Friday, July 20, 2012

Nolan's Third Act Certainly Rose to My Expectations: Andrew's Review of "The Dark Knight Rises" (2012)

Directed By: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language

Run Time: 2 hours, 44 minutes

Synopsis: 8 years after the Joker's chaotic attack and Harvey Dent's death, Gotham is in a state of peace and Bruce Wayne (Bale) has retired the Batman. But a fearsome thug named Bane (Hardy) arrives with plans to destroy the city, bringing Wayne out of retirement. At the same time a cat burglar (Hathaway) is catching Wayne's attention, and a young police officer (Gordon-Levitt) tries to help Batman stop Bane's terror attack.


Andrew: Hello readers! It's just me for this rare occassion. Sarah is away visiting family while I had to stay back for work. Naturally this had to happen when one of the most anticipated films of the year is released, so we can't do a regular review. So instead I will be giving a singular review of Christopher Nolan's final entry in his Dark Knight Trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. I'm going to do my best to not spoil anything. When Sarah returns we'll go more in-depth into discussion points on spoilerish things, but for now I'll give my general thoughts on the movie.

In short, as I tweeted on the Two Tickets For... Twitter account (@twoticketsfor) not too long after getting out of the theatre, "Wow." Of the many things that made say "wow" is just the sheer scope of it all. Nolan certainly went big here: the settings, the action pieces, the plot-lines, the villain. If someone at Warner Bros. told Nolan to go big or go home, he took the first option and ran with it.

I've read many reviews for The Dark Knight Rises so far and a few of them have pointed out that they felt there was TOO much going on. I don't disagree with that sentiment but I don't fully agree with it either. I can see where some moviegoers might feel like the first hour of the film is heavy on exposition and there's the potential for a lot of information overload. It didn't bother me, but with all the following stuff I can understand if others thought so.

The film picks up right after the events at the end of The Dark Knight, then jumps ahead 8 years, where we see the effect of those events. Bruce Wayne is now a Howard Hughes-like recluse, a broken and battered man who can't get over the death of his love, Rachel Dawes. Wayne has retired Batman after the decision to blame District Attorney Harvey Dent's killing spree on the masked vigilante, and a piece of legislation called The Dent Act has given the authorities greater power to take down organized crime.

Taking place 8 years after The Dark Knight, Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne has retired as Batman and shuttered himself away, a broken and beaten man at the start of The Dark Knight Rises.

Along with all of this we're introduced to many new characters: the film's villain, Bane (played with intense brutality by Tom Hardy, Warrior), in a breathtaking airplane heist scene; a cat burglar, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables) who steals something precious to Wayne right from under his nose; a fresh-faced police officer, John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Inception), who is curious about what actually happened that fateful night 8 years prior; and a wealthy investor, Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard, Inception), who wants to help bring Wayne Enterprises back to its former glory.

So yeah, it's a lot of information and a lot of new people to add to the familiar faces, but Nolan deftly threads all the pieces together in a way that, when everything comes to a head later on, it all starts to make a lot of sense and pays off in a great way. I did feel like the editing could have been a little smoother at times, Nolan could have lingered on a character's reaction a little longer, but there's more stuff to get to so it was fine.

Because of all the set-up in the first hour of the film, it takes a while for Wayne to actually return to the action, and just like in Batman Begins it makes the actions to follow that more satisfying. I couldn't help but smile when Batman interjects himself into a robbery of sorts that Bane pulls off because a lot of time had been built up to his return. It's also Bruce's return as Batman that leads to one of my favorite parts of the film: the tension between Bruce returning to action and Alfred not wanting him to. Michael Caine's performance in those scenes were fantastic and heart-wrenching. Caine's actually not in the film a whole lot, but the scenes he is in were perfect.

When the film really starts to roll is when it starts to become apparent what Bane's goal is, how he intends to do it and his execution of it. Despite the seemingly peaceful state that Gotham is in, he sees a way to bring Gotham to its knees from below (literally). I'm not going to pretend I fully understand the Occupy Wall Street movement and the 1%, which Nolan clearly touches on here, but I didn't feel it was heavy-handed and I thought the way Bane master plan works wasn't overly convoluted like some reviewers I've read.

Tom Hardy's Bane is a great physical threat to Batman and has a grand scheme to bring Gotham down, unlike The Joker's more chaotic nature in the last film. Oh, and yes you can understand what he's saying, don't worry. 

Another reason the movie hits its stride at this point, in my opinion, is because we start to get more actions scenes. When Batman fights alongside Catwoman (and no, they never refer to her AS Catwoman, but that's who she is) for a couple scenes I got giddy inside. Then we have a brutal man to man fight between Bane and Batman that will make any fan of the characters worth their salt very happy. It was all just handled very well and I got a lot of pure excitement out of it.

I honestly could go on and on about things that I enjoyed, but I'll try to shorten this up a bit. The film is not without it's flaws - Bruce inexplicably falls for Miranda Tate in what seems like a couple of days, a middle act where Bruce is away from the action for a period of time drags on a little long, and the way in which Bane is finally defeated is too quick for my liking. But those were very minor things compared to all the very enjoyable aspects.

I loved Tom Hardy's performance as Bane, and I know that might sound like a stretch because his face is constantly covered by his mask, but Hardy's such a great actor with his eyes that you could feel his intensity and hatred for Gotham in every scene. And maybe I'm one of the few but Bane's voice didn't bother me at all. I understood 99% of what he said, which was helped by the fact that Nolan clearly went back and tweaked the audio a bit, because when Sarah and I saw the prologue preview before Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol I understood maybe half of what Bane said. This time around I could hear him much better.

It was also a refreshing change of pace to have a villain that physically matched up with Batman, as opposed to Heath Ledger's Joker, Cillian Murphy's Scarecrow (who does show up here) and Liam Neeson's Ra's al Ghul. The fight scenes between Bane and Batman are heavy-hitting, and I loved that Nolan opted to go without any music during their first fight. It hightened the impact of each hit during the battle.

I liked that they never refer to Anne Hathaway's Selina Kyle as "Catwoman" and I may be alone here, but I didn't think her outfit looked ridiculous. In fact I liked that her goggles looked like cat ears only when up on her head.

As for the other "villain" in the film, I thought Anne Hathaway was perfect as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. She was mischievous, physical, smart and it certainly didn't hurt that she's a beautiful woman who "fits" the character well. (I'm fully expecting the wife to never let me live this down.) I liked that Nolan went the route of never referring to her character as Catwoman, that the only references to that name are using the term "cat burglar" in newspaper headlines and that her costume didn't blatantly look like a cat - that instead she had cat ears only during a masquerade ball and when her goggles were flipped up on her head. Props also go to JGL for his job as Blake, who actually ends up havinga much bigger role in the film than I had expected.

Lastly, I won't go too much into detail about how Nolan wraps it all up, but I do want to say that I felt it was a PERFECT way to end his trilogy. There were some things I saw coming and some things I definitely did NOT see coming. For his coda, Nolan brought things back around in a way that satisfied me completely. A thought that kept popping into my head was that Nolan ended it in a way that I didn't even know I wanted it to end in. I totally understand why some might be critical of the end, or even hate it, but I loved it.

Is The Dark Knight Rises silly and convoluted at times? Sure. Could it have gone more in-depth on the political concerns Nolan touches on? Sure. But those do not make this a bad movie. This is a fun blockbuster that wraps up what has been one helluva trilogy. I'm not going to dock it many points by being overly nitpicky. When the closing credits started I had a huge smile across my face. That's all I was looking for when all was said and done, and Nolan delivered.

I can't wait for Sarah to return so we can talk more about the plot of the film at length, and I also can't wait for her return so we can see this in IMAX. The film is beautifully shot by Wally Pfister (of course it is) and I'm excited to see Nolan's extensive use of the IMAX screen. So absolutely see this movie in theatres and after you do come back here and let us know what you thought of it!

FINAL VERDICT: We'll own it the day it comes out on DVD!

(Out of Five clapboards)
Photo Courtesies: Cinema BlendEmpire MagazineScreen Rant,


  1. Great review, Andrew!

    I agree with you that this was not the best movie in the trilogy, but still was an fitting end to the trilogy. Chris Bale was at his best and Anne was great as Selina as well.

    Check out my review .


  2. Nice review Andrew. This film did a lot for me and I'm glad that Nolan decided to end this trilogy, the way he does and I don't think I could have asked for anything better from this guy. Can't wait to see what he does with the rest of his career because I'm sure it's going to be spectacular.

  3. Thanks you guys. Means a lot to me. And yeah, Dan, I'm very hopeful that Nolan will take all the lessons he's learned from making his trilogy and Inception and take on a 007 film. I think he'd be perfect for it. I mean, Inception almost IS a 007 film, so it's not foreign territory to him.