Mark Julian Reviews THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (Spoilers)

"Theatricality and deception are powerful agents." This quote from Batman Begins is the heart of Christopher Nolan's filmmaking technique for all three of his Batman films and it's certainly on display in The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR). In fact, there's so much of it, you'll need a second viewing to get a true understanding of just how meticulously crafted this film is.

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By Mark Julian - 7/20/2012


So this is it, right? The end of what will, for quite some time to come, be the definitive superhero film trilogy. Or is it....?

But that's a discussion for later, right now, the task at hand is to analyze TDKR. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to see the film twice as two screenings of the film were playing back-to-back, so this review is a product of first and second reactions to a film that certainly warrants, no demands, repeat viewings. During the first 30 minutes or so, the movie proceeds at neck-break speed which honestly had me slightly worried that Nolan was going to succumb to the dreaded 'threequel curse' . However, upon a second viewing, I gained a new appreciation for the speed of those early scenes as they were utterly necessary for the phenomenal second half of the film. I suspect that many moviegoers will also feel initial worry and then similar appreciation while watching but that might just be the intent, a final display of craftsmanship from Nolan to show that he can teeter on the edge of disaster and then steer his ship all the way back to its intended destination. The opening scenes of the film are not intentionally cryptic like Memento or translucently engineered like Inception, the events are rather straight-forward but are oddly isolated like chunks of ice flowing down a river. Which will make you think the film is suffering from poor editing but its just the opposite, the chunks of ice all come together at the end to form one big glacier. The blistering speed sucks you in to Nolan's Gotham and then slows down to a crawl once we get to the heart of the film. Which is Bruce Wayne trapped in a hellish prison or "Pit" (nice nod to fans here by the Nolans and David Goyer) far from Gothan and his allies. It's here that Nolan finally makes a definitive statement on not what Batman can do or what motivates him but on the psyche of the man himself. While the dark, realistic world of Nolan's Batman doesn't allow for some of the more spectacular aspects of the Batman mythos, Nolan does show in this moment that he unequivocally understands Bruce Wayne. Longtime followers of the character and casual observers alike should both be pleased with Nolan's exposition

The remaining portion of the film is quite possibly some of Nolan's finest work in terms of action and fight scenes. There's a marked improvement from that first fight scene on the Gotham docks in Batman Begins and the colossal showdown between Batman, Bane and their respective allies. Of course Nolan isn't going to simply turn-in a popcorn action flick for his third-act, there's one final twist and the very last moments are without a doubt, the most emotional scenes in the entire franchise. But with respect to what's come before, this film has the unenviable burden of being held to the standard of The Dark Knight, and on that scale, it comes up a tad short.




There are no weak performances in this film. Christian Bale turns in his finest performance as Bruce Wayne and while this is also his best performance as Batman, I also can't help but feel that there's a little something missing in terms of the fighting and his Bat-voice is still sometimes laughably unintelligible. Michael Caine has another fine performance as Sir Alfred and is entirely deserving of a Supporting Actor Oscar Nomination. Morgan Freeman is the same charismatic, scene-stealing Lucius Fox and Gary Oldman has yet another strong performance as Commissioner Gordon which for me, will be the most difficult character to recast in the reboot. As for the newcomers, Tom Hardy is simply a relentless demon, that utterly and convincingly destroys Batman. However, while I get that the voice was meant to be a striking contrast to his physicality and convey the intelligent tactician inside of a brutish body,but it's simply too dissimilar and unbelievable. Marion Cotillard has a phenomenal performance but in atypical fashion, she fades intentionally but also makes her presence felt with equal intention, which is exactly how her character should be played. Anne Hathaway has a fine performance as Selina Kyle but it never really feels like she's Catwoman, just an exceptional thief. The finest performance of the newcomers, for my money, was turned in by Joseph Gordon-Levitt who as fans have guessed is actually Robin, but not the 'one' you suspect. These were all fine performances but there were none even remotely close to Heath Ledger's Joker. Without such an elevating performance, the film just doesn't quite make it into the upper echelon of 21st Century filmography.



The screenings weren't in IMAX, so I saw the film without any of the technological trappings but the cinematography from Wally Pfister was still awe-inspiring. Again, the editing seems a little choppy in early scenes but it all comes together by the end of the film and is actually a strength in a second viewing as you already know the end result. The dialogue in the film was also exceptional and is another aspect that Nolan has improved upon since Batman Begins.


There are no weak points in this film and while Nolan has improved upon certain elements of his previous Batman films, in the end, The Dark Knight Rises falls short of The Dark Knight because there is not an equal antagonist to the Joker. However, it's still a satisfying installment that delivers closure on the best comic book movie trilogy of all-time, while still leaving the door open for a return.

Verdict:

9.2/10

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CaptainMaximum - 7/20/2012, 9:53 AM
Begins is still my favorite
CaptainMaximum - 7/20/2012, 9:54 AM
Also, it's my Birthday!
MercMatt - 7/20/2012, 9:54 AM
Nice review, man. This movie blew me away. And I wasn't expecting it.
sonofsamadams - 7/20/2012, 9:55 AM
Saw it last night. Rises is my favorite movie out of the bunch. I like it the best because it did its job, and that is to close out a trilogy in the best possible way. This is the best closing to a trilogy since Return of the King.

And Bane? Whoa. So intimidating. During that first fight with Bats is the best fight I have ever seen in years. So gut wrenching. So powerful.
sonofsamadams - 7/20/2012, 9:57 AM
I had no problem with Bane's voice. I thought it was creepish, synthetic and dark as hell.
95 - 7/20/2012, 9:57 AM
Hands down. One of the best Action Movies ever made.
spiderclone - 7/20/2012, 9:58 AM
captainmaximum its also my birthday, happy birthday to you, im 25 today :P ill be seeing this movie but i dont think it will top batman begins., for me that was the perfect batman movie. and the dark knight truly dissapointed me
95 - 7/20/2012, 9:58 AM
Rises has been the most fun to watch of the trilogy.
sonofsamadams - 7/20/2012, 9:59 AM
Great review man!
PanochaLibre - 7/20/2012, 10:00 AM
I loved begins and dark knight but this movie was slow and prodding. I did live the last few minutes though. Best ending yet, despite the movie being a snore fest
angus666 - 7/20/2012, 10:04 AM
By mild spoilers, I didn't think you would mention that

SPOILER!





Levitt really is Robin hahah.

I should have known.
mawilli4 - 7/20/2012, 10:06 AM
I disagree. I think it surpasses The Dark Knight as a film and as a story, but the Joker was the better of the two. Bane was good though.
TheBlackPhantom994 - 7/20/2012, 10:08 AM
I kind of want to see what would it be like with Robin....but it was the perfect ending. It was absolutely perfect.
CaptainMaximum - 7/20/2012, 10:08 AM
@returnhangar Happy Birthday! I'm 21 now.

Although Bane was easier to understand, I prefer the way he sounded in the prologue. This movie had me guessing all the way through, but felt the least batman-like of the 3. I just wish I waited til tonight to see it in IMAX, the showing I saw it in had crappy sound. Awesome movie!
TayDee - 7/20/2012, 10:12 AM
I don't understand the point system. How does a review get a 0.2?
inky - 7/20/2012, 10:15 AM
this bane would only be good for robin to molest compaired to how bane is in the comics so either he seriously lost wieght, had a body transplant or is infact totaly the wrong bane thus throwing in the question didnt the real bane want to make the movie.
Fxrank - 7/20/2012, 10:15 AM
Horrible, Nolan shows no respect to actual fans of the comics, he tried to make the movie his own by putting his twist on them and they didn't work. It was poetic when it should have been a mystery thriller, the character origins were way off, the acting was ok at best.
Minotauro - 7/20/2012, 10:18 AM
@DoubleD - I think nobody cares about the negative reviews. Only someone with a lack of "enthusiasm" likes to talk about it.
TrillLeanCup - 7/20/2012, 10:18 AM
inb4 griff negativity
campana - 7/20/2012, 10:19 AM
I dont comment often but this is enough. This movie was too long and it was ridiculously predictable! Yes the fight scenes were epic but enough is enough. This movie has some seriously great moments but to hear people calling it "Epic" or "Unbelievable" is too much. I want these movies to be great so we get to see more of them but comeon people..this movie is far from perfect.
Danbojohnj - 7/20/2012, 10:29 AM
Not a mild spoiler...thats a MAJOR one.

Cheers :(
PapaMidnite - 7/20/2012, 10:34 AM
The fact is: we have an awesome trilogy! TDKR is ending an outstanding cinematic piece, with BB and TDK.
FrankInStereo - 7/20/2012, 10:36 AM
@Campana I'm with you. Every time one of these reviews gets published on CBM, I roll my eyes.

It's not even the best Batman film.
Aeyan - 7/20/2012, 10:37 AM
Never say never, Nolan.
xXkryptoniteXx - 7/20/2012, 10:51 AM
Spoiler!!!!







It felt very force saying who he is and his real name, they should have just said "I like that name dick Grayson." not "I like that name, robin"
OrsonRandall - 7/20/2012, 10:51 AM
I enjoyed it and was a satisfying end to the trilogy, but no where near perfection.
Ceejay - 7/20/2012, 10:52 AM
Film was outstanding, the hours rolled by from the intensity of the story, easily the best paced and plotted out of the three movies. Tom Hardy was the most remarkable out of the great ensemble cast who all delivered on the money performances. He did so much with his eyes alone that it was almost too easy to miss the rest of his menacing portrayal. Any idiot who could still see this character in a wrestlers leotard and mask doing what he did in this film really is reading too many comics.

Anne Hathaway almost stole the entire film, she was the only Catwoman that there will ever be worth talking about again, not a single cheesy or camp thing about her performance. Chris Nolan ended this series perfectly, he set out to take the concept and place it in a real world scenario and it worked all the way to the end. Naturally it will piss off the die-hards who still think Bruce is supposed to stay as Batman until some ridiculous time-alliterating event reboots him back to his early 20's again like the comics. Screw 'em, the world now has a tale that decisively tells the legend of the Dark Knight in every meaning of the word "LEGEND".
BlackGetsuga3 - 7/20/2012, 10:58 AM
He isn't actually robin, his real first name is robin, it was a way to wink at the robin character but not put him in as a sidekick but as the one who would take over as batman
fayzon10 - 7/20/2012, 10:58 AM
TDKR was really good, the two major issues for me was Bane's accent it was really ridiculous it sounded almost cartoonish and Matthew Modine's Character was irrelevant he didn't need to be in the film at all just took up space but overall I really enjoyed the movie.
Jaywing - 7/20/2012, 11:14 AM
Are people really getting on this movie for being predictable.... Um... You must not like any CBM then... Even if it was predictable the story had so many cool original elements to it. I mean the avengers is as predictable as it gets but no one ripped on it for that.
dadisatish - 7/20/2012, 11:23 AM
movie is aweeeeeeeeeeeeeeessssssssssssssssssooooooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmeeeeeeeeeeeee...........

my best scene when bruce rises from the pit...when all others chant that phrase ....basara basara(rise rise rise rise.)....brought me chills....that was epic....
SentinelofLiberty - 7/20/2012, 11:26 AM
MAJOR SPOILERS..

.I loved the movie, but still prefer Begins, them this is neck and neck with TDK. Bane was actually awesome, and he broke the bat! That was an incredible moment. I doubted Hathaway, but she owned.

However, when you say that Nolan totally gets who Bruce Wayne is, I could not disagree more. The ending left me feeling like Bruce (and Alfred) were completely out of character with their final actions. Alfred would not abandon Bruce. And Bruce would never walk away from it. Even if he wanted to, his obsession...his 'drive to do great and terrible things'...would never allow him to sip wine in Italy. His need to patrol the rooftops at night cannot be quieted, even for Selina Kyle.

That said, I am coming from the perspective of someone who has been reading Batman since 1984. My first comic was Batman and Robin battling Scarecrow in Detective Comics. Somi understand this is Nolan's version of the character. For me, though, any iteration of Batman that can give up the cowl permanently is simply not Bruce Wayne. Bruce's obsession is too deep and too consuming.

Still, if I were looking at it from the perspective of someone who was not a lifelong Batman fanatic, this was a beautiful movie. It flew by, even though I initially shared your concerns about "pieces of ice floating in a river". (That is the PURRFECT way to encapsulate how those scenes felt choppy. Kudos to your wordplay, sir.). Would give it 4/5.

Oh, and I shit myself when Dr. Crane and Ras made appearances!!!!
DukeAcureds - 7/20/2012, 11:27 AM
Loved it. Well worth all the wait and all the hype. Hated the "Robin" line. How hard is it to say Jason?
SentinelofLiberty - 7/20/2012, 11:27 AM
*so I understand*. Stupid ipad
DukeAcureds - 7/20/2012, 11:29 AM
I loved how they made Bane Ra's' son. I always though they were gonna do this in the comics, but then when he wasn't, I felt punked. For the hour or so that I thought he was, I was jubilant. This was a needless twist, I thought. Just have them be siblings.
DukeAcureds - 7/20/2012, 11:31 AM
It perfectly encapsualtes the entire 1990s period of the comics, from Knightfall through to No Mans Land. Perfectly.
dadisatish - 7/20/2012, 11:31 AM
@SentinelofLiberty ...
movie doesnt say that bruce gives up being the bat....nor it say that he does...the ending is like those unique nolan endings....batman did come back after 8 long years.....who knows he might come back wen world needs batman again....
DukeAcureds - 7/20/2012, 11:32 AM
Which is good, because it's following the decades thing that every live action WB movie has done from the original Tim Burton one being very 1939 onwards.
Jaywing - 7/20/2012, 11:32 AM
@dadisatish I agree! I got chills like every five minutes though haha
dadisatish - 7/20/2012, 11:35 AM
in the end i thought that jgl will see a nightwing outfit ...but naaa....its more cooler this way....
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