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Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

In Criticism & Review on July 31, 2012 at 3:09 pm

More than anything else, I absolutely hate spoilers. So I feel obligated to give you this warning in the most visibly obnoxious way possible.

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE YET, STOP READING HERE.

Though theThe Dark Knight Rises was far from perfect, I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Though it understandably could not live up fully to the expectations The Dark Knight set forth, Rises manages to bring the saga of Bruce Wayne full-circle in a way that feels complete.

The film picks up 8 years after the events of The Dark Knight. Having taken the fall for the murders committed by Harvey Dent, Batman (Christian Bale) has gone into hiding. Gotham City’s streets are safer than they’ve ever been, and it seems there’s no longer a need for the Caped Crusader.

But as Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle / Catwoman warns, a “storm is coming.” And when that storm arrives, the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been for the Batman.

Coming out of his seclusion to face the villainous Bane (Tom Hardy), Batman is put to the ultimate test, both physically and mentally, as he struggles to protect Gotham and become the hero he once was.

There wasn’t much that struck me as wrong with the film, though there are certain aspects that felt underdeveloped. The clean energy reactor/nuclear bomb, for example, felt a bit like a forced plot device.

Also, the reveal of love interest Miranda Tate’s (Marion Cotillard) true identity as Talia, the daughter of Batman Begins antagonist Ra’s Al Ghul (Liam Neeson), came about a bit too late in the game. As the true mastermind of the plot against Gotham, I would have expected Miranda to be more of a central character, and would have liked to have seen more of her as a villain. But in the brief time we got to see Miranda’s true colors, I thoroughly enjoyed Cotillard’s performance.

Until that key reveal, a central theme of the movie, the legacy of Ra’s Al Ghul, could not be fully explored. Talia’s whole plan to destroy Gotham was intended to do what her father had failed to.  As the man who trained Bruce, Bane, and Talia (and made a cameo appearance in Bruce’s dream), it seemed that Ra’s legacy was intended to have played a larger role.  I think the film could have benefited from more emphasis on the fact that both Batman and his foes had been trained by Ra’s, and examining where their ideologies diverged. It would have played up the two-sides-of-the-same-coin dynamic that made the Joker such a perfect foil to Batman.

But the things the film didn’t do are minor compared to the things it accomplished. As with most of Nolan’s projects, Rises was cinematically impressive, especially the action sequences. The fierce combat between Batman and Bane, and the fantastically-choreographed scenes of Batman and Catwoman fighting side-by-side make the film worth seeing on their own.  No scene felt more epic than when the police joined with Batman to take Gotham from the criminals, except for perhaps Bane’s destruction of Gotham’s football field.

The cast delivered fantastic performances all around. Christian Bale, stepping into his hoarse bat-voice once more, was at the top of his game as both Batman and Bruce Wayne.

Hardy’s Bane receives nearly as much screen time as Batman and, though he’s no Joker, I found him very compelling.  Towering above Batman and assured in his total superiority, Bane was a villain worthy of facing the Dark Knight, played charismatically and intimidatingly by Hardy.

As the wry and seductive cat burglar Selina Kyle, Hathaway stole every scene she was in, pun unintended. And Gary Oldman continued to prove himself as an indispensable part of the franchise as the ever-vigilant Commissioner Gordon came to grips with the lie he had perpetrated about Harvey Dent.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character John Blake proved to be more central to Rises than I had anticipated. The reveal of Blake as Robin, though made painfully obvious for any comic fan early on in the film, still managed to give me fanboy-chills.  As the film progressed, Blake learned that right and wrong are never as simple as they seem, and in order to do what’s right, sometimes you need to work outside of the system. It was clear that the character was building towards that pivotal final scene, in which Blake discovers the Batcave and begins his own journey towards becoming a hero.

Of course the most important character arc of the film, and the part the narrative handles best, is the journey of Bruce Wayne / Batman. Crippled mentally and physically after his years in exile, Batman comes out of the shadows only to be broken and left for dead at the bottom of a pit. From his very lowest, Batman rises, both literally and figuratively, to once more become the hero Gotham needs him to be.

Forced to put everything on the line for his cause, Bruce rediscovers what made him a hero. When the battle is won, and we see that he has survived and has made a life for himself with Selina, it is clear that his journey has come full-circle. He rose as Batman, and for his ceaseless sacrifice and dedication to Gotham, was allowed to finally be Bruce Wayne. Now “Robin” John Blake, inspired by Bruce’s legacy and the symbol of the Batman, can take up the mantle. Gotham’s new champion rises.

In The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan has created a worthy bookend to his Batman trilogy. We’ve seen the full journey of Bruce Wayne. Batman began, he fell, and he rose.