final chapter of Nolan's Bat-saga is where the bloat of his recent films comes to full bloom.  He can stage wonderful set-pieces, but in TDKR he doesn't keep up the interest in those moments between setting off explosions and playing with his new toys.  Whatever unpredictable element that was at play in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight is lost here, replaced by a plodding story of lower class outrage.

TDKR picks up years after Batman / Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has retired both his cowl and playboy personae from the public eye.  He is reeling after an off-screen failure to invent a clean energy supply, preferring instead to bury Wayne Enterprises into the ground instead of addressing rumors that the nuclear device could be turned into a weapon.  Enter Bane (Tom Hardy), the physically intimidating terrorist we are told, repeatedly, is terrifying and powerful in the opening disintegration of an aircraft mid-flight.

While we wait for the inevitable sight of a large red timer, Gotham now only suffers from thieves (Anne Hathaway) and corporate backstabbers (Ben Mendelsohn) because of the oppressive Dent Act that takes away most options for probation.  As each of these pieces is introduced in the first ten minutes, it's just a matter of figuring out when the bomb is going to start ticking over all the angry criminals, because Nolan and screenwriting partner David S. Goyer pad far too much in a movie this already overburdened with plot.Endless conversations about the state of Gotham dominate the first hour of the film.  Bane establishes his dominance not through clever attacks or trickery, but by breaking necks and throwing the bodies of his followers into the river.  Bane, for all his theatricality, is really nothing more than a blank force of violence.  He brings a bit of off-screen tension to the table by playing in so blatantly into the working versus business class issues so commonplace in America right now that he fails to develop a personality of his own.  On it's own this is boring, but compared to the unpredictable scene in which The Joker was introduced in TDK it reeks of trying to get the villain introduction over with just to keep things slowly moving along.

All the mythmaking of Bane is done in advance of the film, leaving his only two confrontations with Batman a surprising source of boredom.  The dramatic tension of the two is supposed to stem from how they arrived at their stations in life and is played out in fight scenes consisting of two men hitting each other repeatedly.  There's no fancy camerawork, no attempt to really spice up the fight, just he sound of armor and flesh thwacking off each other.  Even their respective schemes pretty much go as planned, so where's the tension?

There isn't any.  Repetition of the dialogue in this film aside, it serves as another redundant reminder of some of the greatest hits of the previous two films.  Remember when the Bat-cycle did that awesome flip in TDK?  Get ready to witness similarly styled gyrations at least five times in TDKR.  Then who could forget exposition cop?  He breathlessly delivered so many plot points in BB that he makes a fun cameo here, only to be replaced with three other people who do the exact same thing.  It's not always the same three, such as when Bane informed me he was born in a hole, the doctor in the hole told me Bane was born in the hole, then Batman had the flash of insight Bane was born in a hole.  If that wasn't much fun reading, it's even less fun hearing.Bale nor Nolan find anything new to do with Batman, and Hardy is severely handicapped with a ridiculous voice and mask that removes some of his most valuable tools as an actor.  Thematically their roles are convenient on paper since Batman has gone from killing his father figure in the first film, his polar reflection in the second, and finally fighting an unintended offspring here.  This is to say nothing of the obvious have versus have not overtones, but both the family and class war themes are so underutilized outside of setting up large mobs and fire bombs that they're mostly there as thought fodder to avoid total boredom.

I don't hate the film for all these shortcomings and there is at least one major success.  Anne Hathaway is the film's surprise treasure, taking great relish in the confidence and athleticism of Selina Kyle.  She's so commanding in the role I hated seeing her eventually get relegated to love interest, completely in spite of the verbal and visual cues that she wouldn't play with the bat that way.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as a cop whose role in the film is too easily given away depending on your knowledge of comic history and slant rhyme, grounds things nicely but isn't really given that much to do.  Series regulars Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman have more agency, but are lost against the white noise of the final hour.

All that does not change that the series, as unsatisfying as this conclusion is, ended superbly at the finish line.  The last movement starts with mere seconds of acting so perfect from Michael Caine it nearly made me cry because of how much of a treasure his talent is, and how well Nolan did set up the importance of Bruce's parents and his loss throughout each chapter.

I would not change those final minutes for anything, I just wish the rest of the film that came before them was more worthy.

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The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Directed by Christopher Nolan.
Written by Nolan and David S. Goyer.
Starring Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, and Anne Hathaway.

Posted by Andrew

Comments (8) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Good review Andrew. I loved this film just about from start to finish. Yeah, the story had it’s occasional pit-falls here and there, but what really mattered to me was the whole epic scale of this movie and that’s what really kept my eyes on the screen the whole time. Probably my favorite of the year so far.

    • Thank you for the comment Dan. I can understand the enthusiasm from a lot of folks, and sequences like the post-stock Bane chase were a lot of fun, but the scope felt less epic and more big. It may be too much to hope that Nolan cuts down to a smaller scale after this, but his increasing budget and power are giving his films diminishing returns.

  2. Nice write up, I just sent my portion of the 3guys review off to my brother and I pointed out many of the same flaws you mentioned. You know what might have made this film better? advancing JGL stroy line much faster. Cut out all that boys town crap and just have him evolve into you know who in the first third of the film.

    • Thank you for the comment. There is a lot that could have sped up the film, and I agree a lot of the “Who is this hot-head?” stuff in JGL’s storyline was nicely implied without it entering the dialogue each time. It’s not a waste, and these are probably the best Batman films I’m going to see in my lifetime, but it’s a shame things weren’t a lot tighter.


    Some of my very same complaints. Aside from there not being much tension in any of their established conflics (haves vs have nots, hero vs villian, and maybe some I missed in the pressence of all the garbage) I also felt that the dialogue didn’t do much to advance anyone’s development nor the plot for that matter. The story was just too straight forward for my taste. There was a villian, as you said, from hole and he was angry…becuase he was from a hole so he was going to turn gotham city into a hole. Actually he wasn’t really even from the hole in the first place. No one seemed to have any motivation more shallow than “I did it because secret magic order”

    If they wanted me to feel something for the betrayal they should have included a little more development from that character.

    Also batman was only in like a quarter of that movie.

    • Thanks for the comment Nova. It sounds like you were a bit more displeased than I was at the results, and we both still fare better than my Kurosawa partner Kyle who said that, to summarize, said it was fan-wank at its dullest. That said, I’m acquiring “I did it because secret magic order” to compress my viewpoint to folks who want my quick review at work because that’s a lovely economy of words (and you’ll get full credit).

      • Golly my grammar was terrible when I wrote that. I wish I could edit on here. Also you have my full blessing to use that phrase. As a matter of fact: I only say things on the internet with the hope that someone else will quote it.

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