The Dark Knight Rises
TL;DR: There’s a new Batman on the big screen. While I don’t deem it a “perfect” movie, it does meet every expectation one could have towards a conclusion and has a few nice nods towards both the first two movies in the Nolan series as well as the comics. I’d advise anyone to watch it, regardless of how deeply you’re involved into the franchise. Couldn’t hurt to freshen up on the prequels before though, as this one ties a few loose ends and isn’t as “standalone” as The Dark Knight.
On behalf of all those who have not already watched TDKR, I will try to summarize my general opinion on the movie first – spoiler-free, that is – before going apeshit and revealing major story parts and twists. Don’t worry, there’ll be a big fat spoiler warning. Apart from that, I won’t recap the exposition for the sake of brevity. Just know this: There’s a bad dude and a Bat dude kicking each other’s asses.
For starters, here’s what I thought went wrong (meaning “wrong” as in not exactly meeting the otherwise high level of quality): My biggest concern is that, at points, The Dark Knight Rises feels rushed. There are weird fast cuts in favor of a steady pace, which keeps things exciting but made me long for the rare calm, reserved situations. Things do slow down (with great effect) at times, but all in all there were too many plot points going on at once, which gave substantial parts of the story the feeling of a montage.
This film is much closer to Batman Begins, the first movie in the series, than its predecessor. Moments of striving towards conclusion and tying the knots diminish a story of its own. Watching The Dark Knight, it has its own feel, offers satisfaction in characters that one can familiarise with in a short amount of time, giving way to the great plot. The third film may seem hard to understand to those not having watched the first two. Rises goes in an entirely different direction, which is great, but could have focused on more than juggling with a multitude of arcs, weakening every single one as it doesn’t have the real estate to tell it thoroughly.
About Bane’s voice. I love Tom Hardy’s acting with all my heart – he manages to convey emotions, express himself and utterly terrify you using nothing but his eyes and voice. Appearing and talking on screen, Bane managed to attract all my attention in a matter of seconds. Still, I feel like it wasn’t necessary to emphasize on it as much. He’s easy to understand as is, there’s no need to amplify his voice to hell and back, put it on surround, even. Regardless of where Bane was on screen, his voice always had the same origin, the same volume, the same feel to it. Which could either represent the ever-present evil (or something among those lines) or be a result of the fear that people simply can’t comprehend what he’s talking about. Besides that, he sounds a lot like Deckard Cain in Diablo, which had me smirk a few times. Really, listen to this.
Don’t get me wrong: While these are all clear criticisms, there’s a variety of truly great aspects that easily make up for flaws. It is Batman, after all.
The acting is at least on par for every major character involved, but the two who stood out the most for me were a phenomenal Michael Caine as Alfred, who manages to achieve an astounding level of emotion with minimal screen time, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as police officer Blake, whose subplot added a super interesting extra layer to the otherwise, well, superhero-focused scenes.
Man, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. I would’ve never thought to be able to just accept her in the movie in the way I did. Her character is well-written, not as cliché as I expected and, most of all, not the least bit ridiculous. Oh, and even though there’s a lot of people involved with a lot of others, there’s great chemistry between them all.
Just like in his other films, Nolan managed to embed a huge amount of symbolism in this one. I’m pretty sure I didn’t catch all of it by far, but even if they were nothing but the ones I noticed, there were so many things with multiple manifestations and meanings to appreciate that it’s safe to say a second or third viewing is justified.
The Dark Knight Rises is a great action movie that has you on the edge of your seat (and possibly makes you weep somewhere along the way), but it’s so much more than that. I won’t be able to say much more than this without spoiling the fun of experiencing it for yourself, so in case you didn’t already watch it, stop reading anything beyond this passage. Go watch it right now, hopefully have it come up to your expectations. Sure, perhaps it’s not the best of them all, but it’s a damn good movie and, looking back on all three, a great conclusion to what I think is the best series there is. It’s the Batman we deserve.
Spoilers ahead! Reading anything beyond this point can (and will) spoil the movie for you. You’ve been warned.
Going back to my pacing issue (now that I’m finally free to refer to actual events in the movie), I can’t help but feel that Bruce Wayne’s journey of rising flashed by way too quickly. In a matter of what felt like fifteen minutes, we see Bane break Bat’s back (in one of the best fight scenes I’ve ever witnessed, I dare say), his entire backstory of growing up in The Pit, his rise and downfall, the whole al Ghul family issue, Bat’s treatment and rehabilitation in prison and multiple attempts of escaping.
As I said, leaving out one or the other “filler”, such as Bruce Wayne and Tate having sex in the mansion, could’ve helped in laying out major plot points for the better. It’s probably super hard to decide on which strokes to leave in and which not (especially when your original script is 400 pages long), but the movie really doesn’t need that much going on to stay interesting. Which is not to say that I don’t enjoy little details and subplots. One stood out for me in particular, maybe even sold me the whole movie.
Alright, let’s talk Blake aka. Robin. After seeing Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the trailer for the first time (it must’ve been dozens of viewings that followed), I knew that something was up. My hunch about him being Robin not only turned out to be true, but was taken a whole step further. Reading tweets about “a possible Robin spin-off” and listening to people excited about “Batman and Robin fighting crime together”, I call bullshit, though. Officer Blake clearly shows characteristics or a sidekick long before we learn of his full name. He doesn’t become Robin, he is Nolan’s Robin. He’s an orphan, able to relate to Bruce Wayne. He’s a man, not a costumed circus act.
Another misunderstanding about the ending is that it is ambiguous. No, they didn’t pull an Inception on this one. Leaving the cinema, I overheard people asking whether or not Bats is still alive – what more does it take for them to understand that he obviously is? He repaired the autopilot on his aircraft six months before it – unmanned – carried the bomb out to sea. Along with his sexy cat friend, Batman’s moving on, which is illustrated in the shot with Alfred smiling at them in the café. Batman is not gone, Bruce Wayne has just finally found a life beyond Batman. More importanly, though, Batman is not gone because he’s got someone new filling in.
See, I would’ve loved for the movie to end right where Alfred grins into the camera. It would’ve been enough to guess that Bruce Wayne is still kicking it. What we saw, though, is Blake aka. Robin aka. Gordon-Levitt, equipped with a GPS receiver that leads him to the Batcave. With Bruce Wayne retired, Alfred letting loose of the mansion and the world believing that Batman sacrificed himself getting rid of the bomb (which, in retrospect, is a pretty obvious hint at Adam West’s Batman, huh), it is obvious that Blake becomes the new Batman, just as Dick Grayson (aka. Robin) did in the comics. For what other reason would some mysterious figure have repaired the Bat Signal that Gordon’s looking at in surprise? The fact that Robin’s standing on a rising platform when the movie’s title is finally shown confirms my theory even further, I guess.
Apart from the great conclusion, there were a lot of great scenes that make me want to watch The Dark Knight Rises again as soon as possible. I don’t even know where to begin. There’s the plane hijacking in the beginning, done without any sort of CGI (as stated in the Making Of). Alfred’s heartbreaking speech when he’s about to leave (man, what a great actor). The first fight between Batman and Bane, without any music score underneath. You could feel every fucking hit Batman’s got to take, his helplessness, Bane’s way of toying around with his weak opponent just as Darth Vader did with Luke in The Empire Strikes Back. Bane crying, showing weakness, revealing that he’s not an entirely bad guy, making the twist a real punch in the face. His remark about the “lovely voice” of the boy singing in the stadium (which shows his human side, just as the scene with the Joker sticking his head out of the car in The Dark Knight did). The fucking awesome stadium scene itself.
There’s Bane snapping necks. Bane giving in and using a gun against Batman. Bane snapping few more necks. His conversation with the rich guys, asking them if they feel in control. Fuck, Scarecrow as the judge. Equipped with a real hammer, sentencing people to exile or to death – BY EXILE. Gorgeous Selena switching from scared maid to dangerous sneaky bandit to horrified barfly to cat-eared bad-ass in mere seconds. Not even addressing Catwoman as Catwoman, simply characterizing her by goggles that she flips over her head to look like cat ears.
Rising. Everybody’s rising. Rising to power, to freedom. Rising from The Pit, to strength, closure. Rising up a platform to be the new hero Gotham deserves.
Bane’s permanent presence. His sudden insignificance when looking at the greater evil that is Talia Al Ghul. His death by the hand of Selena, the proof of Batman’s no gun / no killing policy making things very hard for him. Robin killing the constructing workers and throwing away his gun in disgust. Bat’s remark for Robin to “wear a mask”. Bruce Wayne and Talia not wearing masks at the mask ball – because they’re both already in disguise.
And there’s so much more. I am certain that The Dark Knight Rises is not the greatest movie I’ve ever seen. I will watch it many more times, though, and I know that I will find more hints and details to appreciate. I know that I will start see the greater picture in Nolan’s Batman, understand how and why he connected the ties. No, it is not perfect.
But I’m very happy with it.