Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

I’ll do my best not to give away too many secrets of the movie!

First things first, this is the best movie I have seen in the Theater this year.  Better then Spider-Man, better then Prometheus, better then The Avengers.

Second things second, this is my favorite film in what I call the Dark Knight series, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises.  It is my favorite, but whether or not it’s the actual best, well, there your mileage may vary.  Many are going to like The Dark Knight better, as it’s closer to source material, and some will like Batman Begins because it’s a more traditional comic book movie.  The Dark Knight Rises tries some different things than these two though, and in my opinion, succeeds for it.

Christopher Nolan, the director, drew on several Batman stories from the comics for this one.  The one that strikes me the most is Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.  While it takes little if anything from the actual plot of that story, it feels very much a spiritual brother.  In Returns, Batman puts on the mask again as an old man, years after retiring, to battle the Joker, Two Face, several gangs, and in the end even throws down with Superman.  In Rises, we have a Bruce Wayne who abandoned the Batman persona 8 years prior (at the end of The Dark Knight) who put’s on the mask again to fight the evil terrorist known as Bane.  And evil is about the ONLY word to describe Bane.  The Joker was scary, but Bane is downright vicious.  He thinks nothing of casually breaking necks, and seems to enjoy causing pain and despair even more then death.  The movie also draws heavily from well known Batman stories Knightfalls where Bane breaks Batman’s back, and No Man’s Land which saw Gotham isolated from the world by an earthquake, with Batman the only one keeping order in the city.  In scale, it’s vastly more epic and grand then either of the two movies that came before.  This one feels like it moves beyond the whole vigilante aspect of the first two, presenting us with something bigger.  Another thing this movie does is introduce a large number of new characters, including Bane, Catwoman (though never called Catwoman in the film), and the new characters John Blake and Miranda Tate.  These new characters are juggled to mixed effect with Selina Kyle/Catwoman and John Blake coming across very nicely, but Miranda Tate rather under developed, and at times taking actions that seem somewhat unmotivated (you know, like randomly hopping in bed with Bruce Wayne, cause, you know, we needed to see his vulnerable side…or something)

Okay, so how about returning characters?  We also have Bruce, Alfred, and Commissioner Gordon returning.  Bruce is very different in this one, almost a broken shell of a man.  It’s nice to see Bale play him so differently from the first two, though I’m not entirely sure that the events of The Dark Knight merit him turning into a reclusive hermit and abandoning the Bat.  Alfred injects a good deal of heart into Alfred, and into the movie in general, and it’s a shame to see him disappear half way through the film, but at least he shows up again towards the end, and has his character’s story very well paid off.  Gordon get’s put through the ringer, but Gary Oldman does a very nice job yet again with his understated Gordon.

There are a few plot holes, but they aren’t movie killers, so I won’t go into them at depth.  The biggest has Bruce traveling halfway around the world with no explanation as to how he accomplished it.  As it plays out in the movie, it works fine I guess.  The movie also departs from the comics much more then the previous two, but given Nolan’s previous success with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, I think he’s earned the right to spin things his own way.  I might mention that the movie almost requires a knowledge of the previous two though.  Rises picks up a number of plot threads from the first two, particularly from Batman Begins.  That being said, the three movie considered together very much form a beginning, a middle, and an end, making Nolan’s Batman more of a saga or an epic than any other take on the character.  It’s also worth noting that Rises probably has more in common with Begins, then The Dark Knight.  Thematically at least, it is very much in the same arena as Begins.  I have heard it mentioned in reviews that people feel there is not enough humor in Rises, but I would argue the movie is considerable lighter then The Dark Knight was, especially during the first hour when Bruce is sort of getting back into the game.  A lot of stuff with Selina Kyle/Catwoman is very funny and charming.

The actors across the board do great work, with Hathaway standing out as the new Catwoman.  The only actor who doesn’t seem up to par is Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate, but that is more to do with an under written character then any problem with Ms. Cotillard.

Overall, this one gets 9 out of 10.  It’s a great cap on the Batman series, and it is nice to have such an epic and grand climax, rather then just turning out story after story ala James Bond!