Monday, July 23, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises


In concluding his game-changing Batman trilogy, the great Christopher Nolan has done the impossible: he’s made his films sustain.

Batman Begins changed everything about the comic book film. It was dark, mysterious, genuine and real. It was also as smart as it was entertaining, a rarity among super hero summer action blockbusters. It’s a very fine film, but, watching it now, it’s clear that Batman Begins is a first, timid step toward changing things. Batman Begins opened the door, and The Dark Knight completely blew it off its hinges.

The Dark Knight, which, from where I’m standing, is by far the finest comic book film ever made, rewrote all the rules. It, very clearly, concisely, and deliberately, said “Fuck you” to its genre and went about things differently. There’s nothing I don’t love about that movie, and living up to it was bound to be impossible. But that, my friends, is exactly what The Dark Knight Rises does; it lives up to the hype and wraps things up nobly. It is smart, thrilling and impossibly tender. Expectations are the deadliest motives against films. Set them too high, and the movie is shot. The flip side, as it were, is the rare, glorious exception in which they are exceeded.

The Dark Knight Rises begins eight years after The Dark Knight concluded. It finds Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) as a physically disabled, structurally shut-in billionaire slowly losing his fortune. His Batman has laid dormant since the law of public opinion dictated he murdered Harvey Dent years ago. Essentially, Wayne is withering away. That is until a perfect storm of challenges make Wayne and his alter ego, you know, rise.
The villain featured most prominently here is Bane (Tom Hardy), a masked, buffed baddie who aims to give Gotham back to the people by instilling fear in those who run it. Businesswoman Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), pioneer Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), and caretaker Alfred (Michael Caine) all individually help Wayne understand that if he doesn’t take active steps to reignite Wayne Enterprises, his fortune will dwindle away. Lastly, an opportunistic con woman, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), not-so-subtly let’s Wayne (and Batman) know that there are others in the fold willing to do what’s right (though not as graciously as he might do it).

Okay, look, The Dark Knight Rises is two hours and 45 minutes long, and to be honest, a lot of that is spent developing and executing a rather intricate plot. And instead of me dictating it here, have faith in the fact that it is much better experienced as Nolan intended: on screen before your very eyes.

What’s important in a review for a movie as big as this, in my opinion, is to let readers know that the film is a worthy venture. It is deliberate in its length, awesome in its power, lasting in its remorse, and, in short, completely necessary.

Since exploding onto the screen with his go for broke performance as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, Christian Bale has asserted himself as one of our finest living actors. As Batman, he’s displayed the caped crusader’s sensible ferociousness better than anyone before, but it is as Bruce Wayne that the actor truly shines. There’s a moment in this film in which Bale and Caine argue about the importance of (once again) letting the Batman fly. It is one of the best-acted scenes either actor has ever been involved with. Remarkable in its devastation.
Hardy (thrilling in Bronson, exceptional in Inception, flawless in Warrior) proves to be a perfect villain. Bane’s voice, garbled and baritoned through his mask, is a perfect introduction to a man we’re meant to fear from the get-go. Bane’s extended fight with Batman in this film is one of the action highlights from the trilogy. It is never-ending and remarkable.

Everyone else, including the names mentioned above, as well as Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Gary Oldman (both playing cops trying to do what’s right), Matthew Modine (as a slimy officer), and several minor characters from the previous two films, all add complexity and depth to this final installment. Wally Pfister’s lush photography, Hans Zimmer’s ceaseless score, and Lee Smith’s subtle editing contribute wonderfully as well.

Criticisms. From me, none. From others, certainly. But why harp on others’ problems here? I did, however, get much enjoyment from people saying The Dark Knight Rises is too smart (and complicated) for a summer blockbuster. Statements like that make my eyes roll farther then I knew they could. As if the laborious act of thinking is something reserved on screen for Oscar season only. Come on.
Christopher Nolan has made clear from the beginning that The Dark Knight Rises marks his retirement from the Batman franchise. “Batman is going to outlive us all,” he recently told an interviewer. He’s had his way with the character – he attempted (and succeeded) in doing something different, and it’s time to move on. I take solace in that. Batman will be back, sure, but not like this.

There’s no one more opposed to divulging spoilers than myself, so I’m going to be careful here. Careful, but clear. The final 10 minutes of The Dark Knight Rises are the very finest consecutive 10 minutes I have ever seen in a super hero movie. Summer blockbusters aim for the wow. They want to drop your jaw and impress you with their spectacle. But what Nolan has done, here, in concluding his trilogy, is leave us with something ever lasting. I’m perfectly capable of enjoying an otherwise throwaway action blockbuster in the moment. But, unless someone directly asks me about it later, I’m likely to never think of it again.

Well, I’ll be thinking about Nolan’s conclusion to his conclusion for sometime to come. It is, in a word, perfect. He did it right. A-

45 comments:

  1. Great review.
    I really liked it, but the more I think about it, the more flawed it looks to me. So I'm just going to stop thinking about it because I had one helluva time watching it! I mean whatever one says, this is one totally engrossing movie. The action and the music is freaking brilliant! I love love love Hathaway in this- my favourite part of the film. Hardy was very good, even though Bane wasn't the best really. Loved JGL and Oldman and Caine and yes Bale was great too, though I never watch a Batman movie for Batman :P
    Fantastic work from Nolan indeed.

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    1. Nice, glad to hear you enjoyed it. Honestly, I think with most any movie, if you scrutinize it too much, you're bound to find flaws. The flaws may not even technically exist, but I think critics and bloggers have a tendency to examine films a little too closely sometimes. Actually, I'm purely speaking for myself. Taxi Driver is my favorite film of all time. Does it have flaws? Sure. Do I mind? Hell no.

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    2. Pah you lie! Taxi Driver is flawless :D

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    3. Ok then, my second favorite movie, Pulp Fiction. Flaws, sure. Care? Nope.

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    4. All your arguments are invalid, Alex :)

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    5. You're right. I'm done pointing out things that don't exist in my favorite films haha

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  2. I totally agree with you on what you say about the last 10 minutes of this flick. My eyes were just hooked on the screen for the whole film, especially at that time, and it became clear to me that Nolan was going to do end this not only with perfect execution, but also, a way that showed that he truly loved all of the characters he put in this little universe of his and will probably miss them a lot more than we will. Great review Alex.

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    1. Thanks Dan! I'm really happy that people are loving the ending to this film. I know people are taking issue with other aspects of the movie, but the ending seems to be on lock. Rightfully so.

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  3. Criticism from Others:
    1. Rises isn't a good movie because it isn't better than Dark Knight - even I prefer Dark Knight over Rises but why does a movie have to be better than it to be good is beyond me.

    2. Rises isn't a good movie because it won't break Avengers Box office record - First of all, you don't know that. Second of all, REALLY ?? What do I do with guy like this ??

    3. I saw it for Tom Hardy and I didn't even see him - You must be leaving under a Rock not to know that you don't SEE him. But more importantly, even though there are dozens of amazing performances in his films, if you are watching a Christopher Nolan movie for particular actor, you really don't know Nolan.

    People are really finding reasons to hate it just because they want to hate it. At least give me something valid !!

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    1. 1. It doesn’t. At all.
      2. Oh please, who gives a shit? Cut me a break.
      3. Correct, and Hardy’s performance was fantastic, despite not seeing all of his face (which is a very lame reason to not dig a performance).

      Couldn’t agree more. Don’t hate to just hate… back it up!

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  4. I think that considering all the things that went against it, I completely agree with you. It had to follow 'The Dark Knight', do it without Heath ledger, wrap up the Nolan trilogy, and above all had to offer everything we had all come to expect from the new Batman. I feel that it succeeded and at times exceeded expectations. What struck me most was how well it ties in with the rest of the trilogy's mythology. Batman/Bruce Wayne really does have a three movie long arc as a character. In 'Begins' he has to learn how to overcome fear to become the Batman, in TDK he is tested with the consequences of becoming Batman, and in this one he must learn how to move-on by rediscovering fear. In the end it's the best way to end the series, it's no 'The Dark Knight' it's 'The Dark Knight Rises' take it for what it is.

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    1. Fucking brilliant comment right here, one I simply could not agree more with. Well said through and through, Jeff!

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    2. Why thank you Alex. I don't know if you have gotten the chance to read any of my own material on my site, but by all means comment on those. Thank you for responses.

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    3. Gah, I know man, I've been so busy with the movie, I've been seriously slacking on commenting lately. But I do read your stuff. Loved your Beasts of the Southern Wild review. That was a fantastic film.

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  5. The last few minutes I thought nearly ruined the film. Nolan kept going after the film should've ended, the very last few scenes I thought were terrible.

    I thought it was fine, but this one seemed far cheesier than the others, which admittedly I haven't watched in a while.

    It seemed like he tried to do too much in one movie and glossed over too much. There was a lot that felt underdeveloped and too easy.

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    1. "Terrible," really? Damn. I obviously loved them beyond words. By far the best 10 minutes I've seen from any movie so far this year. Flawless.

      Oh well, to each his own.

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  6. Great review without spoiling it man. Though, your review reads like an A+ instead of A-. :)

    Just saw it, and that conclusion will be sticking with me as well for some time. The thing I loved about the film was that Nolan gave Bruce more screen time than in TDK, but he still kept things on a grand scale. Plus, I didn't think anything was too rushed or too out of place (like Two-Face's quick descent into evil and the Fox voiceover during the sonar sequence in TDK).

    Having re-watched the first two over the weekend, this is my favorite of the trilogy. It's at #3 behind the The Prestige, but I'd give it a solid A.

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    1. Ha, well, an A- from me means I'm not going to point out any flaws. An A (or that very rare A+) means there are no flaws, period.

      Nice thoughts on the flick, seems we are in damn near complete agreement. I'm glad Nolan spent 2 hours and 45 minutes fleshing the story out. Nothing felt rushed, nothing felt slow. It was just perfect. I think I still prefer TDK, but I need to see this one a few more times.

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  7. Yes, yes, yes to everything! That fight between Bane and Batman you talk about was brutal and unforgiving. Michael Caine nearly made me cry (I had too much adrenaline running through me, I think). Tom Hardy is chilling, with pretty much just his eyes to help his performance. Christian Bale had his best performance as Batman ever. Gary fucking Oldman! Nolan was so good with his casting.
    I want to see this again! Great review!

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    1. I think your adrenaline is still pumping, and I fuckin' love it! Nolan does cast every role so perfectly. He has such knack for that. Loved this movie, and I certainly need to see it again too.

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  8. Great review. And holy fuck the final 10 minutes are so intense. I liked this film a lot but had several complaints that I'm sure you've heard already so no need to bore you. What I liked is that it has all the staples of a third film in a trilogy yet does it on its own term. Overall this was a great ending to a great trilogy and Bane was so fucking badass.

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    1. Nice, glad to hear you dug it. And thanks for sparing me with the flaws haha. Everyone is definitely entitled to their opinion, but, yeah, I think we all "get it" by now. I too thought this was a perfect conclusion to Nolan's vision.

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  9. Pretty much feel the same way. The end: mother. fucking. perfect. However, I'm surprised you didn't mention more about Hathaway and whether or not her character added or detracted from the film. Personally, I think it did. And I thought JGL's performance added more than the other minor characters. I'm glad he got ample screen time to portray what I'm sure he was intended to do. And lastly, I can't agree more about the Bale-Caine argument: it was absolutely beautiful. Definitely felt a tear well up. Anyways, I could probably discuss this for hours, but will refrain and use a different medium for doing so. I'll be checking out my 2nd viewing very soon. And, 'thank you,' Mr. Nolan!

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    1. When you say: "Personally, I think it did," are you saying Hathaway added or detracted from the film? I thought she added to it superbly. I'm not the biggest Hathaway fan (good in Brokeback, marvelous in Rachel Getting Married, blah in everything else), but I thought she killed it here.

      JGL is the man. That kid's got it. His performance was incredible. I can't wait to see this again. Thank You, Mr. Nolan indeed!

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    2. Oops, I knew I was neglecting something when I didn't re-read for editing. lol. I think she added the perfect amount. None of her other roles have ever really done it for me, though I'm hopeful after this one.

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    3. Yeah she rocked shit. I was expecting nothing, quite frankly, but she did it well. Love how she was kept out of focus in the end. That was a brilliant, subtle touch.

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  10. i love your enthusiasm for the film. you made me remember the greatness of it.

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  11. I'm really glad you loved this as much as I did. It is pretty darn terrific, isn't it? And those last ten minutes!!!!!!! I was crying so much. Mainly because I didn't want it to end.

    Plus, excuse my French, but I don't give a fuck about the flaws. It was an awesome experience, and that's all I wanted.

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    1. I like you not giving a fuck, I think that is awesome. God, all this ecstatic praise for those final 10 minutes makes me want to see it again. Like... now.

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  12. Great review! It's kind of sad when critics say something like "it's too smart and complicated for a summer blockbuster" -- as if intelligent movie viewers are a rarity.

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    1. Exactly! For the life of me, I do not understand that criticism. I don't get how a "smart" film is a bad thing, regardless of the season in which it is released. Oh well.

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  13. That ending.... just as amazing the 2nd time round. So moving, such a good way to finish it off!

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    1. Totally agree! Need to scope this out again.

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  14. I actually thought Michael Caine's performance was the best of the bunch!(which you allude to as well in his scene with Bale)
    Hardy did well with such a limitation of his face. But I had a couple of problems. Bane's voice I found implausible and didn't seem real, which for me was annoying and distracting.

    The action was praiseworthy, but I thought not really groundbreaking considering the 1/4 of a billion dollar budget...Several of the big scenes reminded me of other action movies and didn't seem all that original. Though the cave prison was really great stuff.

    You have to judge a blockbuster on its merits, and indeed it succeeded in building tension, but I've seen better action movies in the past. I was more into the Tim Burton Batman universe, and that doesn't mean this is bad, just not my favorite.

    I couldn't agree more with what you say in comments: critics and bloggers have a tendency to examine films a little too closely sometimes ( I am guilty of this)

    Can't wait to watch your short film in a few days!

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    1. Yeah, and I didn't mean that critics/bloggers are snobby assholes for doing so or anything (after all, that is what some of them are paid to do... critique), but sometimes, it seems like certain critics hate on a movie just to hate on a movie. It's the whole I'm-not-going-to-like-it-only-because-everyone-else-does thing, which is misguided, to me.

      Anyhow, Caine was just remarkable. Stole every scene he was in. And I completely understand what you mean about digging the Tim Burton universe more. I definitely like Nolan's vision better, but Burton did some amazing things with the character, for sure.

      Thanks for the kind words about Earrings! I'm excited to get it out there.

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  15. Excellent review. I'm seeing this during the weekend, who knows maybe for the first time every epic execution will trump the flaws in the story for me. Hans Zimmer's score alone will get many points for the movie from me, it's just wonderful and I truly don't understand the complaints about it.

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    1. Me. Either. Zimmer's scores (at times) have the tendency to be a tad too grandiose for me, but he's done a wonderful thing here. It completely enhances the film. I'll be really interested to read your take on it.

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  16. Great review and a fantastic movie, the perfect finale to the perfect trilogy. You can find fault with it if you want, but what’s the point? Just sit back, suspend disbelief and enjoy! Michael Cain was simply outstanding in every scene he was in, stole the show for mine.

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    1. Could not agree more with you. Incredible film, and Cain just killed it.

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  17. First time I saw it, I thought it was really good but I wasn't crazy about it - too much melodramatic expository dialogue, I said at the time (I'm speaking very retrospectively about this, but it was only on friday). Every scene seemed to be "Hey. "How are ya?" "You see...I'm an orphan."

    Well, I saw it again last night and I loved it. Just a totally great film. Nolan's things have gotta be the closest thing to a true cultural "moment" in 21st century cinema. (to paraphrase my really hazy 4AM tweets from last night) People are right that Michael Caine fuckin' tears up the movie - more or less every scene he's in (at least after the turning point in his relationship with Bruce) is heartbreaking. Catwoman is awesome and sexy ("there's a storm coming, Mr Wayne...") and ultimately a very well-drawn character who makes the movie all the better. I'd have to compare it to the first two, I guess, but this is maybe my favourite, certainly the best movie I've seen this year.

    Bonus favourite moment; when Batman ruins Bane's mask, and Bane, starting to feel the pain, forgoes his often quiet, assured menace, letting forth pure, undistilled rage at Batman, and when Batman moves, the pillar behind him.

    After the first time I saw it I was gonna comment on here agreeing with your rating; "total A- film , it just about hits the greatness it strives for". As it is, I'd drop the minus.

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    1. Excellent comment, Jack. You make me want to see the movie again, which I think I'll do tonight. I also have a feeling that upon rewatching it I, 1.) May consider it the best of the three, and 2.) Will be tempted to remove the minus (in my head, at least).

      It's just that good, for all the insightful reasons you mention, and more.

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  18. Checking out your blog so far and I'm enjoying it. Was curious to see what you thought of it and was surprised that you loved it. I have been agreeing with most of your reviews, but not for this. I think The Dark Knight Rises is a genuinely bad movie and by far the worst of the series. And I say that having been a fan of the Dark Knight. So much of this movie simply doesn't work, so I'm always perplexed when I see positive reviews for it.

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    1. Hey there, first off, thanks so much for stopping by and checking out some of my reviews, that's really kind of you. As for TDKR... I guess we can't agree on 'em all, you know?

      I really did enjoy this film, even if it was 25-30 minutes too long. I know it got its fair share of flak (I feel like most every super hero movie that comes out is either viewed as the best film of all time, or the worst film of all time, and not much in between), and that's all fair enough. I really dug it.

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