The Dark Knight Rises

“The Dark Knight Rises” is the concluding chapter to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, the movie series that resurrected the moribund Batman franchise. Having given us the excellent “Batman Begins” and the legendary “The Dark Knight Rises”, the bar was set high for the grand finale, so one can hardly blame Nolan for wanting to give us something grandiose and epic for the final chapter.

And to a large extent, he succeeds. There’s plenty of Batman angst here, a sprawling cast of characters, a worthy adversary, and the city is certainly in peril. Yet the movie is so serious it’s smothering, there’s a dearth of action, and the “epicness” occasionally crosses the line into bloat.

There’s a very well made movie here, but I didn’t enjoy it half as much as I had hoped to.

“The Dark Knight Rises” picks up 8 years after the events of “The Dark Knight”. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has been in retirement from being Batman since the night that Harvey Dent died. Thankfully, Gotham has been safe and secure since then, barely needing his services. In the wake of Dent’s apparently tragic death, the city passed the “Harvey Dent Act”, an act of legislation that somehow facilitates prosecution and which has led to the incarceration of thousands of Gotham City criminals. Wayne himself has been living as a recluse, earning a Howard Huges-esque reputation for himself. He’s never seen in public any more, and Wayne Enterprises has begun to flounder.

When Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) is attacked, Wayne gets word of a new menace to Gotham. He breaks out the body armor, pays his first visit to Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman) in years and begins his search for the mysterious Bane (Tom Hardy). What he finds is a man raising an army to finish the mission of Ra’s Al Ghul… destroying Gotham. What he also finds is that he’s finally met his match… Bane is a man he cannot best physically. As Wayne is forced to recuperate from his unsuccessful confrontation with Bane, the terrorist conquers the city, cutting it off from the outside world and holding it captive with the threat of an atomic device.

While Bane is certainly Batman’s match, there’s one person he’s no match for, and that’s Heath Ledger’s Joker. With his face hidden behind the breathing mask, and his borderline goofy voice, Bane is simply not a captivating villain. Great heroic movies depend as much on the villain as they do the hero, and here we’re given a poorly motivated gym rat in a gas mask. By the movie’s end there are some reveals that illuminate the character to a greater depth, but for the most part, we have little idea why Bane is doing what he’s doing, and we get no sense of an acting performance because Hardy’s face is completely obscured by the breathing apparatus.

Faring much better is Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle aka Catwoman. She’s feminine, felonious and formidable without being comically feline. Unfortunately her character and her relationship with Bruce Wayne (which would have made for a great centerpiece story) get more than a little lost in the mix.

Because there is an enormous mix going on here. Not only does Batman face Bane and Catwoman, but Comissioner Gordon has a story-line, as does Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character. Alfred and Lucious are both given ample screentime, of course, and deservedly so, but there’s also got to be time for the Wayne Enterprises board, Marion Cotillard’s character, Bruce Wayne’s attempt to build a fusion device for clean, renewable energy, Cillian Murphy’s reappearance as Jonathan Crane, Nestor Carbonel, Matthew Modine, there’s trapped cops, orphaned kids, etc etc… this movie sprawls and not in a good way. Clocking in at almost three hours, there are numerous subplots and story strands I would happily see edited out. And not simply for brevity’s sake, either. There are a number of things here that just aren’t that great. While “The Dark Knight” was long, too, it still felt tight. Everything in it felt important. That certainly isn’t the case here.

At the end of the day, I would have been more ok with it, had the action supported the movie better. There’s no 18 Wheeler flip here, there’s no jump from a Hong Kong skyscraper. There is a very memorable fistfight between Bane and Batman, and “The Bat” (the name for the flying Batmobile) is cool, but there’s just not enough within the endless runtime, and it’s just not memorable enough for me. Factor in clichés like chasing down a ticking bomb and out-maneuvering heat seeking missiles, and you have a lot of letdown in terms of the action sequences here.

The production values are still as high as they get. There are a couple of really fun “reveal” moments that I wont spoil here, too. The acting is still top-notch, it seemed they filled every role with a talented actor. Also, of course, by this point in the series, you care about these characters very much. There were some very touching moments between Alfred and Bruce, for example. And finally, if you’re a fan of super hero movies, it’s always great to watch the characters you know and love in live-action up on the big screen. So, there’s still a lot of quality elements within. Yet I can’t get around the fact that I  spend a lot of the runtime mildly bored, and would have liked to have seen this movie spend its considerable resources in a much, much better way.

B+, but that’s a very disappointing grade considering the pedigree.

108 thoughts on “The Dark Knight Rises

  1. Agree on what you said. Too long and there were times I couldn’t understand what Bane was saying. Loved Salina Kyle (not once is she refered to as Catwoman in the movie). Gave this an 8.

  2. Hey Fogs, I just finished my review for tomorrow when I read this and I think I’m w/ you about the rating. “that’s a very disappointing grade considering the pedigree” Yep, I guess I scrutinize this film more because I expect more from Nolan and he did set the bar so high. But it does have enough going for it that make me want to see it again.

    • Yeah, I mean… I dont think it’s the type of movie I’d never want to see again. I think maybe a second pass might help me either clear up some of the things I think of as plot holes at this point, or solidify my arguments about the flaws. So one way or another I’ll probably be checking it out again when it hits TV.

      😀 Looking forward to reading what you thought!

  3. I went to see this last night with the world’s biggest Batman fan (at least the biggest one I know) and I felt a bit guilty given how gaga he was for walking out thinking exactly what you wrote, especially since I really loved The Dark Knight. Not to reiterate what you wrote, but it just felt like it took itself too seriously. (Never mind the giant plot holes). I don’t think it was a bad movie, but I finally understand what Peter Griffin meant when he said he didn’t like The Godfather because it “Insists on itself”.

    I am just going to say it. I enjoyed The Avengers more. At least I had more fun, and isn’t that the idea?

    • LOL. Yeah, I felt a little guilty around said Batman fan as well. He tweeted me excitedly about the ending and I was thinking to myself… uhmmmm…. 😀

      Meanwhile, “Fun” might not always be the right word for it, because I think there’s a lot of dark depressing movies that entertain you by making you think or engrossing you or whatever… but they definitely do entertain. This one was so dealy serious that it just sucked the air out of the theatre. 😦

      I liked the “Avengers” better too. By a mile!

  4. Spoilers:
    Do you think Morgan Freeman slipped them a copy of the script from the Sum of All Fears when they had writers block?

    How much better would this film have been if they skipped the whole drawn out boys town scenes and gotten JGL get behind a mask at about the 1/3 mark of the film?

    Never thought I would say this but I am glad Nolan is not making another Batman film.

    Bane, yeah hes angry and has a funny voice …. and ….

    Catwoman meow!!! not usually a fan of Hathaway but she was damn good in this.

    I thought the ending was really well done.

    • LOL. A lot of people are talking about how great the ending is, and I just keep thinking… the one with the bomb ticking down that the hero has to disarm? But he cant so he flies it to “safe range”? Like 24 season 2? Or Heroes, season 1, or Superman II, or god… The Avengers, just earlier this year? LOL. CLICHED!!

      I would have cut all the boys town stuff (Having JGL in mask would have been great though) and Marion Cotilliard’s character/arc/plot, and a ton of other stuff like everything involving Mathew Modine, and doubled the Catwoman quotient and added in two good action scenes.

      I’m not sure if I’m glad Nolan’s not making another one. This is a disappointing note to go out on, he might have done better with a #4.

      But Batman will be back soon… or may never go away. We’ll see how the franchise does w/someone else at the wheel….

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  6. Fogs – I am so disappointed! Yes, it had some flaws, but this movie was simply phenomenal. As a stand alone film, as a concluding chapter to the trilogy – everything just worked for me. I went into this movie trying to be very unbiased, because I am a huge Batman fan, and I think I honestly loved it besides the fact that it was a Batman film. It was just a great movie.

    I honestly don’t understand why so many people are disappointed by it. I mean, obviously people are entitled to their opinions, but come on! This movie was really, really great. Just look at it as a film – don’t think of it in terms of the other two. Does your opinion change at all?

    • Nope. Would make it worse, because a lot of the things I DID like were carried over from the previous installments. (attachment to characters, etc)

      First of all, let’s still point to the B+ and say I didnt shred it or anything. As far as big summer blockbusters go, this was acceptable. But conisdering the other two films in the series would have graded out at an A and A++ respectively, this was a super disappointment.

      My main complaints 1) Way too many unneccessary plot strands. Too many balls in the air 2) Bane is… Bane 3) Way too bleak, not enough fun 4) Not enough action, and the action scenes weren’t that great. I liked the first fistfight between Bane and Batman, but the airplane heist was undercut by the fact that I couldnt understand why the hell they couldnt kidnap the dude from the ground and the finale was silly at times (the giant “melee”) and cliched at others (outrunning the heatseekers and “relocating the bomb”)

      Sorry buddy, I definitely think if this wasn’t Nolan, and wasnt the final chapter of a beloved series, people would be killing it.

  7. I have to say, on one viewing, it is the worst Nolan Batman film but it is still a damn good movie. I will say that JoGo seemed to have a boring role going in and he does great in the flick and that ending had me wanting ONE MORE FILM!!! Even if it was a spin-off… You know what I mean Fogs.

    • Easily the weakest of the three, on that – complete agreement.

      I gotta be honest, there was too much DRAHma. LOL. Too many storylines, too many characters… not enough energy and action. I gotta watch it again and see how much I forgive. For now, B+, which for me is kinda weak.

      I DO know what you’re saying about one more movie though. That would be great to get the team up that was insinuated at the end of the movie. Isnt there a chance it happens with another director? I think it could. Money has made stranger shit go down in terms of movies… thats for sure.

      • I would’ve said yes but I just heard DC is going full steam with Justice League based on the success of the Avengers. They also said Supes would be the first of the group which I think means Batman gets a continuity reboot if nothing else.

      • Bah. Gonna be tough to see someone other than Bale right now and accept it. Needs a cooling off period… the kind that Spider-Man didn’t get.

        And lets hope DC makes a good freaking Superman movie first. Let’s see ’em do that, and then they can worry about the JLA

  8. Overall, great movie, but not without flaws. I do think they could have tossed the entire Harvey Dent storyline out the window and lost nothing. I especially disliked having Jim Gordon carrying his mea culpa resignation, only so Bane could find it and use it to no discernible effect other than to bum out Blake, which could have been done with one line of dialog.

    My only other minor quibble with the overall movie construction was that the Batman as portrayed here was heroic through perseverance, not through pre-preparation, or planning or intelligence.

    Technically, Bane was hard to understand and his mask made hard for the actor to put any real pathos into the role (as compared, say, to Hugo Weaving in V for Vendetta, who had even less facial ability, but much more pathos), and I thought the fight scenes were less finessed than they had been in the earlier movies. They seemed more brute force and less “Keysi Fighting Method”.

    But I thought the last hour or so was as fine as any other of the Batman trilogy, and well worth the franchise.

    • That’s a great point, with Weaving. I wish I had thought of that one as an example BEFORE podcasting about it twice. LOL.

      There was a lot to excise here, if you will. If you start pointing out all the plotlines that weren’t really worthy of their payoff, we’d be here all day.

      I like how you point that out about Batman, that is basically a major change in the character’s “powers” so to speak.

      It’s still a decent flick, I wont say that it wasn’t, but I wish it was a LOT better. a LOT. 😦

  9. I LOVED IT! 😀

    I was lucky enough to see TDKR with an enthusiastic, sold-out crowd that put in almost 9 hours of viewing time for the Dark Knight Trilogy and it was AWESOME! We all applauded and cheered at the end (I got goosebumps!).

    I believe it was the best way to do it…this is ONE story broken into 3 parts and watching them back to back help to increase my investment and emotional connection to the characters and story. Nolan is brilliant!

    Check out my review for my full opinion–(I too believe TDK is the best of the three, but still loved it!)

    PS Glad to see you had a wonderful time at SDCC–great pics!

    • Thanks Nedi! I’ll try and stop by your review tomorrow.

      Meanwhile, I’m glad you really dug it, but I can’t fully support it. I just couldn’t get past all the “fat”, and I thought the tone sucked all the fun out of it.

      Its still better than average of course, but, sadly, I can’t get too enthused.

  10. As I said on a podcast yesterday, it needs to be seen again on my front. There’s a lot going on here — in the film — that has to be done. By that I mean, a conclusion to any series is kind of inherently flawed. It must complete all the character arcs and the multiple subplots — and since TDKR comes after two great films, it’s impossible to value this film on its own merits.

    • Wellllllll… I dont know about impossible. I mean, even if its a sequel it’s got to be a separate entity somehow. We’re paying a separate ticket price for it. Right?

      There IS a lot of stuff to wrap up, my beef isn’t really there… there’s a lot of NEW things introduced, and I think they might have picked one (or more) too many ingredients to add to the soup. 😦

      Still a better movie than most, but I have to admit to being disappointed.

  11. Even though the runtime of “DKR” was longer than “DK”, the pacing was much better. “Death of action?”, Fogs? I think you must have watched a different version than I did. It seemed action-packed. Oh well, compared to most of the big movies this year, this one did not disappoint *cough*Prometheus*cough*

  12. The Dark Knight Rises ended the trilogy but left me wanting more. Bruce and Selina at home? Sure why not. 2 hours 44 minutes went by fast. Maybe it was all those different story threads, but my interest was rapt. What made this a success was knowing it was the end. A trilogy entire. Very hard to do and keep every one happy. There have been far more failures at a series than wins. Like “The Matrix”, “Back to the Future” and more. I can’t harp on the films flaws because the ending worked to great satisfaction. The Miranda-Bane twist, the saving of Gotham, the intro of Robin, the Wayne manor Orphanage and finally–Selina and Bruce happy at last and Alfred beaming on. Only a few trilogies have been this well thought out and ended so well. “Millennium”, the Girl With series, and “Lord of the Rings”. Both of which had the advantage of being penned by great authors. Nolan accomplished quite a feat, even if the action was trite and cliched it still had quite alot of adrenaline to it. The smile at the end was a “fait accompli”!

    • Alright… but I can only congratulate this one for succeeding where other movies fail so much. Yeah, a lot of other tirlogies HAVE set the bar low by completely failing, so I suppose some credit is due there.

      I didnt have the 2 hours and 44 minutes “went by fast” experience though. It was one of my biggest issues… Also, the end didnt work all that well for me, so I wound up not being as forgiving of its flaws. LOL.

      Most people on the net seem to love it, so I’m definitely in the minority. But Im not that high on it. I still gave it a B+, so I suppose thats not all that bad. But in the week since this came out, I’ve actually hardened my stance against it, if anything… 😦

      • My focus was on the ending. I kept thinking, how’s he gonna pull this off? And it was better than I imagined. Considering that you had the first two in the series in the stratosphere, TDKR could only fly so high. But I think you should stop beating yourself up about it. After all, you did give it a B+.

  13. Plot and action aside, the real problem with this film is that Nolan fucked up. He made a Batman movie that plays more like a comic book movie than his other two Batman movies, but he forgot to make a damn Christopher Nolan movie at the same time. Out of the Batman trilogy, this is easily the worst entry of the bunch; it’s big, loud, and aggressively stupid, a studio movie akin to Prometheus that looks great and entertains wonderfully, but has something of a shortage of brains and coherency.

    The film’s political trappings ring as incredibly hollow thanks to the third act reveal; Bane’s entire “common man” shtick, once proven to be a lie, loses all of its meaning and exposes a great callousness toward the lower classes the film is purportedly about. In point of fact, it’s not about them at all. It’s about depicting the upper class being abused, and society’s enforcers coming in to save the day and re-establish order. There’s something about the way the film ends that’s incredibly fascist, but maybe a big audience going in for a popcorn-munchin’ good time doesn’t care about that.

    I do, of course, so the thematics here really bugged me. Probably more than the way everyone teleports all over the planet and the film’s REALLY REALLY REALLY weird structure.

    Not to say that the thing is terrible– Bale and Hathaway have amazing chemistry together, the action looks far better than it has in the past, Caine kills it, etc. But there’s too much bad here to outweigh the good.

    • Well, not sure I agree in its entirety there, but I definitely do in spirit. I was actually disappointed not to be able to find a review from you on this one. Did you not do one, or is that on Me?

      Definitely, definitely is short on Coherency. LOL. That’s a great line.

      What’s “Fascist” about the ending though? LOL. That went right over my head…

      • I haven’t written my review yet. I only caught it last week and I’ve just got a ton of real work to do on top of social stuff and a bunch of movie-related things. But it’s coming!

        The ending feels fascist in the sense that revolution winds up being smashed by the societal enforcers. Grant that the revolution in question is one driven by a madman (and on false pretenses), but it’s still there. Really I just wish Bane was more of the evil Robin Hood he portrayed himself as. That would have been far, far more interesting.

      • Amen.

        Or if they had dedicated the movie to Selina Kyle and gave her a bit of altruism, challenging Batman to take a stand as to whether or not to be a defender of the 1%.

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