As usual, I feel compelled to give a prelude to my review. I am an avid Batman fan, and have been for as long as I can remember. Batman is my favorite comic book superhero. Part of the reason is Tim Burton’s 1989 theatrical film, Batman. The other huge part is the massive story arc from April of 1993 through February 1995. That story arc is called “Knightfall,” and it has a large influence on Christopher Nolan’s finale, The Dark Knight Rises. So, with the bar set extremely high, I went into Ronnie’s IMAX for the final chapter in the saga.
The Dark Knight Rises is set eight years after the events of its predecessor and opens on an in-flight heist that cannot touch the opening heist in The Dark Knight. This is where we first meet Bane (Tom Hardy) as he hijacks the plane mid-flight and makes off with a physicist Dr. Pavel (Alon Aboutboul). Bane is a mercenary that was banished by the League of Shadows by Ra’s Al Ghul. Liam Neeson makes an appearance in flashbacks from Begins, and a quick cameo late in the film.
Gotham City is now a safer place due to a law set in place after Batman “killed” Harvey Dent. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is a recluse with a cane, but, he hosts an eight year anniversary memorial party for Dent and the law. He has retired the Batman. Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) poses as a maid at the party, and steals some pearls from Wayne. Her underlying motive is to steal Wayne’s fingerprints for the League of Shadows. She is, of course, Catwoman, and Wayne cannot decide whose side she is really on.
After a sting gone wrong, Commission Gordon (Gary Oldman) finds his way into the sewer and stumbles into Bane’s lair. He barely escapes with his life, and is saved by Officer Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Then, Bane takes the Gotham Stock Exchange hostage, and finally, Batman comes back.
Bane has amassed an army of mercenaries, and holds Gotham City hostage with a nuclear bomb activated by Pavel. This leaves Batmman, Gordon, Blake, and the rest of the police department operating on the down low as they try to take back their city. Catwoman is the wild card, as she so often is. Her true loyalties are hard to discern as she double and triple crosses everyone.
I don’t want to go into too much detail about the plot, as Nolan has once again crafted an excellent story and shrouded it in secrecy. Nolan must have gone back and re-watched his first two films over and over again. The intricacies that he exploits from them are amazing. Lines of dialog that you haven’t ever thought about become major game changers. His attention to detail is great. Unfortunately, this time, it feels overly long at 165 minutes.
The Dark Knight thrived in part thanks to the amazing acting of the late Heath Ledger. This time around, newcomers to the franchise Hathaway and Gordon-Levitt step up and deliver great performances. I doubt that either of them will see award nominations though. While I am a fan of Tom Hardy, almost anyone could have played Bane. His mask keeps most of his facial expressions from showing, and the remixing of his voice doesn’t help. Hardy mostly walks around the set with his thumbs or hands holding his vest and looking intimidating. Marion Cotillard does a decent job in her role as Miranda Tate, a multi-billionaire, who helps Wayne Enterprises at a time of need. Oldman, Bale, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman reprise their roles from the previous films. They are all about the same, nothing stellar. At times, they look bored with being the same characters again. Cillian Murphy makes a great cameo as Dr. Jonathan Crane, aka Scarecrow. That puts the number of Nolan’s Inception alums to five, if you are keeping score.
The sound mix was terrible, making the dialog truly hard to comprehend through the percussion of Hans Zimmer latest score. I blame this on unforeseeable disaster at the screening. But that is a story for a different time. I am planning a second viewing, not in IMAX, hoping that this will fix the over-the-top loudness. I understand that this may not be the film’s problem as much as the auditorium’s fault, but there were concerns early on about Bane’s voice. While I do love to watch my action movies loud, in a Nolan feature, the dialog can be crucial. Zimmer’s score is good, but sadly sounds like he remixed his own scores from the first two, and mixed in the chanting from the trailers and added a lot of drums.
Nolan once again utilized IMAX cameras while filming The Dark Knight Rises. These scenes, like in The Dark Knight, are key scenes to the film (mainly action scenes) and almost every establishing shot of Pittsburgh, playing the role of Gotham City. Nolan’s direction captures the grimness and despair that he aims for, and his action scenes are fresh. For the finale, Nolan unleashes a new Bat-vehicle, the Bat. It is a crazy gyro-copter that has to be seen to understand.
While I cannot say that I left overly impressed with Nolan’s final act in this epic saga, I did not hate the film. I was simply letdown. The Dark Knight set the bar at an unreachable level, and TDKR did what it could to reach it. It just fell short. In the last ten minutes of the film, Nolan completely wraps up his take on Batman. It is too neat and tidy for my taste. He even lobs a few things in there for the casual Batman fan to add the bow to his little Bat-present. I might even go as far as to say that I prefer The Avengers to The Dark Knight Rises. I never thought I would type those words.
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