Sunday, July 22, 2012

Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Rated PG-13
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Tagline: A fire will rise.
Running time: 164 Minutes
In Theaters
#18 on IMDB Top 250

Quick Summary (from IMDB): Eight years on, a new terrorist leader, Bane, overwhelms Gotham’s finest, and the Dark Knight resurfaces to protect a city that has branded him an enemy.

Along with The Avengers and Django Unchained, The Dark Knight Rises was one of my most anticipated movies of 2012, and so far, I’m 2 for 2 in terms of not being let down. It’s never easy to follow up a great film like The Dark Knight and have the sequel be as good as, if not better, but Christopher Nolan was able to do just that.

The Dark Knight Rises builds upon both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy. From start to finish, the film, and the series as a whole just feels epic, and the action and performances have backed it up throughout.

Christian Bale’s third turn as the Batman is a little more subdued than the first two films, and his voice, while still pretty gravelly and odd, is much less severe than in The Dark Knight. Bale’s Batman isn’t the same man as the first two films, he’s been defeated, broken down, and is a shell of his former self after 8 years in seclusion. Christian Bale nails the various emotions and states that Bruce Wayne has to go through to come back and be the hero Gotham needs.  

As good as Bale has been in this series, his solid performance has been overshadowed a couple of times. While he was the driving force behind Batman Begins, he took a kind of back seat (and rightfully so) to Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight. In Rises, he’s back to the forefront, kind of. His performance is stronger, but so are the performances of his two villainous counterparts, Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle and Tom Hardy as Bane.

More than anything else, I was completely surprised by Hathaway’s performance in this movie. I’ve never seen her in a role of this magnitude, and never seen her give such a strong and confident performance. She was sexy, cool and confident throughout, and was the perfect embodiment of the Catwoman character. I’ve no doubt a Catwoman movie with her as the star would be immensely more successful than the Halle Barry catastrophe. Hathaway’s Selina Kyle was a lot like Bruce Wayne/Batman in that she operates entirely within a gray area. Yes, she’s a thief, but she’s got some ground rules, and her intentions are (sometimes) good.

A lot of ink has been spilled based on Hardy’s performance as Bane. While most of it probably pertains to his garbled, borderline unintelligible voice, that shouldn’t take away from his overall performance. Due to the constraints of his mask, Hardy had to convey so much power, intelligence and evilness with his body language and his eyes, and the result was a terrifying and evil man. Inevitably, Hardy’s Bane will be (unjustly) compared to Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight, but there really is no comparison to be made. Ledger’s performance was head and shoulders above everything else, that it’s really not fair to Hardy, who brought forth terror and evil in a completely different way than Ledger. The Joker was evil and crazy, and just wanted Gotham to fall into chaos. Bane, while also evil, was following a very meticulous and thought out plan. Their end goals may have been kind of similar, but their paths and motives were completely different.

Christopher Nolan has done an amazing job of casting throughout the trilogy, and it continued with Rises, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Matthew Modine and Marion Cotillard joining Hathaway and Hardy as new members of the cast, with Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy and Morgan Freeman all reprising their roles from the earlier films. Nolan has a way of bringing out the best performances from his actors and putting it together perfectly.

Nolan’s take on the Batman franchise is so drastically different than the direction the previous films had taken, with Batman & Robin and Batman Forever taking on an almost retro comic book feel, and both were outlandish and over the top ridiculous. By contrast, Nolan’s trilogy feels grounded and real, and very much character driven. None of the previous Batman films dealt much with Bruce Wayne’s motivation, or what he was thinking behind the scenes. Nolan turned it around, and took an introspective look at the Batman, and the man who chose to become him.

Honestly, I’ve no need for any more movies about Batman, especially if Christopher Nolan is truly done making them. Within the last 25 years, there have been 7 feature films devoted to the man, and I think with Nolan’s trilogy, we have the definitive Batman for years to come. Sadly, I know someone at Warner Bros. will probably greenlight a Batman reboot within the next five years, and I’ll see it, but it’s going to have to be pretty damn impressive to even come close to Nolan’s epic vision.

5 out of 5 stars


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