The Dark Knight Trilogy Reviews Part 3: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (Spoilers)
A seven year journey from the depths of a Bhutanese prison to the Batcave. A journey showcasing the triumph of good over evil and the consequences that arise from trying to stop it.
The Dark Knight Trilogy. A seven year journey from the depths of a Bhutanese prison to the Batcave. A journey showcasing the triumph of good over evil and the consequences that arise from trying to stop it. It’s a story about fear, chaos, pain, love, corruption, the consequences of your actions, power and overcoming obstacles. So, now that the trilogy has wrapped up, I thought it’d be a good time to give my own reviews of each film. This is the third of three reviews coming for the trilogy.
The Dark Knight Rises:
Now, let me start off by saying that I know some of you guys are going to disagree with me on this. I have a feeling a lot of you will. But, please don’t just dismiss this review because you disagree, hear me out. I’m going to divide this review up differently than the others.
The Dark Knight Rises seems to be the film in this franchise that divides the fanbase the most. But, I really enjoyed it. How much, do you ask? Well, read on to find out about that. Now, the weight of this film makes it nearly impossible to review. But, to sum it up in one sentence: The Dark Knight Rises is the ending to the trilogy that we deserve and need. Absolutely amazing. I highly recommend watching it in IMAX, it does not disappoint (visually, I know a fair amount of people were disappointed by it overall).
The structure for this film is one thing I found interesting, particularly in the beginning. When watching it, all I could help but think of was a comic book arc. I know, it’s based on a comic book, but you’ll get what I mean in a minute. The first act of the film feels like a comic on screen. In comic arcs, several issues often set up different characters and how the action is going to unfold. It’s a very episodic thing and spans for several months. Now, in The Dark Knight Rises, we get just that. It’s episodic, it sets up characters, and it sets up highly unrelated incidents that come together to give the overall story (Gordon getting caught in the sewers, Bruce investigating Selina, Batman going after Bane’s men after the stock exchange break in). Then, a show stopping event occurs (Bane breaking Batman) that changes the direction of the story. Development goes on as the villain unleashes his or her plan on the city while the hero waits in the wings and recovers. All this leads up to a grand finale in multiple parts (Batman freeing the cops, fight outside city hall, Batman takes on Bane, Talia reveal, chase scene, Batman taking the bomb over the bay). If you look at it, each act of the film can be seen as its own part in a three part comic book series (Knightfall, Knightquest, Knightsend). The pacing for this film immediately differentiated itself from the pack.
While I have Knightfall, Knightquest and Knightsend in your mind, I want to bring up a point. Each act can fit under this title for an event in it. Knightfall is obvious as the same event occurs on screen as in the comics. Knightquest fits into act 2’s journey (quest) into Bruce’s soul as he tries to escape The Pit. Knightsend is a little bit looser than the other two but, Bruce sends (while at the same time not being near Gotham) John Blake to be Gotham’s new saviour.
Now, structure isn’t the only thing that makes this feel very much like a (great) comic book film. The Batcave is the closest to the comics Batcave seen in this trilogy while still making sense in reality. Nolan also gives the Dark Knight some new toys to play with. The two best example of this are The Bat and the EMP cannon.
I just typed three paragraphs and have barely touched on the story, let’s do that. The story for this film is very, very intricate and if I typed out every plot point that occurred, I’d be here until next week or so. So, this is what the Batman wiki has to say for the film’s story:
“Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Gotham City is in a state of peace. Under powers granted by the Dent Act, Commissioner Jim Gordon has nearly eradicated violent and organized crime. However, he still feels guilty about the cover-up of Harvey Dent's crimes. At a function celebrating Dent, he plans to admit to the conspiracy, but decides that the city is not ready to hear the truth. While following a lead in the abduction of a congressman from the function, Gordon's speech falls into the hands of terrorist leader Bane. Gordon is shot in the process, and he promotes patrol officer John Blake to detective, allowing Blake to report directly to him.
As Batman has disappeared from Gotham City, so too has Bruce Wayne, locking himself inside Wayne Manor. Wayne Enterprises is crumbling after he invested in a clean energy project designed to harness fusion power, but shut the project down after learning that the core could be modified to become a nuclear weapon. Both Gordon and Blake — who has deduced Batman's identity — implore Bruce to return as Batman, but Alfred Pennyworth resigns in a failed attempt to dissuade him. Bane stages an attack on the stock exchange and uses a stolen set of Bruce's fingerprints to place a number of risky investments in his name, bankrupting Bruce and forcing him to relinquish control of Wayne Enterprises. Correctly suspecting that his business rival, John Daggett, has employed Bane to aid in an aggressive take-over of the company, Bruce entrusts businesswoman Miranda Tate to keep full control out of Daggett's hands.
Following a trail left by cat burglar Selina Kyle, Batman confronts Bane, who says that he assumed the leadership of the League of Shadows following the death of Ra's al Ghul. Bane kills Daggett and reveals that he was using Daggett's construction firms to stage a heist on Wayne Enterprises' Applied Science Division. He steals Bruce's arsenal before crippling Batman and detaining him in a prison from which escape is virtually impossible. The other inmates relate the story of the only person to ever successfully escape from the prison, a child driven by necessity and the sheer force of will, said to be the child of Ra's al Ghul.
Bane lures the vast majority of Gotham's police force underground and sets off a chain of explosions across the city, trapping the officers and turning Gotham City into an isolated city-state. Any attempt to leave the city will result in the detonation of the Wayne Enterprises fusion core, which has been converted into a bomb. Addressing the citizens, Bane reveals the cover-up of Dent's death, and releases the prisoners locked up under the Dent Act. The rich and powerful are dragged from their homes and put before a show trial presided over by Jonathan Crane. After an attempt to sneak Special Forces soldiers into the city fails, the government blockades Gotham and the city further regresses into a state of anarchy.
Meanwhile, Bruce retrains himself to be Batman and successfully escapes Bane's prison to return to Gotham. He enlists Selina, Blake, Miranda, Gordon and Lucius Fox to help liberate the city and stop the fusion bomb before it grows too unstable and explodes. Batman confronts and subdues Bane, but is betrayed by Miranda as she reveals herself to be Talia al Ghul. It was she who escaped the prison as a child, and plans to complete her father's work (by destroying Gotham) and exact personal vengeance against Bruce for his death. Gordon successfully cuts off the bomb's ability to be remotely detonated while Selina kills Bane, allowing Batman to chase Talia. He tries to force her to take the bomb to the fusion chamber where it can be stabilized, but she remotely floods the chamber. Batman shoots her truck off the road and Talia dies in the resulting crash, confident that the bomb cannot be stopped. Using The Bat developed by Fox, Batman hauls the bomb beyond the city limits, where it detonates over the ocean.
In the aftermath of the explosion, Batman is praised as a sacrificial hero and Bruce is believed dead as a casualty of the riot. Later Lucius finds out that Bruce had fixed autopilot on the bat, hinting that Batman wasn't inside the Bat when it exploded with the bomb. As Bruce's estate is divided up, Alfred witnesses Bruce and Selina together alive in a cafe in Italy, while Blake inherits the Batcave.”
Bane and Talia’s plot to take over and destroy Gotham was very well thought out. It involved years and years of planning and patience to make it work. Every cog had to be in place perfectly. Years prior, Bane gained Daggett’s trust and was able to get his construction crew to pour concrete laced with explosives in key points around the city. Talia had to masquerade as Miranda Tate for years prior to gain Bruce’s trust and put the clean energy project into action. Then Bane had to grab Pavel when the CIA moved him for protection. Then Bane got Daggett to hire Selina Kyle to get Bruce’s fingerprints. Then they had to cripple Bruce’s finances and make him go bankrupt. Then they had to get Bruce to give Talia control of the company. Then Bane had to break Batman, using Selina to lure him in, so that they could imprison Batman in The Pit so that he could watch and not interfere with their plans. And they had to have Pavel turn the fusion reactor into a bomb. And there was more and more. The plan was intricate, masterfully crafted and made sense. Quite simply, that’s the scariest part of his plan; you can buy that it would work. You can buy that the people would believe this guy (since he just outed a lie from the police commissioner, who would you trust, the government or the guy blowing apart the lies?).
The story had an emphasis on the spiritual journey of Bruce Wayne along with the physical. Bruce learns that his soul, as well as his body, has to be ready for what is to come.
It was a very touching tale that had me crying one moment (when Alfred left), in awe the next (when Bane broke Batman) and in chills (most of the film). It struck every emotional cord perfectly. The story was absolutely brilliant. I was on the edge of my seat for every second of film time. BUT, I did have some issues with it. My three real issues I had were these:
Talia needed more screen time.
Blake needed a better explanation about how he knew Bruce was Batman.
Talia shouldn’t have shut her eyes when she died. I know it's nitpicky but it just looked so fake.
Despite these three minor flaws, I stand by my decision that The Dark Knight Rises has a wonderful story. 9.9/10
The ending was likely the most controversial part of this film. Personally, I liked it. Blake finding the Batcave was a perfect way to end the trilogy. It brought home the message of the series: Batman is a symbol, Batman can be anybody. John Blake taking up the mantle was a great way to end the franchise. All the characters go out nicely (yes, I even liked how Bane died, more on that later). I give the ending to The Dark Knight Rises 5/5.
Batman/Bruce Wayne, our protagonist played by Christian Bale, is at his best and his worst in this film. Christian Bale brings in his best performance yet as we see Bruce at his highest high and his lowest low. This is by far his best performance of the trilogy. I said in my TDK review that the character became 4D, expanding from 3D in the previous film, and he continues to expand here. He truly becomes a completely well rounded character. He felt real, you felt sorry for him when he failed, and you wanted to cheer when he succeeded. This film heavily features Bruce’s spiritual journey. He starts out as a recluse, full of regret. He returns as Batman to stop Bane but as a consequence is left by Alfred. He is broken by Bane and sent to The Pit. He rises from the darkness as a new man and returns to save his city.
This trilogy really has been a character study of Bruce Wayne/Batman. We have spent two films sitting in his mind practically, learning lots about him. And in this film, Alfred brings up this point: “You only see one end to your journey.” And it’s absolutely true. Bruce sees one end to his journey: death. But what he doesn’t realize at that time is that by giving himself over entirely to his cause will lead him to lose himself. And it does. Oh boy, it does. He completely lost himself during the eight years between Batman’s disappearance and reappearance. He is no longer the same man he once was. He is a broken and battered man who is trying to make up for his mistakes. The film asks a question: what does it truly mean to, in the words of Ra’s al Ghul, ‘to devote yourself to an ideal entirely’. While Batman Begins was the superhero coming of age story and about what brings a man to dress up as a giant bat and The Dark Knight is about how society is affected by the emergence of such a man, The Dark Knight Rises is about the cost of it all. The Dark Knight asked us ‘is it worth it?’ and The Dark Knight Rises gives us an answer that can go both ways. The city is saved and has a new saviour. Peace has (for now) been brought to Gotham. But, Bruce lost himself entirely. He had to suffer majorly to see that it may not really be worth it. But, is it worth it to suffer and be the hero or is it better to sit back and let crime rule? The amount of suffering Bruce endures in this film may lead some to say that it is not worth it but the fact that a man can become a symbol, a legend, and inspire an entire city to clean up its act may lead some to say yes. What do you think? Is it worth it to ‘devote yourself to an ideal entirely’ and possibly suffer the consequences for it? Or is it better to sit back and let crime, poverty and corruption reign while you do not suffer?
What does the toll of leading a double life take on one’s soul? The cost, as portrayed in this trilogy, is steep. In the beginning of The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce is a broken and beaten man. He has put too much into Batman to ever lead a normal life again. He just can’t anymore. He doesn’t know how to. Even after he hangs up the cape and the cowl, he has nothing to do. He only can dwell on his mistakes, on the death of Rachel, on the corruption of Harvey, and on all his past failures. He only has his personal demons to keep him company during a self-imposed exile. And this is a direct consequence of him trying to be a hero. He sees no clear way ahead of him to get back into the light. And that’s his problem, he’s lost his purpose.
Bruce set out to be the guardian of a city, a hero. But, he lost all hope. His soul has been shattered, his childhood friend has been killed, his way to bring hope to Gotham has been corrupted and killed, his allies have been brought down because of his efforts (I’ll get into it with Gordon later). This begs the question: what has he fought for? What has he accomplished? What has he done to help Gotham? Can he protect the city when he himself is lost? He set out to inspire hope, but he lost his own.
Looking back, the clues were lain out beforehand in the previous films. Alfred often warns him that it will end like this. That he will die before he will end his crusade. Alfred reminds him in The Dark Knight that he needs to know his limits but he’s in too deep to have any limits at that point in his life. He abandoned limits entirely. But the consequences are not there until this film. Bruce has invested far too much into Batman to be able to walk away completely normal. His soul will not be intact. Bruce was brought down to The Pit, which stands as a metaphor for the prison he built inside himself. He built up this prison of depression with hope sprinkling in but never taking root. The Pit is exactly this but exists in the physical world. And during his time in the Pit, Bruce comes to realize this. Bruce comes to embrace hope and allow it to take root. Bruce allows himself to move on. He breaks the chains he built in his mind and escapes the mental and physical prison his actions got him stuck in.
Worst of all, Bruce corrupted Batman. He corrupted the symbol of hope the city needed. And he did this because he felt responsible for what happened. But, did he make things worse? The Dent Act is the equivalent of duct tape on a leaky pipe to Gotham’s organized crime syndicates. He couldn’t heal the scars Joker gave Gotham. But did he make them worse by removing a symbol for justice in Gotham? Did corrupting the symbol of Batman make Gotham suffer worse than it would have if they lay out the truth for Gotham in the first place? Pulling Batman out of Gotham caused those scars to run deeper. Even after eight years, Gotham can’t move on just like Bruce can’t move on. It’s impossible to deny how far this symbol of hope has fallen.
And, as I said, this film is about Bruce’s spiritual journey. He learns to let hope in and not to live with the dark spirits of the past picking away at his soul. And not only does he heal himself in the process, he heals his city. His time in The Pit rejuvenated him and brought back his humanity. Humanity is important. Without humanity, Batman couldn’t exist. And that’s what Bruce learns. He learns that he needs to allow humanity in so Batman can exist. By repairing his humanity, Bruce rises higher than ever as Gotham’s Dark Knight and inspires the city to rise against the evil inside of it.
A criticism I often hear about this film is that Batman isn’t in it enough. I disagree. I believe what those people mean is that the suit doesn’t get enough time on screen. Bruce is Batman in every moment of this film. He never moved on. For eight years he’s been Batman without the suit. Stuck trying to be the hero but never truly wearing the cape and the cowl. He’s Batman in every moment of this film, he’s just not in the suit as much.
Every emotion is felt through simple gestures in Bale’s acting. This is his best performance, not just as Bruce Wayne, his best performance yet. 11/10
What is a great hero without an equal or greater antagonist? Luckily, with this trilogy, we are never without a great antagonist. Ra’s and Joker both were strong antagonists to match our hero. But is Bane? In a word: Yes. Bane is the anti-Batman. Joker may be on the opposite end of the spectrum but Bane is a dark mirror of our hero. Rather than being born to privilege and getting everything he wanted, Bane grew up in a prison and was forced to prove his worth to survive.
Now, a lot of people seem to be unsure of if Nolan abandoned Bane’s origin and gave it to Talia or if Bane still has the same (or similar) backstory. Going off of clues in the film, it seems that Bane was born in the prison. Take his quote for the first piece of evidence: “I was born in darkness.” Now, this led us to believe that he was born in the prison. But then the backstory turned out to be Talia’s. But, Bane was likely not lying about being born in darkness. So we can assume he might have been born in The Pit. And it’s not like it’s an out there concept for the prisoners to mix up some facts. Bane could have been born there and so was Talia. But Talia was the one who got out of The Pit. But then the prisoners mixed up the two stories and passed them along in this incorrect form. So, yes, I say Bane was born in prison in the continuity of this series.
Now, Bane’s appearance was one of the changes questioned often by fans. But, and I know I will get killed for this, I prefer his look in the film to the original look in the comics. Bane was definitely more menacing from behind this mask and in his uniform than in a leotard and a Mexican wrestler mask. There was definitely a more intimidating look here than in the comics. I know I’m likely in the minority here, but just my opinion.
Bane’s voice is a character by itself. To hear such a regal sounding voice come out of this monstrous sized man is unsettling. It’s creepy. The look of Bane suggests this monstrous man with no brains, yet his voice suggests a highly intelligent man. But, it does not suggest either when seen on film. Hardy brings it to life, voice and image to create one of the most terrifying on screen villains this year.
People say that, in the end, he was just Talia’s lapdog. I highly disagree with this stance. Where does it say that Bane followed Talia’s orders? Who says they didn’t plan it together? They both did major things in this plan, would Talia really even trust Bane with such major cogs if he was just a lacky?
What Hardy does with this role is incredible; I firmly believe that this is his best performance yet. And, to think, he did it all behind a mask covering what most actors use to express emotion: they’re lower face, mostly their mouth. It speaks volumes that a man could pull of such a magnificent performance and not even show most of his face. 10/10
Jim Gordon, as I have said in my other reviews, is one of the hearts of this franchise. And when the heart of a franchise is brought down to his lowest point, everyone feels it. And that is exactly what happens in this film. In my analysis of Bruce Wayne, I pointed out that his friends suffer because of his actions. And the two who suffer the most are Alfred and Jim Gordon. Jim lost a lot after Harvey’s corruption. His wife took his kids and left him, leaving him alone and with a hole in his heart. He suffers more and more every year. Every Dent Day, he has to “praise the mad man who tried to murder my own child.”. And every time he does this, he gets brought down lower and lower.
In this film, as with the previous two, you feel for him. He’s a compelling person. He’s not a character by this point, he’s a person. He’s a real feeling person. Nothing about Jim Gordon makes you think of him as a character or fake. That’s one thing that every film in Nolan’s trilogy does right, it makes Bruce Wayne, Jim Gordon, Alfred Pennyworth, Harvey Dent and many more feel like real people that could exist in real life.
And, as usual, Gary Oldman brings a beautiful performance to the role. He, as always, is perfect as Jim Gordon. Whoever follows him in the next series has their work cut out for them. Hell, everyone in the next series has their work cut out for them. 10/10
I’ll say it right here, this is the best Catwoman (or should I say Selina Kyle?) on screen yet. She’s sexy, sensual, sly, sneaky, smart, crafty, playful, everything Selina should be. Her fighting style was spot on too. Just everything about this character was brought to life on screen in such a way that she became the best on screen Selina Kyle yet. The best part of Anne’s acting was the unscripted moments. So much was said through simple eye rolls and gestures. Her chemistry with Bale is spot on. The only thing that was a little forced was the kiss at the end between the two. It wasn’t too forced but just a tad. I bought their romance, it felt real. It started as mutual respect and moved up to mutual admiration and eventually to love. Bruce never gave up in her and that was just what she needed. 10/10
John “Robin” Blake:
John “Robin” Blake was the character I worried about the most when coming into this film. I knew Joseph Gordon Levitt was a good actor but I just was unsure of the character. But, these qualms were laid to rest after seeing the movie. I ended up loving the character in the end. He just felt real to me. He was relatable and likeable.
The big revelation with John is that he is Robin in this film. There’s no way around it, he is Robin in this film. I’ve heard people say he’s going to become Robin after the film but no. He’s becoming Batman. He’s taking up the mantle and becoming the new symbol for hope and justice in Gotham. He is a nice way of rounding out the trilogy with someone who has ideals like Bruce Wayne did early on, before he cast himself into the deepest, darkest parts of his mind.
The only part I disliked about the character was how he guessed Bruce’s identity. I don’t mind him knowing, it’s a nice nod to Tim Drake, but I just didn’t like how they went about it all that much.
Joseph Gordon Levitt played the character perfectly and I am happy to award John Blake a 4.9/5.
Alfred was the other major emotional anchor in this film. His scene when he quit had me tearing up. And when he made the speech to Thomas and Martha’s graves, I started to cry. Michael Caine, as always, brought his all into his performance and it was impressive. The guy is a phenomenal actor and this was his best performance as Alfred Pennyworth. 5/5
What is there to be said about Morgan Freeman that hasn’t been said already? Honestly, probably nothing. The guy is a phenomenal actor and is the perfect on screen Lucius. I have no doubt in my mind that he will be seen as the definitive on screen interpretation of the character, as some others from this trilogy may. Lucius played a perfectly sized role and was a pleasure to see on screen again once more. 5/5
Talia al Ghul:
Talia al Ghul. Now this is the hardest character to review. I loved the character. She had a wonderful backstory, was played by a great actress, Marion Cotillard, and was incorporated perfectly into the story. BUT, that being said, she didn’t get enough time to develop. She was great every time she was on screen and it pains me to do this but she just didn’t get enough time to show everything and ended up being the weakest villain in the trilogy. Marion played her with ease and did it greatly. The only downside to her acting was one tiny little thing she did during Talia’s death, she closed her eyes. I don’t know, it just didn’t look right. Everything up to that point seemed great but that one little just was the weakest moment for the character. Not a bad villain by any means but the weakest in this trilogy. I give her a 3.25/5.
Roland Daggett was a great character to see on screen. He filled a role about the same size as Maroni and Falcone did in The Dark Knight and Batman Begins respectively. The weasely little guy was enjoyable to see on film. He fit the story, his involvement was perfect, his interactions with characters were great, he was a great Daggett. Ben Mendelsohn played the character perfectly and he was one of those guys you just love to hate. As a supporting villain, I give Daggett a 5/5.
I think I have exhausted every single adjective that can be used to describe the soundtracks for this trilogy already. But, it’s a really wonderful soundtrack. The best out of the trilogy for me. It’s haunting, it’s exciting, it’s new, it has call backs to Begins and The Dark Knight. The soundtrack is one I can’t stop listening to and gets a 10/10.
The direction for this film is top notch. Nolan brings his all and crafts a thrilling tale with relatable and likable characters. The cinematography for this film is Wally Pfister at his best. I’m really not sure what else to say. It’s really some of the best direction I have ever seen on film.
The fight scenes are easily the best in the trilogy, particularly the one in the sewers between Batman and Bane. That is easily my favourite fight scene on film. The lack of CGI effects makes it feel so much more real and intimate. The lack of music makes it even better, letting you hear every blow and feel all the pain Batman feels. Easily is my #1 favourite fight scene on film. And the iconic breaking of the bat on screen was just icing on the cake. 11/10
This caps the film off with 100.05/100.
Do you agree? Do you disagree? Comment below and let me and everyone else know. Thank you for reading, I know it was long.
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