The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – I try to stick to the movie in these articles but I feel I should address something surrounding this movie. I go out to a bar every Thursday night and after getting home I decided to watch The Dark Knight, because I knew that the next day (or technically later the same day) I would going to see The Dark Knight Rises with my friends. If you follow me on Twitter (and if you don’t why the hell don’t you? @JakeBrooks665) then you witnessed the following exchange. Me: “SHOULD go to sleep… instead watching #TheDarkKnight in preparation for MAYBE seeing The Dark Knight Rises tomorrow… (er, today…)” In response, a friend tweeted back “might want to hold off on the film… check out the news…” He was referring of course to the fact that a psychopath had shot up a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado during a midnight screening of the movie. I replied: “Isn’t not being intimidated by madmen and hoodlums kind of the point of Batman?” Then I saw the movie, because fuck murdering asshole. They’re not going to keep me from something I’d been looking forward to for years.

A lot of people have a problem with endings I’ve noticed. Now The Dark Knight Rises is certainly not the end of the Batman film franchise. If anything, Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy proved that the series can be rebooted in the right hands. (It’s finding those right hands I worry about. After all, Warner Brothers was still willing to give Joel Schumacher another shot after Batman & Robin and some of the other proposals were… questionable at best.) It does however mark the end of the story Christopher Nolan wanted to tell. Nolan’s name is going to go down alongside Frank Miller (The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One) and Paul Dini (Batman: The Animated Series) as someone with a singular vision of the Batman that’s forever going to influence any depiction that comes after. Still when beloved franchises come to an end, people have such expectations that they’re often unsatisfied. So where does The Dark Knight Rises fall on the spectrum of fulfilling every fan’s fantasies and disappointment?

It has been eight years since Gotham City has seen the Batman. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is a recluse never seen by anyone except his loyal butler Alfred (Sir Michael Caine). That changes one day when a jewel thief named Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) steals Bruce’s mother’s necklace. What begins as idly tracking a cat burglar, results in re-engaging in the world. Selina is involved with a corrupt businessman named John Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn), who is in league with a terrorist named Bane (Tom Hardy). Bane has big plans for Gotham City, and he has the League of Shadows backing him up. Batman needs to save his city with the help of Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and a police officer named John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Bruce Wayne needs to save Wayne Enterprises from a very hostile takeover by Daggett with the aide of CFO Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and a would-be benefactor named Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). But bigger things are in store for both Bruce and Batman than he is prepared for…

Now this is not the Batman of the comic books, strictly speaking. Batman would never walk away from his job (Batman-ing) just because his girlfriend blew up. Batman’s been continually published for 73 years; he’s lost a bunch of girlfriends. At least one review I’ve read is very negative mostly because of that. Deal with it; it’s a movie. It’s also perfectly in keeping with the characterization from the first two films. Really Batman Begins was the first of the Batman films to really focus on Batman instead of the more colorful villains. The influences this time are the “Knightfall” story arc (Bane sets out to “break” Batman), the “No Man’s Land” story arc (Gotham is quarantined), and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (an older Batman returns to fighting crime after a decade of not). Still the portrayal is distinctly Nolan’s own. Bale, who I have not talked enough about in these reviews, really nails the role. You can see him as billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, but you can also see how that’s just a façade and the damaged man seeking to avenge his parents is the real man. Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney… they never really carried that part of the role. Bale does.

When I first heard Tom Hardy had been cast as Bane, I couldn’t see it. I have no doubt the man has the acting ability to portray the character, but Bane has a MASSIVE physique and I couldn’t quite see the dapper gent from Inception as such a terrifying bruiser. Then Hardy bulked the hell up for Warrior and it got easier to envision. His Bane redeems the character from the awful “Bane smash!” portrayal in the all-around execrable Batman & Robin. We can all wipe that from our collective memories now, thank you. He is difficult to understand sometimes between Hardy’s oddly professorial English accent and the mask’s deepening Darth Vader-like effect on his voice. Anne Hathaway nails Catwoman (though she’s never called that in the movie… a newspaper does refer to her as “the Cat,” which was the character’s name when she first appeared in the comics back in the 1940s). She doesn’t go the sexpot way that Michelle Pfieffer or Halle Berry (in that god-awful fucking movie Catwoman) did, but still manages to be effortlessly sexy. She’s a clever woman who’s in it for herself but, as Batman himself points out, “there’s more to [her] than that.”

There a couple weird little changes from the comics that I don’t understand. Why is Daggett’s first name John instead of Roland? It’s like they’re specifically saying “no he’s NOT that character who he is exactly like and shares a last name with.” Likewise Juno Temple’s character is in pretty much every way Holly Robinson from the comics… but is called “Jen” in the end credits. There are certainly bigger changes from the comics, but little ones like that that would not affect the movie at all except to give us geeks something to geek out about kind of irk me, but they don’t affect the overall quality of the film. Blake, Gordon-Levitt’s character, is by the end of the movie clearly a composite character of some very important characters from the comics. He’s great in the role too. Marion Cotillard… well, I don’t have very much to say about her in the movie except that she’s quite good in her role and damn that woman is always sexy… oh and if you don’t want a spoiler… don’t click this link

Is The Dark Knight Rises as good as The Dark Knight? No. is it the perfect Batman movie? No. is it a perfect movie? Most definitely not. It drags in some parts towards the middle. Is it a damn good flick? Absolutely. Is it one of the best of 2012? So far. I don’t think it should get the Oscar nomination that was denied The Dark Knight though (unless ten superior films aren’t out by the end of the year, but I reckon they will be). Make-up Oscars don’t work. That’s like giving Russell Crowe the Oscar for Gladiator that they should have given him for The Insider. Yes, it’s nice the man has an Oscar but the year he won for Gladiator he took it away from someone else who deserved it. Finally the last of my rhetorical questions that I will immediately answer: is this the perfect way for Nolan to end his Batman films? Absolutely. The films form a self-contained trilogy that has a beginning, middle, and end and it all works fantastically. I feel some degree of pity for whoever does the next Batman movie… (okay, not pity. The lucky bastard still gets to make a Batman movie.) The expectations are now very high. I won’t go into the next one expecting anything of the level of Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, but I will go in with the hope that Warner Brothers now realizes the scope of stories that can tell with this great and dynamic character.

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