THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

Directed by Christopher Nolan

CAST

Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman

Tom Hardy as Bane

Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/The Cat Burglar

Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate

Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth

Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon

Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake

Liam Neeson as Ra’s al Ghul

EDIT: SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SWEET MOTHER OF GOD SPOILER ALERT

Spoilers ensue in the following review (ha, that rhymed). Also, word of advice for those who have not seen the movie yet: you might want to re-watch Batman Begins before watching The Dark Knight Rises. It helps.

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First off, the questions everyone loves to ask: it’s not quite as great as its predecessor, but it’s a pretty exhilarating experience nonetheless.

Second question everyone loves to ask: Is it better than the Avengers movie? I don’t think they’re comparable. One’s an action movie through and through (an excellent action movie, don’t get me wrong), the other is more geared towards intense drama than action, although the action scenes are pretty edge-of-the-seat stuff. They’re both superhero films, but their execution is just so incredibly different. One’s got a straightforward “good guys beat up bad guys” theme, the other has elements that you’re more likely to encounter in a crime thriller than a superhero flick. I don’t think comparing them is possible or correct. They’re both excellent movies depending on what kind of film you want to watch. If you held a gun to my head and demanded to know which was better, I’d say TDKR, but don’t take my word for it. Decide for yourself.

So we finally get to see the movie we’ve been waiting 4 years for. Does it meet expectations? For the most part, definitely. The general quality of acting in this movie exceeds the previous installments, I think. Take The Dark Knight, for instance. Would it really have been as great a movie as it was without Heath Ledger? It wasn’t just that his performance as the Joker was great by itself, it was so great that he outshone everyone else in the movie. And while that’s good for your viewing experience right then and there, in my opinion it doesn’t speak well for the acting as a whole if one person’s removal means the rest are revealed to be just a bit above average. There are no such worries here, though, because there are a lot of really good performances on display.

I’ve always said Christian Bale played a better Bruce Wayne than he did a Batman, but luckily enough the Bruce Wayne part of the character gets more screen time here than the Batman part does. And it works that way, because you can see Bruce transform from a rundown recluse to a resurgent force, and then from a shattered and defeated man to a resurgent force again, and it seems real, or at least as real as a movie drawn from this sort of material can get. His performance is as good as any I’ve seen from him, and in my opinion it compares favorably with his turns in movies like American Psycho and The Machinist.

“I once caught a fish that was THIS big!”

Tom Hardy was terrific as Bane. He was the best part of the movie for me. I am used to seeing lousy portrayals of Bane in different forms of media — setting aside that god awful Joel Schumacher movie, it was irritating to see Bane portrayed as a lumbering brute hopped up on heavy-duty drugs in both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. It’s great to see a version of Bane that is at least halfway faithful to the character from the comics, since this movie keeps his mind and intellect intact while also showcasing his physical strength. Minor changes to the character like making him a disciple of Ra’s al Ghul and such are fine as long as the character was captured right. His voice was understandable to me and it went a long way in making him a menacing figure.

I also liked Anne Hathaway as Catwoman (only known as the cat burglar in this movie), because that character doesn’t have the best portrayals in the movies either. People love to rave about how great Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman was, but let’s be honest……..she was corny as hell, as was the movie she appeared in. The less said about Halle Berry’s Catwoman, the better. This Catwoman is far superior to prior portrayals. She walks like Selina Kyle, talks like Selina Kyle, has the same conflicts and motivations that the character does in the source material…it’s honestly like seeing the character from the comics replicated on the screen. There’s really nothing that I can find fault with in her performance.

Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman all give reliably solid performances in their supporting roles, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is great in his role as John Blake, a character whose prominence in the plot seems a bit strange until you reach the end of the film — once you get there, it’s up to you to decide whether the ending is good enough to justify the character or not.

What did I not like about the movie? First off, there’s just one minor fault I found with a Bane scene; the one where he breaks Batman’s back. That happens to be a very, very famous scene in the comics, so you would think a little gravitas would be attached to it, something to build up the moment until that sound of snapping vertebrae. But when it happens in the movie, it’s just a little too sudden. It took me a couple of seconds to realize what had happened and go “Wait, was that it?”. I mean, look at how it happened in the comics. Deliberate and hard to overlook.

You can have a moment where Bane savors the victory, holding Batman in the air, relishing it while Batman is in agony, then bringing him down to break him. This was just a little too fast and the moment was lost. But like I said, it’s just a minor fault. I’m glad they actually included that scene, it’s cool to see in live-action.

My major grouse was with the entire Talia al Ghul character. This could be simply because I think Talia is a useless character in general; half her storylines in the comics revolve around the time she (I shit you not) date-raped Batman in an attempt to produce an heir to the al Ghul family legacy.

This single scene forms 99% of her character arc. She is THAT useless.

But really, she almost derails Bane’s entire character. At first he’s a sociopath wearing the garb of a revolutionary, and he’s really good at that, but then all of a sudden it’s revealed that Bane did everything he did because he loves Talia. Really? All that violence, all those menacing speeches, all that planning, and it all comes down to Bane having a crush on Ra’s al Ghul’s psycho daughter? It changes his character almost completely. I think she could have just not been in the movie at all and it would have been better with a little writing here and there to accommodate. The revelation of her true identity and Bane’s anti-climactic death were my biggest issues with the plot.

There were also developments in this movie so incredibly trite that I still cannot believe Christopher Nolan was using them. I mean, come on……a nuclear bomb? You could not find a more clichéd movie threat if you tried. The final few moments of this film have so much going on all the time that it becomes more than a little hard to believe that they only have 11 minutes before a bomb goes off. They certainly seem to be taking their time, what with Batman’s aerial acrobatics and somehow finding time to exchange final words with Catwoman and Jim Gordon. The ending is…….eh, predictable, but it’s hard not to like it.

This was a very good movie. I simply do not think it was better than its predecessor. But hey, that predecessor is hard to top.

RATING (OUT OF FIVE)

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