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Review: 'The Dark Knight Rises' a Solid End to Nolan's Batman Saga

by
July 19, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

We always knew there would be a last Christopher Nolan-directed Batman movie. What we hoped and got was for that end to be Nolan's decision, an ending that he saw fit for this version of this character. We wished for a crescendo to all of his Batman films, ending on a solid note that tied the series together. As for ranking, The Dark Knight Rises is lower than Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and even ranks rather low on Nolan's impressive filmography. However, it is a reasonable- and massive - finale, and, script issues aside, The Dark Knight Rises is a very fitting way for this saga to end. Until someone reboots it again.

Set a number of years after the events in The Dark Knight, Gotham City is still recovering from the loss of hero District Attorney Harvey Dent and the disappearance of Batman, who is viewed as an enemy to the people of the city. Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and the Gotham PD make the best of this time of peace, but something nefarious is on the horizon. Bane, a terrorist leader with an army of devoted followers, makes his way to Gotham City. His plan, with the aid of Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a cat burglar, is to bring the city to its knees and make the wealthier members of the community answer for their decadent ways of life.

Meanwhile, as Batman has disappeared, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has locked himself away in his newly reconstructed mansion, only making direct contact with his loyal butler, Alfred. But once the storm begins brewing and he realizes the company his father built might be a target for the unsavory dealings of this new terrorist network, Wayne finds it in himself to bring the Batman back for one, last act of heroism.

Nolan's Batman films have always been devoted to story first. Whether they're about a billionaire playboy facing his fears while trying to do good in the world or about the anarchy that can be caused by one, determined, chaos-loving psychopath, the action and destruction seen in these movies have always had a purpose. This isn't action for action's sake, and it's directors like Christopher Nolan who give a good name to the Hollywood blockbuster, creating epic stories and telling them with style and atmosphere. All of that is on hand with The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan and crew make every effort in tying it back to the previous films—with the notable exception of the Joker, who goes completely unmentioned—and making it feel like the final piece of a much larger whole rather than just another entry into a money-making franchise. Die-hard fans of the trilogy up to this point won't be disappointed. At least, not that much.

The Dark Knight Rises has issues with how massive Nolan and co-writers Jonathan Nolan and David Goyer—Goyer only receives a "story by" credit here—wanted to make this final entry. Characters come and go, names get thrown about, and dialogue is fired out just as quickly as it ever was in this series. For the first quarter of the film, though, it begins to sink into itself, the gears grinding along without fail but at a slowing pace as you try to keep up with precisely what's going on. To that end, The Dark Knight Rises warrants repeat viewing more so than Batman Begins or The Dark Knight. Unlike Inception, Nolan's last film, the complexities of the story here don't feel as warranted. Neither do the moments of blatant exposition scattered throughout, as if the writers here couldn't figure out a more organic way of delivering information to the character or to us. It's the only time in this series that this becomes a noticeable problem.

However, it isn't too far into the film that Bane's plan is revealed, characters change, and Gotham City itself becomes something of a character that we find ourselves invested in. While the rise, fall, and return of the caped crusader is the narrative drive in Nolan's films, it's surprising to see how much Gotham has changed throughout the series. In Batman Begins, it was a gritty, uncomfortable place to live. The Dark Knight showed it becoming more civilized, a very real metropolis that just happened to have a man dressed as a bat patrolling the streets. Here, the city begins shaking under the weight of Bane's revolution, and it and the entire population become damsels in distress the Dark Knight must fight his way back into saving.

With that comes the action and set pieces, something Nolan is always gifted at constructing and fitting into his story. With The Dark Knight Rises, the director seems to have been given carte blanche, every tool in the film making universe dropped at his feet to incorporate and utilize for creating some truly epic sequences. Batman and Bane square off hand-to-hand, and, as with Nolan's previous Batman films, the fighting isn't his strongest suit. Bane, of course, is a monster, and he's depicted as such. But it's the chase sequences, of which there are many here, and massive explosions scattered throughout—not to mention the central threat Bane plans to use—that give this movie the culminating scope it deserves and needs.

The cast on hand is also what this deserves and needs. Staples of the series like Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman all fit perfectly back into their respective roles. Tom Hardy is exceptional as Bane, having to contend with the strange, breathing apparatus his character has covering most of his face. He does a heavy amount of acting with his eyes, and the proper, British accent he gives to the character is a much needed elegance in the muscly foe. Anne Hathaway is remarkable as the mysterious but sultry Kyle and, ultimately, Catwoman, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is spot-on as a Gotham City police officer trying to make his own difference in the city. The always sublime Marion Cotillard plays Miranda Tate, a woman who has much more going on than just showing up as Wayne's love interest.

The acting has never been in question with Christopher Nolan's Batman films. Neither has the action or the grand scope he finds a way in bringing to the events he puts his characters through. All of these are on full and top-notch display in The Dark Knight Rises. There are, however, problems with the script, and it's odd noting how well-constructed The Dark Knight was three years after Batman Begins. It's been four years since The Dark Knight, and one can't help but wonder if this extra time didn't give the screenwriters room to add too much to their story. The rest of the film, though, is every bit as skillfully executed as the previous two. With a menacing tone and equally menacing villain, The Dark Knight Rises is just the right note for Nolan's Batman symphony to end on. Thank God he got to end it on the note he wanted.

Jeremy's Rating: 8 out of 10

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  • Ryderup
    Fuck... started reading this and felt Spoiled... Had to stop.
    • Day
      For that exact reason I skipped straight down to the score.
  • LMA
    Can't wait!!
  • http://www.facebook.com/larsfeely Lars Feely
    I was lucky enough to be treated to an early screening for media people last night courtesy of TWC. I have to say I was bowled over, truly a great finish to this saga, this is a must buy when the boxed DVD set comes out.
  • BinaryChaos
    Nice :)
  • http://www.thepixelpuse.com/ Aj Meadows
    Great review man!
  • http://www.facebook.com/avi.smulders Avi Smulders
    Great review!
  • John
    christian bale is worst choice for BATMAN character. a weak and bad face actor.he become more ugly with his nasty smile....Dear Batman,i'm sorry for that..... Nolan's wrong choice.
    • Jackmooney9
      I do not agree!!!
    • HazedMind
      Christian Bale is one of the best actors of his time with the most range, I'm sorry he's not good looking enough, didn't realize people had homoerotic feelings about batman
      • PK
        Hahaha. Wicked!
    • BinaryChaos
      It wasn't Nolan's choice to use Christian Bale as Batman that was the studios choice. Nolan originally wanted Cillian Murphy to play Batman since he brought a dark mysterious tone to the character but since he couldn't get his way he decided he still wanted the actor to be apart of the project. Who knows maybe Cillian Murphy might get a chance at the character with the reboot. Update: I had it wrong about Cillian Murphy being first choice by Nolan he indeed wanted Bale as the crusader. In an interview with Cillian Murphy he did say he auditioned for it but Nolan saw something in him that would be good for the villain Scarecrow. Thanks for the correction Blargh.
      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1593169740 Chris Amaya
        I don't know about that. It would be odd seeing Scarecrow playing Batman, don't you think?
        • BinaryChaos
          It definitely would be odd but if someone can play a role convincing enough anything could happen.
      • Blargh
        Not quite true - Murphy auditioned for Batman and Nolan liked him enough to give him the role of Scarecrow instead. Bale was always first choice.
        • BinaryChaos
          You are right I had that wrong. Thanks for the correction though. I heard it wrong somewhere then.
          • Jericho
            probably the same place i heard it too.....
    • John
      Coincidence that both "John" and "David" posted their anti-Bale rants at approximately the same time, and that both do not have the sense to capitalize proper names? I think not.
    • SuicidalOptimist
      Err, CB is the first actor to portray Batman and Bruce Wayne as two clearly distinguishable characters. In every other Batman movie they were basically the same person in and out of costume, and it was always ridiculous that people didn't pick up on Bruce's secret identity because of that. Even his overly raspy, lung cancer-y voice served a purpose. I mean, what else is he supposed to do to disguise his normal voice? Screech like a little girl?! Very intimidating. It's perfectly fine if you don't find him physically attractive, but he was definitely a great choice for Batman/Bruce Wayne. To me he -is- Batman/Bruce Wayne just like Downey Jr. is Tony Stark/Iron-Man.
      • BinaryChaos
        I think Michael Keaton still played a better Bruce Wayne/Batman the only difference between Michael and Bale's performance is with Bale you see the toll it takes on him being Batman both physically and mentally but with Michael's potrayal it doesn't seem like anything really phases him except when he thinks about his parents death. The way I see it Michael's potrayal is of a man that is completely devoured by the "demon" that doesn't know how to associate himself in a civilized world where as Bale is more divided as if two spirits fighting for one body and he is in control of it summoning the "demon" at will.
    • Jean
      I'm female, and I think Christian Bale is one of THE most good looking actors today. Most of my female friends agress. In what universe is C B consired ugly??
  • David
    christian bale is the worst choice for batman.a short and nasty actor.
    • Steven
      I could think of worse, such as George Clooney and Val Kilmer...
    • El dorado
      this is correct my friend!
    • Jericho
      i'm getting a flashback to...1989.... 'Michael Keaton is the worst choice for Batman, he's so short and didnt he play in Mr.Mom?' wow how times change...NOT!!!
  • Rain Spider
    You know, I'm fine with the score and all, it's a great score no doubt. But I feel that we are expecting too much from this movie. We all know that the Dark Knight was a very great movie and arguably the best Super Hero movie ever made. And because of that, everyone is Expecting this movie to be so much better, and I don't think that's fair to the movie itself. But I'm super pumped to see this movie and whether it's not better than the second Batman or even the first, I have no doubt it will still be a damn good movie.
  • VVS
    you're insane. this film is better than TDKR. go watch the avengers for that simple shit if thats what you like.
    • JBrotsis
      this film is TDKR, idiot. and don't harp on the avengers douchebag!
  • David Banner
    Can't see this before 10 days or so, so I didn't read. I checked out the score, and was disappointed. If only this was a site where more than 1 person would review a movie, where we could read the opinions or scores of several, we'd get a less biased view; like Jeremy Kirk always seems to have. I'm pretty sure Kirk is all alone at firstshowing.net when it comes to handing out a 8/10 for this movie. By the way, is this the highest score Jeremy Kirk has dissed out, ever?
    • JBrotsis
      totally agree. when i say his score for the movie i was biwildered. Never has he scored a movie 5 or higher. everything sucks in his opinion. i've learned to never take his advice into a movie or after it. yet i keep somewhat reading his articles...its a sad shame but he is a horrible reviewer. i wonder if anyone from FS. net ever reads these comments, realizing they should just get rid of him.
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1523381468 Jon Chamberlain
    "The acting has never been in question with Christopher Nolan's Batman films" Christian Bales Gravelly voice didn't seem a little ott to you in 'The Dark Knight"?
  • nzspaceweapons
    I think the reviewer is confused into thinking he should like it because the previous films were so good. This movie was bad. Spiderman 3 bad.
  • HazedMind
    I liked this review and i respect that you're not trying to spoil anything, but what pisses me off and I find this in almost all your reviews is youll say something like there are problems with the script and not give the slightest example or anything at all to back up your statement, I swear to god you do that in all your reviews, it's one of the things that pissed me off about your spiderman review, you say there are many plot holes ( and there absolutely are) but still you failed to give any examples at all it's just poor reviewing
    • http://www.facebook.com/muttmayhem Matthew South
      I believe he cited the complexity of the story and blatant exposition as two problems with the script.
    • Patrick Jonathan
      Actually it's great reviewing, it's poor writing. For the sake of a review any plot hole, especially in this film is definitely a spoiler to try and explain.
  • Buds
    Watched it, and while I like TDK more, TDKR meets expectations. The last 50 minutes was epic.
  • happy camper
    Lets get this outta the way now. It will not be nominated for Best Picture or Best Director. rage on!
  • Richie
    Saw the movie last night bit slow but the last hour of it was pretty awesome, I don't think kids will get this movie, anyone who's seen it will understand where I'm coming from. Christian Bale is to me an awesome Batman only thing I have a problem with is his damn batty voice it suck ass oh well nothing is perfect but I think a 8/10 is a good score.
    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1593169740 Chris Amaya
      At least he was more understandable than in The Dark Knight lol.
  • mandawg
    "As for ranking, The Dark Knight Rises is lower than Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and even ranks rather low on Nolan's impressive filmography." - Having just seen the film, I can tell you, this is COMPLETELY correct. Great opening; Wonderful ending! But the film as a whole has issues, mostly with the editing, which isn't as fluid as it was in the other two, at least in the beginning. It's actually, at times, a little sloppy.
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=657144482 Shane Wilmes
    please, please no one reboot batman again. there is no need. Nolan's 3 part Batman saga has laid the foundation for future Batman movies to follow. If DC has half a brain, they will not allow for a reboot and instead possibly introduce a new batman and go forward with Wayne aging and helping the new blood.
    • http://www.facebook.com/muttmayhem Matthew South
      I would love to see a Batman Beyond film.
    • Patrick Jonathan
      Sorry to burst your bubble, but spin-offs and reboots are already in the talks to be done... It's truly a shame.
  • cj
    Just seen The Dark Knight Rises.. I thought it was PERFECTLY EXECUTED! The ending I could never have guessed. (And yes, I tried) I will definatly be seeing it again before it leaves theaters. Thank you C.Nolan, for not letting us down.
  • "Movie"fan
    Thought it was terrible, and too darn long......can't wait for the "Robin" movie coming up where he can get beat up for 3 hours!
  • jscottu
    Each of the three films has strengths and weaknesses. It is almost a miracle that he, or anyone, could make three super high quality films after all the damage done by the ABC TV series and Joel Schumacher's "Batman and Robin"
  • BaneHEARTSmegaphones
    I was entertained throughout the whole film. I loved Bane's decision making (his demise - not so) and voice (although he had his megaphone turned up too loud at times).Christian Bale is great, look at his portrayal of Bruce Wayne throughout series and the finale is a great nod to this. My only gripe are the punch lines....... I honestly was waiting for something similar to "a freeze is coming" spurting out of Bane's megaphone. But I could accept them and move along.
  • Patrick Jonathan
    Honestly, I totally think Christopher Nolan is fucking with all of us. I think they'll be a sequel eventually. Despite how many times he says hes done.

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