Article by: Coop Cooper
A.K.A. The Small Town Critic
It’s not the Batman movie anyone was expecting but it is the Batman movie all fans deserve. It is the most revolutionary and mature comic book film to date. “The Dark Knight Rises” is a mishmash of Batman comic book stories revamped and retold as one of the greatest superhero movies ever made, eclipsing even its two prequels. It’s not an ending to the trilogy or franchise as indicated in the trailers and the media. Instead it does something no other superhero film has ever done… It expands and completes the origin of the hero.
Since Batman defeated the Joker, took the fall for Harvey ‘Two Face’ Dent’s murder spree and disappeared, the iron-fisted police force has brought order to the city and ushered Gotham into a new golden age. Bruce Wayne, now crippled and reclusive, rots away in his mansion as his family’s enterprise crumbles due to his neglect. A brazen “cat” burglar, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) robs the Wayne mansion of an unusual item, putting Bruce on a trail that leads to a dangerous terrorist named Bane (Tom Hardy) who has a frightening, apocalyptic vision for Gotham. Aided by hero rookie cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Batman comes out of retirement in an attempt to stop this new threat.
Although it sounds like the typical setup for a Batman sequel, you will be surprised and shocked by the magnitude of the film. It raises the bar so high for superhero movies, and summer blockbusters, that other studios are surely panicking over how to top it. It’s not merely a Batman movie; it’s a 164 minute, ensemble action epic that happens to have Batman in it. Both Ra’s al Ghul and the Joker nearly destroyed Gotham City in the previous two films, but Bane succeeds where they failed. In this story, Gotham becomes a hell-on-Earth, achieving a level of chaos seen only recently in places like Afghanistan and Syria. Also, unlike the previous two films, it doesn’t just happen over the course of a few nights, but MUCH longer. When the situation becomes this dire, the fantasy element is brought down to a disturbing level of reality, especially for a superhero movie. I’ll leave the rest for the audience to explore as I did very little snooping on the story details beforehand and was generously rewarded by the surprises.
If the film falls short, it’s on the “Catwoman” subplot. Upon seeing her in the trailers, I expected the worst. She’s involved in some great scenes but still felt like the most contrived part of the story. The reworking of her as a martial artist and techno-savvy thief was a welcome spin, but she seemed far too formidable for her largely unexplored pedigree. Even worse, Anne-not-very-intimidating-Hathaway was horribly miscast for the part, but this is par for the course as the last two Batman films had either boring or weak female characters played by even more boring or weaker actresses.
On the opposite end is the more satisfying character of John Blake who seems a superfluous plot device at first, but becomes more and more important to the resolution of story. Gordon-Levitt proved he has both acting and action chops in Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” but his character of Blake will have audiences cheering for him nearly as much as the Dark Knight.
As for the rest of the actors, fine. They all do a commendable job, but no one gets enough screen time or gut-punch acting moments, save Michael Caine. Caine has the best lines in the film and if anyone were to get a nod from this film during awards season, it would be him. The all-star leading cast also has an all-star supporting cast. Genre fans will have a blast picking out semi-big actors (in very small parts) from TV shows like “Dexter,” “Stargate SG-1” and “Game of Thrones.” Some villains from past Batman films make appearances as well.
There are plot holes, time discrepancies and questionable choices, but the sheer scope of this film and its brilliant execution make up for its shortcomings. I declared “Batman Begins” a near perfect superhero origin story. I thought “The Dark Knight” was a decent follow up but I was wary of where it was heading. I didn’t trust director Nolan and his creative crew to continue taking the story in a direction that honored the source material while balancing it with cinematic believability. So many franchises of this type stumble and fail miserably when it comes to sequels – the “Batman” films from the 90’s being a notable example. I now see I was wrong to doubt them. I consider “Rise of the Dark Knight” the conclusion, not to Batman, but to the ‘origin’ of Batman. Even if this is director Nolan’s last Dark Knight film, it definitely leaves the franchise open to some promising possibilities.
It’s sad that the tragedy in Colorado has potentially sullied such an exceptional film. As we have learned from other tragedies such as Columbine and 9-11, the deep wounds will eventually heal. It’s a lesson that the film itself teaches: The human spirit triumphs in the worse situations. I believe that this message is not lost in the tragedy and will eventually overcome it, as all good messages do.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars