Monday, December 31, 2012


 "Scene for scene, The Dark Knight Rises is by far the most exciting and visually stimulating of the three Nolan Batman films and definitely my favorite."

Superhero and Action

Starring - Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne / Batman, Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth, Gary Oldman as Commissioner James Gordon, Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, Tom Hardy as Bane, Marion Cotillard as Talia al Ghul / Miranda Tate, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox.

Director – Christopher Nolan

Writer(s) – Christopher and Jonathan Nolan

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language.

Runtime - 165 min.

I am not a huge fan of the comic book Batman. My first exposure to the character, like many children who grew up in the 1960’s was the TV show that ran from January 12, 1966 to March 14, 1968. I do remember collecting bubble gum cards that featured photographs from the show and later painted artwork of the comic book characters, but for whatever reason the TV show never inspired the then 8 to 10 year old me to buy the comic book.

I have since as an adult bought many different runs of the The Batman, Detective Comics and even the The Dark Knight, but I have never bought it for more than a year or two at a time. For reasons that are too deep to go into here, I have always felt more connected to the superheroes of the Marvel universe than those of the DC universe. Therefore, I am not an expert on Batman the comic book character, but merely a fairly educated fan.

I loved the 1960’s TV show as a child, but have not been able to enjoy it much as an adult. I did find out that the show was based on the 1940’s serials Batman (1943) and Batman and Robin (1949), more so than on the comic book, which explains the serialized nature of the show.  The Batman films of the late ‘80’s and 90’s were also somewhat of a disappointment to me as well. While I thought Tim Burtorn’s first film, Batman (1989), captured the mood of the character, I didn't like it for much more than Nicholson’s inspired portrayal of The Joker. Burton’s second film, Batman Returns (1992), was a self-indulgent mess that had more to do with Burton’s demented world view, than with the character of Batman. Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever (1995) was slick and slightly more super-heroic, but was already bordering on the ridiculous that would be his disastrous follow up Batman & Robin (1997).

With a fair amount of time to get the fowl taste of those films out of my mental palette, I approached Christopher Nolan’s first film, Batman Begins (2005), with reserved optimism. While I think Nolan got the tone of Gotham and all the supporting characters just right, Christian Bale’s Batman still seemed too grim and one-dimensional. However, this was definitely the best film version of the character and I looked forward to the sequel. The Dark Knight (2008) was an immense success, both critically and financially, but I disliked Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker as an insane serial killer and that ruined the film for me. I was still hopeful that that the next – and last for Nolan – Batman film would be a good solid finish to Nolan’s vision of the character. For the most part, I wasn't disappointed.

I’m sure anyone who cares enough about Nolan’s Batman trilogy has already seen it (perhaps multiple times) at the theater, so I won’t reiterate the details of the plot here. I waited to rent The Dark Knight Rises for the simple reason that I wasn’t sure if I would like it enough to sit for two-hours and forty-five minutes in a theater to watch it. I was glad I did watch it at home, because much of the middle portion of the film is weighed down by a complete lack of Batman. I understand that Bane wanted to make Bruce Wayne suffer as he had in the inescapable pit-like prison, but this part really does slow that film down to a crawl.

I did like the set up to the film and didn't have too much of a problem with how Bane converts Wayne Enterprise’s reactor core into a nuclear bomb to put Gotham under his control. While Bane’s plan seems ridiculously over-complicated  it did make for some intense drama. I particularly liked the sequence where Gordon has rounded up as many of the Gotham police as he can, to push a frontal assault on Bane and his mercenaries, while he attempts to place a device on the reactor core that will disable the remote control trigger.

The last act of The Dark Knight Rises is filled with fantastic sequences of action and character drama. I love the way that Bruce/Batman manages to keep coaxing Selina/Catwoman into helping him thwart Bane’s plan to destroy Gotham City. In fact, Selina basically becomes The Robin to Batman in this film and I think she was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the film.

Speaking of Robin, the character, the young police officer John Blake becomes an integral part of the film, where he sort of fills in for Batman; working with Commissioner Gordon while Bruce is recovering from his broken back in the hell hole prison. I liked the character, but he seemed rather forced into the story and I’m not sure I buy his explanation of how he figured out Wayne was Batman. I also don’t understand why Nolan felt compelled to end the film with Blake quitting the force and going off in search of the Batcave.

Nolan’s subsequent Batman films each attempt to “up the ante” in scope. Rise features a new flying machine for the Batman to use against Bane’s militia that its inventor Lucius Fox dubs “The Bat”, for reasons I’m not sure of because it looks nothing like a bat. Still, it does present Batman with some cool action sequences; particularly at the end of the film when Batman is shooting at the several Batmoblie prototypes that Bane’s mercenaries have stolen to help with protecting the truck transporting the reactor core.

I liked enough of the positives of the film, so that the negatives didn’t deter from my enjoyment of it. Christopher Nolan’s strengths as a director and storyteller are in creating mood and character drama and The Dark Knight Rises has both in abundance! While the plot contrivances and outright illogical narrative events in this film could ruin it, I decided early on while watching this film that I would not let these things spoil my pleasure in watching it.

Scene for scene, The Dark Knight Rises is by far the most exciting and visually stimulating of the three Nolan Batman films and definitely my favorite. It will be interesting to see where Warner films take the character of Batman next. With a JLA film reportedly in the works for a release in the summer of 2015, I can only assume that there will be another Batman film, with a new and younger actor playing the part, coming in the near future as well.

TECHNICAL: Acting – 9 Directing – 9 Cinematography – 9 Script – 8 Special Effects – 10

VISCERAL: Visual – 10 Auditory – 9 Intellectual – 8 Emotional – 9 Involvement – 9

TOTAL - 90

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