Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Despite having pre-ordered IMAX tickets for this Saturday a long time ago, on a whim I decided to attend a midnight screening last night.  Luckily for me, the theater by my place was using all 16 screens and the IMAX at the same time for midnight Batman viewing.  So it was easy to get a last-minute ticket.  Based on Fandango, I think 12 of the screens and the IMAX completely sold out (including a 3:30 AM IMAX screening [yeesh]).  And most people were shoveling overpriced popcorn down their gullets, drinking overpriced sodas by the gallon, and I even saw some people eating overpriced movie theater hot dogs (why?).  So in other words, Batman is going to make a lot of theater owners very happy this weekend.

With all the hype of Dark Knight Rises, it does a decent job living up to things.  I probably would have rather not seen *any* trailers for it in retrospect, because stuff like the football stadium would have been more intense (pretty much the suspense of that whole scene was ruined by the trailers).  It definitely doesn’t live up to The Dark Knight, but Rises will get to stand alone in other aspects.  As in, future movies of great epic scope may get the “Well, it’s not as epic as Dark Knight Rises” treatment.

And epic it is!  From story to time frame to Hans Zimmer’s awesome music score to Batman’s redemption, the whole thing is very grandiose.  I felt like it was a little bit of a slow build in the beginning, but a lot of new characters needed to be introduced, and I suppose a 2 hour and 40 minute film won’t have rapid fire pacing throughout the entire thing.  But I appreciated the time they took to link the first act of the film to the last act of The Dark Knight, and also slowly introduce us to Catwoman and Bane.  I knew I could trust Nolan on the whole Catwoman thing, but of course there were doubts in my mind initially.  She’s kind of a hokey character in general, based on other series’ portrayal of her.  But the Dark Knight Rises took a good spin on her, and she ended up one of the more interesting characters in the entire film.  It’s grounded in gritty realism like the other two films, so there’s no getting killed and brought back to life by cats.  She’s not a crazy cat lady.  She’s just a really good cat burglar.  I loved the tone of her introductory scene, as well.

Bane was a decent villain.  He’s not as interesting as The Joker, but the *threat* of Bane is very frightening and satisfying.  And it constantly looms over the entire film.  I liked the higher pitched voice with the accent Tom Hardy used for the character.  A deeper voice would have made him seem like a simple thug.  The way he did it made him seem like a smart, uh, thug.  Someone on the scheming level of The Joker, but also has the ability to simply beat the shit out of you.  I was able to understand pretty much everything Bane said through his mumble mask, maybe missing a sentence here and there.  The audible comprehension of his voice wasn’t really big deal to me.

I thought Christian Bale did the best job acting in this one.  Not his best acting job ever, but his best job as Batman.  The previous film was more about the bad guy than the hero (didn’t hurt that The Ledge was amazing as The Joker), but Rises is definitely most about Bruce Wayne/Batman.  There’s actually a surprisingly low amount of time in the Bat suit.  But that makes sense when you see it.

The other cast members do their part.  JGL is pretty good as a “hot-head” cop.  Gary Oldman is good as usual as Jim Gordon; he was maybe a little better in The Dark Knight, though.  They introduce a few smarmy rich guy villains early on who are pretty good at being smarmy rich guy villains.

I don’t really want to divulge too much about the actual plot of the film, since it’s only Friday.  But whereas The Joker was sort of a random, chaos inducing terrorist; attacking Gotham one small thing at a time because he finds it fun…  Bane is just a fucking super terrorist.  And while the first act is a little scattered and slow, once Bane’s plan goes into action the film starts to gain focus.  And now that I’ve slept on it, and let it sink in a little bit, I really admired almost everything Dark Knight Rises tried to accomplish with the plot.  A possible complaint would be that the time frame of the film is slightly unclear at times, and there are things I wished they showed more of during the time passed over through the editing.  Gotham is put in a very interesting situation in the second and third acts, and I felt like the pacing was most brisk during those acts, and most meandering during the first act.  Then again, the film is already pretty long, so no need to request more footage to be added in!

There were some negative aspects, too.  The film doesn’t have that *one* standout element that can mesmerize you every time it comes on screen (like every second of The Joker’s screen time).  Bane simply isn’t that mesmerizing of a villain.  He’s a scary dude, but not the most compelling.  He’s still 50x better than The Lizard from Amazing Spider-Man.  The Dark Knight was much more focused overall than Dark Knight Rises, and much simpler.  It was Joker vs Batman.  I know some people would say that Harvey Dent/Two-Face cluttered up Dark Knight, but I disagree.  Especially after seeing the final installment.  That story line becomes much more relevant once you see Rises.

Also, not to sound like a bitter Chicagoan; but Pittsburgh as Gotham…  MEH.  It’s not as interesting looking of a city as Chicago, I think they made a big mistake filming there.  Though I guess it does fit in more with the bleak turn of events the film takes in the second and third acts.  Pittsburgh isn’t as friendly to the cinematography as Chicago was.  Maybe they just needed all the bridges?  It’s probably the bridges…

Thematically, Rises is better than Dark Knight, in my opinion.  They had more to say, and they did more with it.  Dark Knight was simply an entertaining film with a brief message.  But one of the most entertaining films ever with a brief message.  But the themes of personal sacrifice for the good of creating a white knight, and how human’s are generally good in nature; were pretty much just tacked on at the end.  It was more just a film dealing with a clown that thrived on anarchy (and it was brilliantly executed).  But I genuinely enjoyed the themes of Rises.  And it provided an ending fitting to conclude Batman’s journey in this film trilogy.  I dug the ending.

So while it’s not a perfect film, it delivers.  It satisfies.  It brings closure.  It’s a really good film, but not exactly a masterpiece.  Definitely could have trimmed down the run time a little bit.  I don’t think it could have ever lived up to the hype given to it, or the comparisons it will forever have against The Joker’s reign over Gotham, but it’s obviously a film worth seeing.  But where I saw The Dark Knight four times in theaters (and was completely entertained each time), I’ll happily see Rises again in the IMAX on Saturday and stop after that.  I can tell a lot of the shots are going to be fucking insane on IMAX, so I’m still very excited to see it again.  But it’s no four-time screening.  Frankly, I’m not sure if anything will be again.  The Dark Knight was special.  The Dark Knight Rises is simply good.

8.5 out of 10

To make a quick note on the tragic shooting at a Dark Knight Rises midnight screening in Colorado:  As someone who goes to the movies (almost) every weekend, I find it beyond horrible that someone would choose to take out his sick plans on something as simple and fun as a movie theater.  I’m not sure what his “message” is in choosing a movie theater to kill a bunch of people, or if he just wanted a random grouping of many people, but I’m sure the answer is that he’s a complete asshole.  Just an asshole in the highest degree.  No one should have to feel unsafe in something as harmless as seeing a movie.  It’s fucking bullshit.

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2 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

  1. lainosaur says:

    I liked it a lot.

    My main criticism was that bain was relatively lame as a villain. Obviously having joker was impossible, but I really wonder what it coulda been had he been in the movie.

    Sad that the main reason I’m disappointed heath ledger died is cause he couldn’t be in dk rises.

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