Review: The Dark Knight Rises

(movie poster)

The Dark Knight Rises (2012, Legendary Pictures, Syncopy Films and DC Comics); distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures; written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan; produced by Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan and Charles Roven.  165 minutes.

In the third and last installment for both Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale, a revolutionary militant named Bane (played by Tom Hardy) and his minions use a fusion bomb, made via the core of the Wayne Enterprises’ bankrupting fusion power reactor, to take the entire city of Gotham hostage.

Rises returns to some of its League of Shadows roots (like Batman Begins, 2005), as Bruce Wayne must go through healing and training, having almost been killed by Bane.

Cast
Anne Hathaway plays Selina Kyle, the “clean slate”-seeking cat burglar.  Subtle in sexiness, unlike the Halle Berry Catwoman, the role here is more fulfilling, but no-doubt difficult to pull off.  In an interview, Hathaway described her role as being the most physically demanding she had ever played, having to double her work-out efforts.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Robin John Blake, a patrol officer that’s smart enough to connect the dots with Wayne, given that he was also orphaned.  James Gordon (Gary Oldman) promotes Blake in dealing with all the chaos.

Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman reprise their roles as guiding butler Alfred Pennyworth and Wayne Enterprises majority shareholder Lucius Fox, respectively.

Liam Neeson and Josh Pence make appearances as Ra’s al Ghul (a.k.a., Henri Ducard), the League of Shadows/Assassins leader.  Al Ghul is seen one of Wayne’s dreams.

Marion Cotillard plays Miranda Tate, a Wayne Enterprises executive board member—and then some—that melts Wayne’s heart, and causes certain problems…

Other members include Joey King, as the young Talia al Ghul, and Juno Temple as “Jen,” a friend and accomplice of Selina Kyle, also used to living under not-so-good conditions.

Villains, Humor & Theme
Officially created in Knightfall (1993), Bane is brutal and eloquently evil, like an evil Sean Connery, while willing to crater an entire city.  And call himself a “liberator” in the process.  Tom Hardy had to gain thirty pounds for a character shown capable of demolishing hard building materials (e.g., concrete) with mere supported fists.

It’s also nice to see Cillian Murphy, as Dr. Jonathan Crane (Scarecrow), now acting as court judge, in a criminal empire formed through the sweeping release of prisoners and the then-fact that Bane knows Batman’s identity…

“Death or Exile?” asks Crane, after finding James Gordon, of course, guilty of ‘crimes against the city.’  As an alternative to the all-too-common “exile,” where the convicted are literally sent out onto thin ice, Gordon responds, “Death.”
“Death, it is,” responds Dr. Crane.  “Through exile.”

Several members of the Pittsburgh Steelers made cameo appearances, playing the fictional Gotham Rogues football team, all the way into the scene where a big hole is made in the middle of the football stadium.  There’s the kick-off, and…BOOM.

The official PG-13 cut is clean-cut, looking a little like the 1989-on predecessors and other comically-timed films, the way Bane suddenly picks off and dumps his more politically incompetent henchmen.

Take
The film maintains a photorealism—something that can’t be conveyed in comic books, where the IMAX visuals great (one hour of ultra-high-resolution footage!), sticking to practical effects and production design, and truly forbidding locations, while Bruce Wayne is shown to be less a superhero, and more of a man that has gone through a lot of pain to reach and keep such heights of responsibility.

Edgy, but not overdramatic, Rises maintains a balance that the modern audience can identify with: revolutionary yet homicidal—an allegory to radical political groups; versus the in-the-shadows fighting other people’s battles—an allegory to mismanaged and overstretched government (U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy’s cameo confirms that part, for better or worse), promoting complacency and, subsequently, corruption.

With the Nolans taking directly from the The Dark Knight Returns (1986), and the storylines from Knightfall and No Man’s Land (1999), the film is a bit disjointed and lacks the full depth of the first two Nolan films, but the execution is top-notch— A-grade.

World-famous movie critic Roger Ebert said this film had too many new characters.  I disagree.  It needed to be less disjointed with the character-work it has.  Then it would look like a practical Wizard of Oz.  Remember that politically-undertoned masterpiece?

It’s a richly-drawn thrill ride that doesn’t prod you with over-politicized dreck or require you to know too much about the comic book series.

It’s a must-see.  Being the eighth-highest grossing movie of all time (over $1.081 billion, comparable to The Dark Knight) and an AFI Movie of the Year winner should tell you that.  Plus, the practical  IMAX visuals are great—good enough that Greg Foster stated that IMAX planned to run the film for two months, instead of the two weeks it was contractually obligated.  Grade: A-.

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