Captain Obvious' Review: The Dark Knight Rises
It started with Batman Begins, continued in glorious fashion with The Dark Knight, and now ends with The Dark Knight Rises. Can Nolan's final Bat-flick rise to the occasion, or will fall victim to the third movie curse. Stop reading the puns and hit the jump for my take on Batman's swan song. [SPOILER FREE]
The time has come. Christopher Nolan's third and final chapter in The Dark Knight Trilogy has come to a close. Was it a satisfying conclusion, or does it suffer from the dreaded "third-movie curse?"
At the end of The Dark Knight, Batman willingly took the blame for the crime committed by Harvey Dent in order to preserve the peace in Gotham. Now 8 years later, the city is at its most peaceful, with Bruce Wayne hanging up the cape and cowl and becoming a social recluse. However, when an enigmatic cat burgular Selina Kyle, emerges along with mercenary named Bane, Bruce must become Batman once more to save the city from a threat he has never encountered before.
Expectations are so high for this film after The Dark Knight became a cultural phenomenom and revolutionized the standard for comic book movies. While it's sensible to expect the successor to top the predecessor, it's only fair to see that a film like TDK is a near impossible feat to overcome. The Dark Knight Rises just almosts tops the second installment. Whatever flaws this movie has, it makes up for by being ambitious, bigger, conclusive, and more emotional.
Nolan reminds us with every film he makes, why he is one of the world's most innovative directors. Part of that has to do with the incredible ensemble casts he puts together. In Rises, there are no weak links. Every character has a purpose and every actor seems suited for their role. Christian Bale gives his best performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman ever. At the beginning, we see a Bruce who is haunted and fatigued by his experience as Batman; physically and mentally. He is just living day to day without really "living". It's only when Gotham comes under threat that he rises out of his self-imposed exile that he rediscovers his purpose.
Speaking of threats, this film offers two new villains. Bane, played by Tom Hardy and Selina Kyle, (Never referred to as Catwoman) played by Anne Hathaway. Bane is a foe unlike anybody Batman has faced before. While delivering some the film's best lines, he's also brutal, intelligent, and on top of it all, physically intimidating. Unlike previous movies, it truly does feel like Batman has met his match. There is a sense dread when the two finally meet for the first time because Batman is past his physical prime, which gets the audience to care about the hero and their struggle. Hardy's face is covered all of the movie by a mask, but what he is able to emulate through his eyes and the rest of his body makes him a terrifying villain.
But the scene-stealer of the film is Anne Hathaway, playing the best on-screen interpetation of Catwoman yet. She completely looses herself in the role. She plays Kyle as enigmatic, cunning, and sexy; just as the character should be. While neither villain doesn't match the brilliant and iconic performance of Heath Ledger as the Joker, both actors are able to hold their own.
As for the rest of the cast, Joseph Gordon Levitt cotinues to prove why he is one of Hollywood's best young actors, playing John Blake, who pales in comparison to a younger, idealistic Bruce Wayne. Marion Cotillard's Miranda Tate maybe the most underwritten character in the film, but how she is woven into the plot will be one of the most talked about aspects of the film. Other key cast members Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine deliever such good performances, that is nothing left that hasn't been said about them.
A common theme throughout Nolan's Batman movies is escalation. The scale gets bigger in each film, especially this one. Thanks to a larger budget, Nolan is able to up the ante on his action scenes. The stakes are higher. The scope is bigger. It's all thanks to Nolan's large ambition. Those have been underwhelmed by the hand-to-hand combat sequences in Nolan's movies will finally get what they're asking for. Gone is the choppy editing and up-close shots. Every set piece from the ground to the sky and from a small scale to a large scale will leave the you on the edge of your seat, jaw dropped.
With every big blockbuster, it's always important to have everything look as real as possible. While Nolan is a director who prefers practical effects over visual effects, the scenes that are CGI are so beautiful that you won't even notice it's computerized. Of course, it wouldn't feel much like a Nolan movie without Wally Pfister and Hans Zimmer. Pfister's cinematography has always been stellar in these movies, but he outdoes himself this time and delievers his best work to date. It's always a good thing to have Zimmer scoring a summer blockbuster. His scores are always bombastic and epic, and that's certainly the case here, even if becomes a bit obnoxious at times.
As many know, every superhero franchise and nearly every franchise that made it the number '3' has declined in quality at this point. Whether it's creative differences or franchise fatigue, the third movie always seems to be lacking everything that made the first two special. Thankfully, Rises is able to dodge that dreaded curse. However, it still feels bloated at times. The first 45 minutes of the movie has so much going on that it's almost impossible to follow. It may take another viewing to understand it all, but getting through those first 45 minutes is very frustrating.
The last problem of this is movie is the same problem The Avengers had. If you haven't seen what came before, you're going to be lost. It's extremely important that you see Batman Begins and The Dark Knight before watching this. All in all, the rest of the movie is a sight to behold. When the movie finally gets going, you forgive all the flaws that were made before end enjoy what follows.
The bottom line is The Dark Knight Rises is everything you could ask for in a summer blockbuster and a final chapter. While not matching the brilliance of it's predecessor, it's a triumphant moviegoing experience and probably the last great movie you will see this summer. It also provides an ending that will bring tears to your eyes and put a smile on your face. It took a while, but we finally got the first great superhero trilogy. I would say thank you to Mr. Nolan for bringing Batman back to his former glory, but I know I'll never have to.
Final Score: 9 out of 10.
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