Hello fellow Bat-fans and welcome to the first movie review I've done in a very long time! I would have loved to have reviewed the other 2012 blockbuster comic movies such as The Avengers (Avengers Assemble in the UK) and The Amazing Spider-Man last month, but unfortunately time isn't always something I have in abundance and the other members of this site usually get there before me... :P
Today I'm sitting here at work recovering from a late night (and extremely lengthy) showing of quite possibly the most anticipated comic movie sequel/threequel of all time - The Dark Knight Rises. Christopher Nolan's third and final installment in his Batman franchise has been built up to such an unprecedented level that it's spawned it's own epic myths and legends before even being released. This is a trait of Nolan's stemming from his ultra secret scripts and tight-lipped stars and the "this rumour isn't true, but then again it is" answers to minor leaked plot points through the internet. Almost everything you've heard on the internet which was then quoshed as rubbish is actually true, from a certain point of view...
I'll start off this review by saying this: TDKR is good, in fact it's great, and I love the first two movies with a passion, but it's not perfect. But then neither were the first two films, or even The Amazing Spider-Man. Great film, had it's issues. Even after seeing TDKR last night I can safely say that The Avengers is 2012's best comic movie. It's a difficult situation though as TDKR is such a different species to anything Marvel will ever release, just as its predecessors Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were. And you can even say that it's quite a bit removed from the first and second films in the trilogy too, even though it has elements of both, as if they were the parents and this is the child, reminding you of both, but quite clearly being its own individual entity.
So here we go, a review that will attempt to avoid major plot points, spoilers, or secrets even though I'm champing at the bit to let fly and tell you everything. Especially the last 10 minutes of the film... The plot revolves around the "death of Harvey Dent" aftermath where Batman was blamed for his death and Harvey's falsely celebrated sacrifice led to a safer Gotham through the Dent-Act and the need for Batman dissovled into nothing. 8 years on and Bruce Wayne is a battered, depressed, almost disabled, recluse rotting away in Wayne Manor whilst the city he saved goes on without him. But low and behold a new epic-level bad guy is rising from the depths (quite literally) called Bane who's plan seems to be to destroy everything and everyone (his motives securely linked to Batman Begins) in Gotham and there's only one man who can stop him... Or is there? At the same time we get to meet a new super-thief in town, a stunning and very intelligent Selina Kyle, who's charm, wit, and skill matches (or out matches) Batman/Bruce Wayne pitch perfectly. Batman faces a battle he can't possibly win and may not survive, so what's going to happen to him and to Gotham? Old faces return, new faces emerge, and cameos from geek-TV actors are aplenty. So that's the general jist without giving away anything at all which may ruin the film for you. It's not much, but then you'll see then film and understand that not much else can be given away for fear of ruining what is primarily a big plot with more than one massive twist at the end.
Almost everyone shines in this film. Christian Bale achieves his best Batman performance by far, showing a broken, battered, and defeated Bruce/Batman both mentally and physically throughout the film. Towards the end he comes across a bit drugged-up, maybe just tired, but I guess that kind of fit the plot at that point. Either way he's expunged Terminator Salvation from his resumé quite adeptly now.
Anne Hathaway blows away all the negativity aimed in her direction when she was first announced as Catwoman (which incidentally she is not called at all in the film). She exudes a strength, charisma, sexiness, and truthfullness to her role that you just don't expect, and she seriously shines as Selina Kyle. This was possibly my favourite discovery in TDKR (bar the final few frames of the film), that she was a great casting choice and that people who poo-pooed her may change their minds. She's not Tim Burton's Michelle Pfieffer Catwoman, she's Nolan's, and that's just fine.
Tom Hardy makes an amazing bad-guy. He's not the comic version of Bane by any means, but his utterly imposing presence and Darth Vader-ish canned echo of a voice really hits home after the opening sequence, and you believe, without doubt, that this man-mountain could be the destruction of everything in his path. If I was Batman I'd certainly need new Bat-pants having browned mine on our first meeting... I've been asked if he's better than The Dark Knight's Joker (Heath Ledger). I'd say he's simply different. He's great, but Ledger got to act with his full face, poor Hardy can only really use his eyes and arms to convey his points. But they are certainly enough...
The story/plot is a big one, maybe too big, but it fits. The twists can be seen a mile off, especially if you know the Batman history/mythology or have engorged yourselves on the massive amount of rumours and plot points the web has been riddled with for the last few months, but all plot points work and they primarily work towards a greater goal - finishing a story ark and giving fans the kind of film they came to see, with an ending you may just shed a tear at (emotionally or due to pure Batman geekery).
The use of Bat-vehicles in this movie especially the Bat-pod and new flying "Bat" are a welcome addition to what has primarily been the Tumbler (Batmobile) in the previous two movies. The chase and battle sequences featuring the vehicles are some of the best new additions to the screentime which we didn't get quite enough of in the previous outings.
A couple of major plot twists by the end of the film will get the old juices flowing and introduce us to classic Bat-characters, which in Nolan's vision, answer both background questions asked in the film and lead to future possibilities in the franchise. The last few seconds were the only ones that brought a geeky tear to my eyes!
Joseph Gordon-Levitts' "John Blake" Gotham cop character is a great addition to the cast and although I've never really experienced Levitts' acting in his previous films (bar Inception or G.I. Joe) I'd love to see more of him going forward... I will say no more on this at this point so as not to give anything away! Let's just say he's an amalgamation of characters that gives you more than you may have hoped by the end...
The film is long, 165 mins if I'm not mistaken, and Nolan crams so much (too much?) into that time that you quite literally come out of the film feeling knackered and find yourself not being able to recall anything you just watched. I tried to explain the entire film to my Missus this morning and it took me almost half an hour and I missed half of the plot. You could argue that too much content was filmed and then the editor had a mental breakdown and tried to fit 50 hours of footage into less than 3. The scenes were quite disjointed and jumpy and the ability to let sub characters such as Commissioner Gordon and Lucious Fox shine feel forced and convoluted and I don't think they got to exude any watchable content at all. You could argue that their screen time was probably more than in The Dark Knight (especially Gordon), and that they were more important this time round, but most of their scenes simply felt flat and sub-sub characters such as Foley (Matthew Modine) felt like they didn't need to be there at all for the betterment of the story progression. But that's just niggly nonsence from an objective point of view. We all wanted more Selina and that's a fact!
The Bat-vehicles may have been a welcome addition but they seem to have sucked up the budget for the rest of the film so we end up losing all gadgets (bar one), weapons, even the usage of the cape, completely depowering Batman down to a less agile and impressive Bats than we've seen before, but maybe this is due to the fact that Bane is all fists and any gadget or weapon usage may turn into an Amazing Spider-Man Spidey/Lizard web battle, which simply isn't as gut wrenchingly real and heartbreaking as Bats vs Bane, one on one.
Sound in TDKR was a little weird. It's hard to explain exactly what I mean but to reduce it down to its basic elements it felt like there were only two pieces of music used throughout the whole 165 mins, there are multiple moments of pure silence which are obviously used for effect but end up feeling uncomfortable in the moment, and then we have Bane. Bane's voice (even after the complaints made to Nolan from the previews and trailers) is still difficult to process. They've enhanced it for volume and clarity, that much is clearly evident, but the accent still throws you off guard at times and you completely lose what he's saying. There are also moments where other characters say lines that you just totally miss, Gordon and Batman in particular, which begins to annoy after the 2nd or 3rd time you strain to hear a line. I'm sure when I'm at home with a controller and the ability to rewind is in my hand I'll be happy, but you can't rewind a cinema showing, so I'll just have to deal for now.
Artistic license/interpretation is something that will forever plague movies and Nolan's obvious insistance on not sticking to Batman canon will upset only a few of the hardcore Bat-fans out there, especially in the closing 10 minutes. At the same time he has to be applauded for even going near the ending he does in order to close his trilogy and I'd rather have what he gave us than nothing at all. I came out happy rather than angry and that's always a good thing for a movie, especially a comic movie with an existing fan-base from the original suject matter. It's an open ending, yet not. It's a finished trilogy, yet not. It has nowhere left to go, yet it does. Nolan to a "t" then.
And the last major point, for me at least, is the fate/disposal of a certain character... I cannot believe that given this characters status they are disposed of so quickly and nonchalantly as they are. It's a kick in the teeth considering what you've been sitting through and it almost becomes a "leaving the cinema afterthought" when you realise what just happened.
The Final Word
It should be noted that my own negatives do not in any way or form detract from the enjoyment of what is a truly gripping and enjoybale movie. It had boring, laborious, plot moments but it then kicked them out of the way for action-packed, explosive and super-tense scenes which paid you back tenfold for your perseverance.
As a Batman/DC Comics fan I want to give The Dark Knight Rises a full 10/10 but if I'm wearing my objective, reviewing head then I simply can't give it a full score. It's an 8/10 max for me at this point and after I've watched it again on Blu-ray at home when it's released I'll no doubt up that to 9/10 or even 10/10. I can't bring myself to see this a second time at the cinema as it's such a bladder-busting length, but I would certainly recommend this to fans of the first two and say "well done Nolan", you pulled off another epic comic movie. Let's hope your input to Man of Steel is as impressive.