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An actual Dark Knight Rises review (spoiler-alert!)

posted at 3:15 pm on July 20, 2012 by

I want to first say that I am sickened and horrified about the shootings in Colorado. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this horrendous act and I hope that the person responsible for this gets the death penalty. That being said I fully intended to write a review of this movie before I learned of the shooting and I don’t see how adding my two cents about it now would harm anyone, though of course I fully understand if people are too preoccupied with more important things to really take notice of my review.

So, what did I think of “The Dark Knight Rises”? Is it better than “The Dark Knight”? No, it isn’t. Christopher Nolan had a truly unenviable task trying to follow up on a masterpiece of a film like “The Dark Knight” and it shouldn’t be surprising that he couldn’t surpass something that was so truly excellent. That being said, I liked the film quite a lot. I’ll go into more about what I liked and didn’t liked in a minute, but I think everybody should congratulate Christopher Nolan on a truly great piece of work he has done with this entire trilogy. Each film was great in its own way and while I might nitpick here or there, none of them were bad or even mediocre.

I think I’ll start with what I didn’t like first and beware there will be spoilers, but I will try to give you fair warning before I reveal anything. First, I felt the film tried to tell too much. The film clocks in at 2:45 and while it goes by quickly, you can tell that they needed every minute of that running time to tell the story they wanted.  I would have subtracted a few things and here is where some of the spoilers begin.

(Spoilers Follow)

It wasn’t hard for me to guess that Miranda Tate was actually Talia al Ghul. When they showed the flashbacks to the prison where Bane originated, I could tell the child in question was a girl even with a shaved head (I recognize Joey King, the actress who portrayed the child in question, from the Taylor Swift “Mean” music video, don’t ask why.) Trying to tie everything to Ras made it more clear who Miranda actually was. Now, would I have removed Miranda/Talia completely? No, not really. She does fit in well. However, I do have problems with the love interest aspect of it. Bruce Wayne built up a love interest in the first two films until she was blown up by the Joker. Trying to put two love interests in the movie (Miranda/Talia and Selina Kyle) kind of clutters things up, especially with everything else that is going on in the movie.

Also, I didn’t really like the John Blake character. Joseph Gordon Levitt does a pretty good job with him, but I felt that he took away too much screen time away from Gordon especially. Now, at the end (and I warned you, SPOILER ALERT) the film passes the torch from Bruce Wayne to Robin John Blake (his full name), but considering that this is Nolan’s last film, I don’t think Warner Bros. is going to revisit the Nolanverse, what’s the point in passing the torch? I think if the movie excluded Blake and removed the romantic sub-plot of Bruce Wayne and Miranda/Talia (I know in the comics, Bruce and Talia are romantically involved, but that works better with a still living Ras), I think the movie would be better served.

My final gripe with the film is how the Batman returns angle is played. In the movie, Batman has been absent for eight years. Trouble starts again, he returns, gets the snot kicked out of him by Bane, is kidnapped, then he comes back again. The movie (slightly) dilutes the emotional thrill you get from seeing Batman come back because he comes back twice. “Spider-man 2” played this angle better than “The Dark Knight Rises” did. Peter Parker is still Spider-man when the movie starts, he encounters a crisis, he quits, the crisis intensifies, he returns, and then saves the day. I think the story would have been better served by Batman still in service (even if he is hunted by the cops for killing Harvey Dent), introduce Bane, have Bane break the Bat, have Bane carry forward his “Master Plan”, Batman recovers, and then beats Bane. However, I’m not a genius filmmaker like Christopher Nolan and I really don’t mean to act like an armchair quarterback.It’s just how I (a non-filmmaker would have liked to see it).

As to what I enjoyed. Many things actually. The acting from everybody is well done. There are no bad performances. There are again, characters I would have eliminated or had their parts reduced (Joseph Gordon Levitt, Marion Cotillard, and Matthew Modine’s roles come to mind), but everything is well acted. Anne Hathaway is a really great Catwoman. Tom Hardy does a fantastic job as Bane. Is he better than Heath Ledger’s Joker, again no, but I don’t think it’s fair to compare them. Their characters serve different purposes and the Joker allows you to go really out there. Bane is much more collected and acting through a mask is extremely difficult. Christian Bale does great as Batman, but he’s in the film less than you’d think especially since he is the main character.

The action pieces are fantastic. The opening plane scene is marvelously executed. The chase scenes are all great. I really enjoyed the fight scenes between Batman and Bane. Their fights are brutal, but beautiful at the same time.

The ending was satisfying. I am glad Bruce finally got to go off into the sunset with a happy ending. I didn’t care for setting up John Blake as his successor since I doubt it will go anywhere (and as a fan of Batman, there is only one true Batman for me and that’s Bruce Wayne, not Jean-Paul Valley, not Dick Grayson, not Terry McGinnis). Yet everything does get tied up nicely and it truly is an ending to the series.

So overall, “The Dark Knight Rises” was a really good film. I’d give it a healthy 4 out of 5 stars. It might even be better, but it  suffers in comparison to “The Dark Knight”. So if you like good movies, not just comic book movies, but just movies, go see “The Dark Knight Rises”.

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More Spoilers Ahoy!

1. There weren’t any lyrical echoes of dialogue like we usually get in Nolan films
“Didn’t you get the memo?”
“always learn to mind your surroundings”
“it’s not who I am inside, but what I do that defines me”
“not the hero we deserved, but the hero we needed”
“an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone…”
Nothing even remotely comparable.

2. Kinda wish we hadn’t seen why Alfred was smiling in the last scene. Nolan gave us enough clues beforehand that he didn’t have to actually show it (like Inception) and would have made the ending more of an all-timer.

3. Nolan’s choice of President surely makes him some sort of racist, does it not?

SaveFarris on July 20, 2012 at 6:15 PM

I enjoyed the film even more than the last. I thought all 3 were excellent for what they did for the medium. This is the best trilogy not named LOTR around.

I thought Hardy did an outstanding job as Bane and I was terrified that he would turn out to be a joke as he was in that absurd earlier joke of a Batman film. Making him a man versus someone on VENOM brought so much more to the table. Yes, he didn’t get to portray the range that Ledger did with the Joker, but he did everything possible to make you believe he was Bane and the kind of man that could cripple Batman.

The rest of the cast was equally strong. I know you felt that Blake’s character was unnecessary, but I felt he brought a lot to the table showing how limited the police are in dealing with anarchy and violence at an unprecedented level. His figuring out who Batman was seemed a little dodgy, but I didn’t mind overall.

The conclusion was very satisfying and a the 3 hours felt much shorter. I could see myself doing a marathon session someday with all 3 movies.

njrob on July 20, 2012 at 9:05 PM

All you had to say was “Anne Hathaway as Catwoman” and I’m thinking, Heath who? Joker what? Was there an earlier movie?

I agree that the Miranda love interest was misfit to the script, and Matthew Modine’s character not really necessary. As for Blake, I liked the character and obviously the name drop (“my legal name is Robin…”) at the end was a gift to the fans.

SaveFerris, there was the echo of “and then I’ll let you die” which was nice.

Hey, did anybody notice Anne Hathaway as Catwoman?

joe_doufu on July 21, 2012 at 5:28 AM

For the longest time, I questioned the decision to cast Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. I was hoping that Keckinsale would have got the part. After having seen the movie, my opinion has changed.

eaglescout_1998 on July 21, 2012 at 8:31 AM


You’re definitely in the ballpark with your criticisms.

– Having Bruce Wayne start out as a cripple really made no sense, unless it’s from getting shot at the end of Dark Knight. Still, based on the doctor’s prognosis in Dark Knight Rises, there’s no way Bruce Wayne should be kicking butt, even with an exoskeleton, much less making huge jumps after getting his spine reset. Sorry, but if there’s no cartiledge left in your knees, then without a replacement pad inserted in there, you ain’t doing jack diddly-shit.

– Having Miranda as a love interest didn’t work at all. They should have just left her as an investor.

– Blake should have been excluded entirely

– Turning over the Wayne manor to orphans while simultaneously keeping it as the Bat Cave made no sense whatsoever.

– Alfred basically gets kicked out of the movie until the very end. That was pretty poor.

– Numerous times, people have clear shots at both Bane and Batman, and no one shoots. Are you serious?

– How does Bruce Wayne get transported from Gotham back to the Middle East? Did the US military just let any kind of cargo planes leave without stopping them?

Less frantic storytelling would have improved the film immensely.

Stoic Patriot on July 22, 2012 at 1:11 PM

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