The Dark Knight Rises
Nolan crafts satisfying ending to his Batman trilogy.
July 21, 2012 10:52 pmR. Wesley Matheson
It finally happened. Friday, thousands of sad, lonely men across the country had the chance to experience something other than crippling loneliness and the overbearing feeling of isolation: Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. Not only did it finally force us to associate with other humans, but also proved to be an incredibly satisfying, if somewhat convoluted finale to Nolan’s Batman trilogy, which included Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008).
To say The Dark Knight Rises is an ambitious piece of cinema seems like a huge understatement. With its inclusion of several new characters with (attempted) full character arcs, plot involving grand-scale terrorism and a high-stakes threat against a sacked and war-torn Gotham, and (without spoiling too much) a comeback storyline, the film tries to prove that tons of awesome shit is superior to a finer focus.
And, at times, it certainly does.
Distilled, the nearly three-hour film is an engaging city-under-siege action/drama involving beloved, larger-than-life comic book characters -- characters whose stories devoted fans have followed and invested their lives in. There’s very little not to love about that high concept. It's gripping, entertaining and gloomy action. And I honestly had no idea nearly two hours had passed before the film reached its absolutely enthralling climax and finale. A compliment to all Nolan’s Batman films so far -- I really didn’t want it to end.
Yet, in spurts, the film -- especially in its second hour -- seems to falter, bend and even cave under its own weight. One flaw seems to be that its own ambitious premise causes it to scatter its story, with the film at times playing out in a series of disconnected, if kick ass scenes. If you’re a hypercritical dick, you’ll probably notice the film tends to meander in the initial 20 minutes or so, and somewhere toward the middle of the film’s second act, before picking up again in its final act (more on that below). Finicky asshole.
A noticeable flaw in the film is its convoluted narrative, primarily in its first and second acts, and primarily because of the aforementioned addition of several new characters. Nolan attempts to bring those characters into the story in an organic, unforced way and further attempts to provide them each with a full arc. He doesn’t quite accomplish this feat, which is, to tell the truth, a near impossible juggling act. And some characters (Tate, Blake, various others) seem to be just vehicles. This becomes apparent, when they're put in stark contrast to some very rich, compelling characters that have been fleshed out over a couple films. These characters seem to disjoint the film, demanding their own time on screen, yet not necessarily being vital to telling the overall story.
The Dark Knight returns to the streets of Gotham
If anything, it seemed like John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), was perhaps ultimately unnecessary. Which is difficult to say with what occurs in the final few moments of the film. But his character seemed like nothing more than a plot device, and a focus of time that could have been better used on Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and perhaps even Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). Of course, I could have done without Tate too, which is also tough to say, after noting the final scenes of the film.
The bloated story causes collateral damage, as well. Because of the character calamity, the film loses time with one of the best characters in the movie, Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman. And because the film loses time and focus with this feisty feline, her motives seem muddied and her character inconsistent at crucial points. Her character is the one of the lot that needed more time to develop, in her own right and in her relationship with Batman/Bruce Wayne. Unfortunately, this was not the case, so her fate and the conclusion to their partnership didn’t have the emotional impact it may have otherwise.
It's not all bad though. By far the stars of the show were Hathaway and Tom Hardy as terrorist leader Bane, who holds Gotham hostage and chases down the Bat. The two hit it out of the park. In a close second is Michael Caine, who, playing Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred, pulled off some extraordinarily and much-needed touching moments. I never thought I’d come close to showing emotion while watching a comic book movie, but a few monologues from Caine’s Alfred brought me to the verge of tears. And, believe me, there’s nothing sadder than watching a grown man dressed as a voluptuous Catwoman cry in a theater. Nothing.
I will be the first to admit that I was with the thousands of fanboys who screamed out curses in Klingon from our parents’ basements when they announced Hathaway would play Catwoman. But she absolutely proved me, and everyone else, wrong. She plays a pitch-perfect Catwoman, a dubious femme fatale with hints of self-preservation, genuine compassion and a touch of true fear. This is what upsets me the most about losing precious time with Hathaway. We lose out on a character with limitless potential.
A shot of me dressed as Catwoman. Or Anne Hathaway, who is as brazen as she is vulnerable. Your pick.
As for Bane -- I never doubted Hardy’s portrayal would be anything short of impressive. If you’ve ever seen Bronson, you’ll know why. Bane was every bit as intense, frightening and enthralling as I assumed. If you thought Joker was scary, try Bane. He’s a mechanical, brutal, killing machine. Like the Joker, he's another of Nolan's characters you never want to leave the screen. Unlike the Joker, we get Bane's origin, which brings a completely unexpected complex and melodramatic twist to the film. And the scene when Batman and Bane first do battle is exquisitely executed, in tone, choreography, and dialog. If there's one thing Nolan has always done well, it's pitch-perfect casting and writing of his villains.
A quick breakdown would be that the film starts a bit awkwardly, with sometimes hammy, clumsy dialog, and some rough editing, as the film jumps around and tries to tell the story of Batman’s hiatus and introduce a number of new characters. It gets better, but waivers a bit here and there in the second act. However, if you, Mr. Fastidious-Film-Critic-Asshole, still have doubts at the two-hour mark, you will you set aside all your worries and finally feel something a fussy fuck face like you has never felt before: enjoyment.
The film’s final act, which comes around the time of a certain clash, followed by a certain revelation, is worth the price of admission, keeping you on the edge of your seat and truly invested in the fates of Nolan’s 173 characters for a good 45 minutes. And even though, I will say, I felt the ending was a bit rushed -- and one character deserved a much better fate -- it manages to nail its emotional and thematic scenes.
As I said, as a whole, The Dark Knight Rises is a thrilling and satisfying end to Nolan's Dark Knight saga, one of the best and cohesive blockbuster trilogies in recent memory. Indeed, Nolan, who wrote the screenplay with brother, Jonathan, hit the right emotional, epic, visceral, and what I can only call fundamentally Batman notes.
The film suffers at times from its bloated narrative, with a few too many threads and characters to follow, and has a few logic gaps. However, invite yourself to overlook these flaws, and revel in a few engaging characters and a rich story, with themes of failure, redemption, growth, and a hundred others. If you do, the film will become something else entirely: a legend. An epic myth. A sprawling tale. Some other grandiose words.
Not comparing art these days is hard. We compare films adaptations to the source material, remakes to their originals, sequels to their predecessors. It’s become a world of comparisons. That’s why it’s important to look at The Dark Knight Rises as a standalone film, as well as the conclusion of the trilogy. Therefore, to Nolan, who created this fully realized and emotionally compelling story of Bruce Wayne/Batman - who happens to be my favorite superhero -- I say only this: I wanted to see what you’d do. And you didn’t disappoint.
|FIND YOUR GEEK RATING||4.0|