The Dark Knight Rises – In-Depth Review (Spoiler Edition)

In pushing the epic, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ falls flat in places, it's action and emotion unable to disguise what is a sub-par script and plot when compared to those that have come before it in the trilogy.

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By CBMJamie - 7/21/2012




With exceedingly high expectations resting on its shoulders, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is the conclusion to a trilogy that has altered the mind-set of modern-day cinema. Therefore it is of no surprise that one could describe Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy as a journey, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ being its climatic finale.

As the end-credits played to the sound of Hans Zimmer dramatic theme, I admit it took several moments to compose myself into some sort of state in which to even begin to take in what I had just witnessed over the 2 hours and 45 minutes run-time of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’.



Much was said and made of the decision to begin ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ eight years on from the ending of ‘The Dark Knight'. With Bruce beginning the film in the manner he does,a total recluse living in Wayne Manor with only Alfred for company, we do truly see how the death of Rachel and the events of ‘The Dark Knight’ have affected his state of mind and perception of life. With Bruce’s Howard Hughes-like lifestyle in the film’s beginning, the scene is well set, much to the talent of Michael Caine’s Alfred, who is truly the emotional connection in this movie, if not the entire trilogy for that matter. I felt Alfred to be used sufficiently in the film’s first half, but his decision to leave Bruce, although understandable, was detrimental to the film as it suffered without his emotional presence until the film’s closing stages.

In agreement with the majority of reviews so far released for ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, Anne Hathaway threatens to steal the show as The Cat, pun well and truly intended. The script, written by brothers Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, however restricts Hathaway in her role, with only enough screen time in which to impress but not dominate. Was this intended so as to avoid what ultimately happened in The Dark Knight, with Heath Ledger taking ownership of the movie on his performance alone?



Beautiful, elegant, devious, comic, mischievous, charming, vicious; the list well and truly goes on for words to describe Hathaway’s performance and portrayal of Catwoman. The film’s first third belongs to her and rightfully so. But as stated, the script removes her from the limelight after a dazzling performance in the film’s opening third, instead resorting to give her brief appearances amidst a chaotic and action-packed second-half.


Whereas Batman Begins lacked a fully-fledged villain, The Dark Knight survived on its. The Dark Knight Rises gets sadly caught somewhere in the middle. Bane, played by Tom Hardy, is at times terrifying, and other times embarrassing. He has presence, no question. But this presence I found to fade out as the movie progressed, and rapidly. Christopher Nolan has praised Tom Hardy for his ability to act with his eyes, something he needed to do not only well, but incredibly well for Bane to fully work, mask and all. Hardy has excellent acting skills, but the mask, an initially terrifying feature that gradually becomes ineffective, provides his character’s fundamental flaw: his voice. I am sorry to say, that for me, much of what he does say is unintelligible. And the common occurrence of Bane saying something and me having to replay the line in my head so as to try and better understand what was in fact said, made for an unwanted distraction. Many different suggestions have been made regards the inspiration for Bane’s accent. Hardy himself has told reporter’s what that was. But the fact of the matter is he sounds English and one who is very highly educated. The desire of Nolan to portray Bane as both a brute force, but also as an intellectual individual with a ‘brilliant brain’, is clear in the way Bane speaks. However, the idea of Bane being smart as well as incredibly physical and strong, never quite comes to fruition. His tone of voice and the accent used, does attempt to show an intellect in his character, but this never works. Discussing the movie afterward, there was a consensus that I support, that Bane’s accent needed a darker, deeper approach to support his physicality. Simply put, the contrast between Bane’s appearance and voice is ineffective and makes for a character that feels unpolished and unfulfilling, even if the opening scene in which he hijacks a plane and later, the sewer fight between him and Batman, are moments of brilliance.

Along with these disappointments and slight successes comes Bane’s plan of attack on Gotham, if really this plan is that of Talia al Ghul’s (Marion Cotillard). The use of a Gotham isolated from the world is one of the plot’s best elements; however, the main factor behind this isolation is where the plot became tedious. Talia’s use of a nuclear bomb to threaten the city with was not only wearisome, but also rather infuriating. Nolan’s previous Batman films have each involved a threat on Gotham that is, if not always conceivable, is at the very least original. A bomb able to kill those within a six mile radius is in no shape or form original and this was highly disappointing. Talia’s plan for Gotham felt more aligned to that of a Bond villain rather than a villain inside Christopher Nolan’s Batman universe. That, and the absence of practically any of Gotham citizens, makes what may have been a thoroughly interesting plot seem disconnecting and ineffective.



As for Talia, or for the purposes of the identity used for the most of the film, Miranda Tate; her role as a villain was let down by the repetitiveness that occurs with having the daughter of a former villain returning to try what he failed to do. The Joker was a fresh, new and intense threat, whereas Talia felt simply like a reincarnation of Ra’s al Ghul, except with a bomb and not a micro-wave emitter. As for her revelation to Bruce, it was not a surprise nor as dramatic as I feel it should have been, but perhaps that’s my own fault for following the film so closely since it began pre-production through until its release. I also felt her revelation to Bruce lacked effect due to their rushed and somewhat forced relationship.

The film pushes the sense of epic to its maximum with fast, loud and often impressive action sequences, my personal highlight being that of Batman joining Catwoman on the rooftop to take down the group of Bane’s mercenaries.

Despite the presence of The Bat during the film’s final action sequences, the action itself was let down by the plot. The sequence of the bomb being driven through the city, whilst chased by Batman, never got me to a point where I can truly say I was on the edge of my seat. However, on using The Bat to lift the bomb above and away from Gotham, Batman was given his dramatic and heroic. If one complaint about the moment Batman saves Gotham by taking the bomb out to sea, I felt the editing should have placed more emphasis on a pause between the time Batman disappeared from sight out at sea, to the time the bomb exploded. Once again, it felt rushed.

This feels an appropriate time to talk of my thoughts on the film’s length and pacing. The opening hour, although starved of Batman for the majority, was thoroughly entertaining, making good use of Selina Kyle’s introduction and portraying Bruce Wayne’s reclusive response to events eight years previous. However, the film falls undeniably flat the moment Bruce is imprisoned by Bane. Admittedly, Nolan needed to use much of the film’s middle section to show how Gotham turns to ruin without order or Batman; but, the scenes involving the kangaroo court, Gotham’s police force being trapped underground, and Bruce when in Bane’s prison, had me feeling rather bored in all honesty. I simply could not wait for Bruce to escape and return to Gotham. And when he does, the film finds a new lease of life and re-energizes for what is a non-stop final third.



The film tries to force the issue with multiple stories being told simultaneously, not all of which are successful, not to mention the character Folly is entirely one-dimensional and completely unnecessary. Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon is under-used by a script that plays heavily on action, his relationship with Batman almost non-existent. At no time are Batman and Gordon ever on-screen together for longer than 10 seconds, with Gordon hospitalized when Batman returns, and Bruce imprisoned while Gordon tries to take back the city. This relationship is lost amongst the focus on action sequences and chaos in Gotham, something Nolan rather knowingly tries to hide by presenting us with the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it exchange where Gordon finally realizes who Batman really is.

Joseph Gordon Levitt as Detective Blake is very good, if not fully attached to the film as part of a trilogy. He balances an emotional, caring side of the character with a tough and committed city cop persona seamlessly. However, the major flaw in his character and the decision to ultimately present him to be Robin, is that he is new to the trilogy and therefore doesn’t feel as connected to the story of the three films as someone with that much importance placed upon him should. As for the decision to show him as Robin and the man to replace Batman in Gotham, I thought it was a perfect ending, even if Alfred’s tearful apology by Bruce’s ‘grave’ felt rather pointless as it is revealed he is alive and in a relationship with Selina. Although I appreciated the ending of Selina and Bruce being together in Florence, I found that the film hadn’t given us enough time of the two together to merit such an ending. When used together, Bale and Hathaway have unbelievable chemistry, with Selina’s elegant, if slightly vicious charm, working brilliantly off of Bruce’s cold caged demeanour. But the lack of time the two spent together and the result of once again huge importance and significance being placed upon a character only being introduced in this, the final film in the trilogy, meant that there being together wasn’t entirely convincing in relation to what had gone before.



Conflicting the emphasis placed on concluding the story, the end shot of Levitt standing in the Bat-cave as the floor rises from beneath him, was the standout moment of the film, a shot worthy of ending any movie.

The film has many other flaws including pacing issues, various plot-holes and a tendency to use character’s dialogue as a way to explain to the audience the numerous plot-points, all of which were hard to keep track of. Of the three films in the trilogy here, Nolan’s use of the non-linear style of story-telling is at its weakest. The score, although very similar to that of ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘The Dark Knight’, is effective, if slightly too loud at times.

In pushing the epic, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ falls flat in places, unable to disguise what is a sub-par script and plot when compared to those that have come before it in the trilogy. Despite this, the film boasts moments of both pure spectacle and heartfelt emotion, truly solidifying Nolan’s trilogy to be among the best movie trilogies in the history of cinema. However, as an ending to what has been a hugely successful trilogy, both critically and commercially, the film suffers to conclude satisfyingly; with elements of its ending feeling severely rushed, sacrificed in both length and effect in order for more time for the film’s laborious middle section.

A satisfying conclusion in many ways and in others not, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ has me caught in conflict as to whether it lived up to expectations or not. One thing is for certain however, and that is that there is great sadness in the knowing that this is the end of Christopher Nolan’s vision of Batman.
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19 Comments
IgnurRant - 7/21/2012, 6:11 AM
This is pretty shallow for an "in-depth" review.
Scounded - 7/21/2012, 6:30 AM
Great analysis. I saw the film on opening night at midnight, and, like you, it took me some time to even begin sorting out why I felt so dissatisfied. I had waited in line almost seven hours for the film, and I felt let down. You covered most all of the problems I had with the film. I'm seeing it again in a couple of hours with another friend; it will give me a chance to simply analyze the film, unlike the first time when I was simply trying to enjoy it.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. This was a movie that was so huge for me, and in the end I feel let down. This was cathartic to read. :)
CBMJamie - 7/21/2012, 6:31 AM
@IgnurRant

In what way is this review even remotely 'shallow'?
Thor86 - 7/21/2012, 7:51 AM
guys dont worry about this wacky review obviously comicbookjamie is a marvelite
CBMJamie - 7/21/2012, 7:55 AM
@Thor86

The opposite infact. I prefer Nolan's realistic approach and have been a huge fan of the trilogy.
Thor86 - 7/21/2012, 7:59 AM
@comicmoviejamie to me the film was a masterpiece and for a big fan of the series as u put it u just trashed the dark knight rises
CBMJamie - 7/21/2012, 8:18 AM
I don't believe I trashed it, and do I sense a slight embarrassment in your tone that you tried to insult me for being a Marvelite, when if anything I'm more of a Nolanite, if just not a completely narrow-minded one.

No where in my review have I called the film terrible or a disaster, and from many other reviews circulating elsewhere, other fans of the trilogy think similar or the same as I do.

Although I respect your opinion, to me calling the film a masterpiece is incorrect. Calling the trilogy a masterpiece however, I would accept, as that is my own view. The Dark Knight Rises is not a masterpiece but the combination of Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises makes for a three-movie masterpiece.
CrimsonDynamo - 7/21/2012, 9:18 AM
I was looking to forward to this movie as much as anyone, and all indications were that we would receive a satisfying end to the trilogy and it just wasn't there for me - and no I'm not a Marvel fan, I'm a DC guy, and more specifically a Nolan DC guy.
I wanted to say I loved it when I walked out of the theater the first time, I couldn't, then I saw it again yesterday in the hope I would, and again I didn't. Using the Robin name was a totally classless move, just catering for the mainstream audiences rather than those of us who supported this trilogy. The discontinuities were appalling - Bruce, now broke, making his was back from an Asian prison within hours of just climbing out of the structure (I am assuming its Asia as Ra's was within walking distance when Talia went to find him and his base was there previously), his back healing in a matter of days, his mental problems disappearing, Bane being killed by Catwoman who just appeared in the same doorway that Talia left seconds ago, and the list goes on.
It didn't know whether it wanted you to suspend believe and watch a comic book movie or remain grounded and watch a "war movie" - and in the end it did neither well at all. Avengers is a true balls out comic book movie and Nolan's previous 2 serve the latter, so I'm not sure where this fits in the scheme of things.
This does however have a positive note to it, it does give us hope that the next team to take on Batman can provide something better. Before watching this I doubted anyone could, but now I'm looking forward to the next franchise. And they shouldn't redo the origin or the Joker immediately because they probably wont top that in a hurry.
CONCERN4 - 7/21/2012, 9:26 AM
I saw The Dark Knight Rises yesterday. I am a huge, huge Batman fan having collected the comics when I was a child. I am also a big fan of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

Unfortunatley, I found The Dark Knight Rises to be very dissapointing. I thought the acting, special effects, action scenes were great but the plot was what let this film down.

My opinion is that there were too many characters. Batman, Bane, CatWoman, John Blake, Gordon, Alfred, Talia. Too many new characters and not enough time to develop them. I think they should not have bothered with Catwoman or John Blake or Talia. Keep it simple Batman vs Bane. Of course the film would be totally different but I think it would be better rather than cramming in too many characters.

Below is a list of what I found negative about the film. Of course these are just my opinions, I am by no means an expert so feel free to correct me where I've got it wrong (I've only seen the film once!).

Gordons Speech:

Why would Gordon write a speech that would explain the truth to what actually happened 8 years earlier? Why would he carry it around with him in his pocket? It seems so far fetched that he happened to lose it to Bane during that time. How unlucky is that? Not only do u lose the speech, u lose it directly to the biggest terrorist Gotham has ever seen! I've got more chance of winning the Lottery then Gordon has of losing that piece of paper directly to Bane.


Batman:

Bruce was in bad shape at the beginning of the film but when he returned as Batman, all he did was put that thing on his leg and it seemed he was back to normal and kicking ass. I think he would have needed alot of retraining to get back to a decent level. I'm not asking for a Rocky montage, I understand that they need to advance the plot quickly but it just doesn't paint an accurate story.

How could Bruce Wayne recover so quickly from a Broken Back? His rehab consisted of standing in that brace and then doing press ups and pull ups. I thought it takes months if not years to come back from an injury like that. Oh yeah, there just so happened to be a Doctor in the cell next door to Bruce - seems far fetched.

Catwoman

The way Catwoman and Batman went to Banes head quarters in the sewers seemed really rushed. I felt I could lift up any manhole cover and be in Banes headquarters in a matter of minutes.

Catwoman - I do not feel she was needed. All she did of any importance was blow up the cars at the tunnel and shoot Bane. Any Police officer, or guy with a gun could have done this.

The kiss with Batman before he flew the bomb away felt contrived and poorly timed - their relationship hadn't really grown to make it seem consistent.

John Blake

His first name is Robin - oh wow that's amazing - not. What difference does that make?

Thats all I can think of for now. I'll post some more when I remember them.
CrimsonDynamo - 7/21/2012, 9:36 AM
And I want to also say I was waiting for the "lump in throat" ending that was talked about in interviews a while back - the only lump I felt was in disbelief unfortunately. In my opinion I think this was a case where they tried too hard to cater to mainstream audiences (the Robin line speaks for itself), and in doing so provided a gigantic FU to those of us who followed this franchise from its earnest beginnings in 2003/4.
Too many plot holes, too much general nonsense, and the implausible idiotic coincidences (Catwoman appearing in the doorway seconds after Talia left, the Bat swooping down on the mercs before the "war", the police (mostly unarmed) who were kept in darkness for 3 months defeating the mercs in a matter of minutes into said war, and Bane was killed so easily that I lost respect for the fact he beat Batman earlier!, Bruce back from an Asian prison in a matter of hours, etc.
CBMJamie - 7/21/2012, 9:37 AM
@CONCERN4

I agree with you that the movie didn't live up expectations, however, where you say the movie failed, for the most part I think those were its successes.

Selina Kyle was an interesting and exciting character whilst JGL as John Blake was brilliant. If anything, those two characters saved the movie. I do thoroughly agree how poorly written the reveal of Harvey Dent's murderous past was. The coincidental nature of Gordon having the whole secret written on paper at the time Bane's thugs kidnap him was disappointing.
CONCERN4 - 7/21/2012, 9:55 AM
@ComicMovieJamie

Fair enough, each to their own. However consider the following:

*What did Selina Kyle actually do of any importance? Nothing that could of been replicated by someone with a gun or heavy artillery. Had she not existed in the movie this may have created more space to develop/improve the plot. imo she just didn't fit into the universe, why does she have to dress like trinity frum The Matrix?

*As above for John Blake - he didn't really do much. His only significant feature is that his first name is Robin. Why not just have his character be called Dick Grayson? Would that have made any difference? Ok JGL played the part well but again, there would be more space for the actual plot if he didn't exist.

I'm going on a bit of a tangent here (my apologies) as I'm talking about 2 totally unrelated films but hopefully I'll get my point across. Look at Spiderman 3, obviously a terrible film. Possibly one of the reasons is because it is crammed with too many characters each having their own little story. Look at Terminator 2 - a timeless classic but not many characters and a simple plot but executed perfectly.
CBMJamie - 7/21/2012, 10:11 AM
That's not a tangent at all man. When people say you can't compare things I don't really understand. They're both the 3rd films in their respective super-hero movie trilogies so we should compare.

The Dark Knight Rises main flaw was that it tried to tell too many stories and had too many characters, not all of which were needed. Whereas you say Catwoman wasn't important, I do believe she was needed to provide a positive female role in contrast to the evil of Talia. She was important in the sense that Selina is fundamentally the character who draws Bruce from his slumber as he is forced to look for his mother's pearls.

Personally, I thought the characters Daggett and Foley were completely unnecessary and without them more time would have been available to expand the film's ending.

As for Catowman's costume I believ her charisma and screen presence made up for what was admittedly a plain and rather uninspired costume design. We never even found out what her goggles did or how it was she came to own the suit, which was clearly very hi-tech.

Where Spider-Man 3 failed was that its over-use of characters was focused on multiple main villains. TDKR's over-use of characters was mainly supporting cast rather than overly important ones. That allows the film to survive without being a complete mess which SM3 was at times.

The criticism you have for John Blake's character is hard for me to understand as I thought him to be engaging and convincing and is reveal to be Robin incredibly powerful.

I'd like to take a moment to congratulate you on being one of the few on this site that are able to discuss, rather than argue, a difference in opinion.
CONCERN4 - 7/21/2012, 10:56 AM
@ComicMovieJamie

No worries, it's just a film discussion so we don't have to be at each others throats!

Seline Kyle - Yes, she did get Bruce to snap out of it a bit and look for the pearls. But Bane would have done this albeit a little later once he started public hangings etc

John Blake - I agree, he is well played and convincing. But the Robin reveal at the end is lame and feels a little desperate from Nolan to join the dots. It would have had the same effect if at the end of the movie, the lady says "oh btw, we found a file from the Orphanage - your real names Dick Grayson!".

imo the only reason this character is not called Dick Grayson is because Nolan didn't want the public to figure out he becomes Robin (or whatever he becomes).

Ultimatley we agree on the same thing; not living up to expectations, plot mistakes etc. I wish we were discussing how great, clever, epic and ground breaking this film is. Alas.

Imo the whole Dark Knight Rises movie doesn't even touch the one scene in The Dark Knight where Batman is interrogating the Joker and that eerie chime music kicks in when Joker is speaking. That was completely mind blowing!
CBMJamie - 7/21/2012, 12:08 PM
@CONCERN4

Totally agree. The need of others to engage in argument is tiresome.

We do ultimately agree on the film as a slight disappointment. It had elements of greatness, whilst at times its editing and script was very poorly done.


@churchofcomics7

You speak the truth dude. I don't listen to them. I simply try and make them see how narrow-minded their love of the TDK has made them. I will now read your review.
fortysixandtim - 7/21/2012, 12:18 PM
with regards to banes voice, I think not being able to see him speak and the fact the vocals were dubbed makes for a slight disconnection. it felt off. i also prefer to think blake becomes nightwing not robin. can't wait to see it again. used a movie pass and only paid $1.50. sweet
CBMJamie - 7/21/2012, 1:06 PM
@fortysixandtim

I am in agreement with you regards Bane's disconnection as a result of his mask and the editing done to his voice.

As for Blake becoming Nightwing, which you say you would like to believe happens, I believe he is becoming Batman 2.0. Obviously not under that name but the final scene of Commissioner Gordon standing alongside a new Bat-Signal seems to me he will be the new Batman instead of Robin or Nightwing.
dukester9 - 7/22/2012, 12:03 PM
JGL IS NOT ROBIN!!!!!!

His name is ROBIN JOHN BLAKE!

This doesn't mean that he is robin... this means that his name is coincidentally Robin as a nod to the fans and to give a familiar name as the predecessor to Batman. The only thing that is true is that JGL will represent Batman in some way and carry on the tradition.

Also, in the end, it doesn't really matter because there won't be a fourth movie to this trilogy.

Nolan wants you to come up with your own ending to this story... Just like all the other movies he has directed... (Memento, Inception, Prestige)

All in all, this was the best movie I have ever seen in my 17 years of life.... and just because I am 17 doesn't mean that I don't know anything about Batman. :)

CBMJamie - 7/29/2012, 8:53 AM
@IronMan24

If this was indeed the best film you have ever seen, I recommend you watch more movies.

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