Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises


I love a good end to a trilogy, be it in book form or on the big screen. And The Dark Knight Rises, the conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, did not disappoint.

First, I know that Nolan enjoys using the same actors again and again (Christian Bale in the Dark Knight trilogy and The Prestige, Ken Watanabe in Inception and Batman Begins), but can we just take a moment to appreciate how The Dark Knight Rises was basically a giant Inception cast reunion?

Okay, now that I’ve got that out of my system (and totally want to re-watch Inception), let’s get on to the movie, shall we?

Once again, Christopher Nolan gives us a darker, grittier look at one of America’s darker, grittier superheroes. Batman by his very nature is dark, considering he goes vigilante mostly because he is coping very badly with the deaths of his parents when he was a child. He has no superpowers (unless being a bazillionaire is a superpower), and takes on bad guys using angst and fists and contraptions. But even so, previous Batman adaptations (even the Michael Keaton versions, which I L-O-V-E) still were a tad on the fantastic and comic-y side. Which made sense, since Batman is a comic book character.

However, Nolan’s Batman has always been different from previous incarnations. He’s angrier, moodier, growlier, and just all-around scarier. As is Gotham. As are the villains. And Dark Knight Rises took all that and bumped it up a notch.

Let’s hit some highlights.

The villain in Dark Knight Rises was Bane, played by an unrecognizable Tom Hardy, who was almost a complete 180 from Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight. While they were both terrifying and calculating, The Joker was the ultimate in crazy madmen, while Bane was a sinister and philosophical terrorist. Personally, I think this was a smart move, first of all because Heath Ledger’s performance was so amazing that any similar villain (ie: The Riddler) would probably have come across as sub-par, and also because I am a big fan of the variety of villains that Batman has to choose from, and I liked that this movie used one that hadn’t been done before (we’re just going to pretend Batman and Robin never happened).

Everything about Hardy’s performance was spot-on, which is saying something when you consider that the only part of his face he could use to emote were his eyes. The voice, the movement, and yes, the eyes, were all creepy and fantastic.

Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman (who is never actually referred to as Catwoman in the movie) was one of the things I was a little concerned about going in. I mean, I’m a big fan of Anne Hathaway, but how can anyone measure up to Michelle Pfeifer?

Fortunately, she didn’t really try. She put her own spin on the duplicitous Selena Kyle, and I found that although I entered the theater fully prepared to compare performances, I didn’t have to. I love both actresses’ take on the iconic character. In The Dark Knight Rises, I enjoyed that it very clearly came across that she wasn’t really a hero or a villain — she was simply looking out for her own interests. Hers wasn’t a redemption story, but I have always enjoyed comic characters whose alliances are tenuous, because it keeps you guessing. Guessing is good.

I also REALLY enjoyed that she used her heels as weapons. Realistic that she could do all her action scenes in them? Probably not, but if you’re going to wear 5-inch metal stilettos as part of your supergarb, may as well make them useful.

Probably one of the highlights of the movie, for me anyway, was Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the passionate young cop Blake. Honestly, JGL is just one of those actors that’s just kind of an automatic movie-improver for me. And when the movie’s already good, he just makes it that much better.

I really enjoyed having a regular cop with no mystical ninja training still doing his best to bring down the Big Bad, that sometimes he was outsmarted and outgunned and outmaneuvered, and yet he still kept trying.

Actually, speaking of that, I really liked the cops in this movie, in general, even outside of Blake and Commissioner Gordon. They weren’t the inept and bumbling force we so often see in superhero movies. For the most part, they were admirable and heroic, and I like that they were actually helpful in this movie.

The only thing about Blake I did not like was the execution of where his character went by the end of the movie. Not the actual plot device, or JGL’s portrayal. Just how it was done. But that’s a minor nitpick.

As has been the case with all the Nolan Batman movies, the weakest link for me was actually Batman himself. I always find myself liking the supporting characters more, and this one was no exception.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christian Bale. Have ever since I saw him singing and dancing in Newsies and Swing Kids. And his portrayal of Batman/Bruce Wayne is good, second only to Michael Keaton, who will always be my favorite. But his Batman doesn’t really make me feel things the way the secondary characters do, and that’s curious.

The only part of Bale’s performance I could have done without was the insistence on growling all his lines whenever he was in his masked persona. While his secret identity is still secret, I can understand and appreciate that he wants to disguise his voice. But by the midpoint of The Dark Knight Rises, nearly everyone he comes in contact with knows who he really is, and yet he continues to growl. I don’t get it. It can’t be good for his throat.

Getting to the plot itself, it’s what you expect from the conclusion to a superhero trilogy. The stakes and the body count are higher. The damage to our hero is greater. The odds seem nearly insurmountable. And the price to pay is dearer.

Yes, there are some holes in the logic. My years of chiropractic care tell me that one scene in particular is absolutely not based anywhere in the vicinity of reality. The bag guys’ evil plot doesn’t really make a ton of sense when you think about it. And the way Batman ultimately prevails (which is not a spoiler, because at the end of a superhero trilogy, does anyone honestly think the hero will not prevail?) is a bit of a head-scratcher.

But I didn’t care. I loved the action, the world, the characters, the acting. I really enjoyed the references to the prior two movies in the trilogy, including cameo appearances by Liam Neeson as Ra’s Al Ghul, a flashback to Aaron Eckhart as Two-Face, and my favorite, Cillian Murphy as Jonathan Crane.

The Dark Knight Rises did what the end of a trilogy is supposed to do: It wrapped up loose ends in an explosive finale, and left me satisfied while still wanting more. Of the three Nolan Batman movies, this one was my favorite.

Grade: A

The Dark Knight Rises is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language.

6 thoughts on “Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises

  1. Nothing profound here (baby tugging at my jeans & I’m on my phone) but just wanted to say that I agree- this is certainly my favorite of the three & it does wrap up the trilogy well. Nolan FTW.

  2. I was so happy when Cillian Murphy showed up in this movie. I was jumping up and down on the inside with excitement in the whole two scenes we see him in xD. And JGL was fabulous, I just love him! And this movie really was a reunion for the Inception cast! One I didn’t really truly realize until I saw Inception again the same weekend I had watched The Dark Knight Rises (it was playing on Starz and I spotted it while flipping through channels). I knew Nolan liked to re-use actors but I hadn’t realized until I watched Inception how much of them had been in The Dark Knight Rises.

    I loved this movie. Great ending.

    Sandy @ Scribing Shadows recently posted..Waiting on Wednesday – Ironskin by Tina ConnollyMy Profile

  3. Second comment now that I’m on a laptop: I have to say that I seriously thought Nolan wouldn’t shy away from offing Batman; I fully expected him to let the movie end on a natural note (like Nolan did with “The Prestige,” “Memento,” and “Inception”). I don’t require a happy ending though of course I like to smile at a film’s conclusion; I do however require an ending that makes sense within the structure of the film’s universe. And I was glad to see that reality defying as the ending might be, it still made sense the way Nolan worked it out. So, yeah, kind of neat that it could have gone either way and it still would have worked out. Plus, Commissioner Gordon reading those lines from “A Tale of Two Cities” was AWESOME. Again I say: Nolan FTW.

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