Friday, July 20, 2012

Dark Knight Rises - Midnight Movie Review - Spoiler Free!

Dark Knight Rises is, of course, the third and final installment of the Chris Nolan / Christian Bale Batman trilogy. It has been hotly anticipated. So, did it live up the hype? Was it as good as the first two? How does it stand on its own as a film? 1LR has the answers!
Dark Knight Rises
So let's answer those questions right away. The Dark Knight Rises is a good film but it doesn't live up the hype, suffering from a few serious flaws. It was not as good as the first two films in the series - I'd put it as the worst of the three movies but still a very good film. Even if you never saw the first two films I still think you'll find this movie to be enjoyable.

Let's start with the positive.

I loved how bold Christopher Nolan was with the choice to jump forward eight years in the future. Batman is retired and Bruce Wayne's broken body is hidden away from the world because he lives like a recluse. 

I thought that the main players (Batman, Bane, Catwoman, Commissioner Gordon, and John Blake) all did excellent jobs. The Bruce Wayne's character arc closely mirrors the first film. His body is broken and he believes Gotham doesn't need him anymore. After a massive failure, he is at zero - he has nothing - and he has to relearn how to be Batman again. But the character with the best emotional moments in the film is Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce's butler. Michael Caine really breathes a soul into this character unlike any previous performance as this character. Anne Hathaway's Catwoman is a more practical take on the character than Michelle Pheiffer or Halley Berry's.

I also loved how far this film pushes the envelope of comic book villains. Bane actually manages to top the Joker in one category - overall mayhem caused. As a villain, he was extraordinarily successful in fulfilling his goals. Let's just say that irregardless of who wins - Batman or Bane - Gotham could never be the same ever again. Some of the things Bane does are absolutely brutal... which makes him hard to predict on the screen. You never know what he's going to do next. They also avoid the "big, dumb, muscle-bound idiot" stereotype. Bane is shrewd and he has a clever tie to Bruce Wayne's past that brings the franchise full circle.

There is one big surprise twist in the film that I don't think anybody saw coming and I hope nobody ruins it for you. At the climax of the movie there's a very suspenseful moment that just lingers on and on. Just when you think, "Nah, they couldn't have done that!" they sell you on it, leaving your mouth gaping open. The very ending of the film is very pleasing but not in a completely satisfying way. Honestly. I wanted to say, "But wait! What happens next?" which is a sure sign that the film is a good one.

The continuity between this film and the previous two is absolutely airtight. The film opens to a service honoring Harvey Dent who died in the second film. Characters are often remembering and recalling events that occurred in the previous films. We are treated to a return appearance of a prior villain (I won't spoil who). And ultimately, as all good trilogies do, this film takes Bruce Wayne back to his origins from the first movie.

And, of course, it's always a good thing when a film can be faithful to the source material it comes from - the comics. The Dark Knight Rises is perhaps the most loyal in the regard of the three films in the series. It goes so far as to use specific panels from comics almost as a storyboard in a few places (I'm thinking of one classic picture with Bane in particular).

But this film also has a few flaws, some of them somewhat serious.

The first is the pace of the film. Let's just say that it is overindulgent. The film takes way too long to get off the ground and there are several long stretches when Batman is nowhere to be seen. At one point, a little boy sings the entire Star Spangled Banner. I get why they did it - it's suppose to be a tense moment - but the payoff was spoiled by the trailers anyway. This film could have really benefited by trimming it down to two hours.

Secondly, the film is too dark. I get that it's Batman, it's Gotham and it's suppose to be dark, seedy, dirty, gritty. But I want to be able to tell what's going on. When you have both Batman and Catwoman, both dressed all in black, fighting bad guys (also dressed all in black) in near total darkness it is hard to follow what's going on.

A big problem for me was understand-ability of the dialogue. I really had a hard time hearing what was being said in quite a few places. Bane was the worst with his face-mask thing but Batman was sometimes hard to understand as well as a few minor characters. The ultimate effect of this was that I probably missed some important information that would have helped me tie the loose pieces of the somewhat murky plot together.

The combination of these three factors - the meandering plot, the dullness of the color pallet, and unintelligible dialogue - makes this film seem dull at times.

I have a good half-dozen nit-picks I could go on about as well. Such as - in the beginning of the film we see Bruce Wayne at the doctor and the doctor tells him he has no cartilage left in his knee among a wide variety of other trauma-induced ailments. Bruce gets a brace for his knee that solves the problem but there are times that he's without the brace and apparently his knee doesn't bother him anymore. Also, Batman's faith in Catwoman is without cause. Time and again he gives her the benefit of the doubt and even places himself at risk because of her... but why? Why does he treat her any differently than any other criminal? The thin answers in the film don't adequately address the issue. I could go on, but I won't.

So as I said... Ultimately, this film falls short of the first two films. But we here at 1LR review films based on their own merits, not in comparison to any other work. The Dark Knight Rises is a very enjoyable comic book movie and serves as a fitting end to this Batman trilogy.

1LR REVIEW - 15 out of 20! It's a Hit!

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