Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Back when they first announced the sequel to The Dark Knight was to be titled The Dark Knight Rises, I thought that was just a working title. It just didn’t have pizzazz or that something that was going tell you the next movie was going to kick ass. It was only an extra word added to the 2008 movie’s title. I figured in coming months, they’d announce a new title and say, “ha-ha, we fooled you…we weren’t going to name it The Dark Knight Rises!”

But they didn’t make such an announcement.

My next thought was that this was, in actuality, Batman 3. And it got me thinking: Most part three movies suck! I mean, look at Superman III…and Halloween III (although, I do like that movie)…and Jaws 3…and Godfather III…and most recently, Spider-Man 3. It’s almost a given that all part three films always bite the big one.

To top it off, I started thinking about the trailers I had seen for The Dark Knight Rises. None of them were anything spectacular that made me get up out of my seat and shout, “I can’t wait for this movie!”

So, with all that in mind, I wasn’t in a hurry to see this film.

But I found myself, the other day, in a need to get my pick-up an oil change. My wife actually said, “Why don’t you take it to Sears at the mall and go see a movie while you wait for it?” So that’s when I decided, half-heartedly, to go see The Dark Knight Rises.

Let’s start with the story.

It’s been eight years since the events from The Dark Knight. The Harvey Dent Act was passed to help get criminals off the street and Gotham City is a much better place to live, striving almost perfectly. However, a new villain is coming to terrorize Gotham, named Bane (played by Tom Hardy), who is an unstoppable force and a former member of the League of Shadows. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has made himself a recluse after giving up being Batman and because of it, his body has deteriorated as he walks around his mansion, in hiding, using a cane. Also on the prowl is a cat burglar, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), who is only looking to clear her record and start over with a clean slate.

Without giving too much away, and keep the first half of this review spoiler-free, I’ll talk about the performances of the actors.

Christian Bale, at the beginning, seems a little out of sorts with his characterization of Bruce Wayne. But once the movie gets moving along, he seems to fine tune it and get right back into character. As Batman, however, he appears to slip right into character as if he’d never left it.

Michael Caine also returns as Alfred, and he’s amazing as Bruce Wayne’s trusted butler, but he’s only in the movie for a short amount of time.

Gary Oldman is back again as Commissioner Gordon. Oldman’s performance is good, but not as commanding as it was in the first two movies.

Morgan Freeman, back as Lucius Fox, brings back that lightheartedness from the first two movies, which is good to have that levity in such a heavy-handed comic book movie such as in Christopher Nolan’s Batman films.

As I get into this review, I’ll mention some other noteworthy performances by the other actors.

I guess I’ll get into what I liked about this film first, and then talk about what I didn’t like.

The score was awesome. Hans Zimmer kept up the movie’s intensity and amped up the action scenes as well as the dramatic themes perfectly. Although it’s more or less the same cues we’ve heard before, he still didn’t disappoint or veer off with something totally different that didn’t fit the film.

When Batman makes his first appearance, I loved it. Showing up on the Bat Pod to go after all of Bane’s cronies on their motorcycles was an awesome scene, especially the brief comedic scene involving the overzealous rookie cop who shoots at him.

Tom Hardy’s Bane is pretty powerful in this film. He definitely shows it in his performance that his character is Batman’s toughest challenge yet. The only complaint I have, while not Hardy’s fault, is his voice. But that can be discussed later. Without the issue with the voice, Tom Hardy as Bane was a force to be reckoned with. When I first heard Tom Hardy was going to play Bane, I didn’t think it would work. But I was wrong!

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Officer-turned-Detective Blake was probably the stand-off of this film. He is such a great young actor; it’s hard to believe he’s the kid from TV’s Third Rock From the Sun. Although I didn’t like where his character went at the end of this flick, his performance deserves an award for this movie.

Lastly, the most bad-ass part from the film is…The Bat. The new vehicle featured in The Dark Knight Rises is simply called "The Bat." Once you see this thing unveiled in the movie, it’ll give you goose bumps.

Now, for the things I didn’t like in the movie, I have to give you ample warning…there will be spoilers…so don’t say I didn’t warn you. I’ll even feature a cool spoiler logo here.
Okay, so first and foremost, the one thing that bothered me throughout the whole movie was Bane’s voice. I know…I know…that’s the complaint everybody’s talking about, but I’m sorry…it bothered me and took me out of the movie each and every time he spoke. I just found it a little too amplified, like it was coming out of some electronic device. The thought of Darth Vader kept coming to my head every time he spoke. It was a good, realistic choice to have him needing the mask to feed him anesthesia, rather than having him wear a mask for no reason. Equally an excellent choice to not include the comic book rendition of having tubes feeding steroids into his body to bulk himself up at whim. But, bottom line, that voice threw me for a loop.

I know we couldn’t have Bruce Wayne recuperate too quickly after Bane disposes of him earlier in the film, but when he’s stuck in that remote prison after Gotham’s destroyed, it’s such a long drawn out and boring part of the movie. All we see is Bruce trying to escape and fail, then we see how desolate Gotham became after it was destroyed, then back to Bruce in the prison trying to escape and fail, then back to Gotham…it had me looking at my watch a few times.

As for the first showdown between Batman and Bane…that was colossal! Ending nearly the same way as it did in DC's Batman "Knightfall" comic book series was so cool, but the follow-up or rematch between the two near the end of the movie started off awesome, but ended unsatisfyingly. Though I liked the unexpected twist that Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) was really Talia Al Ghul, daughter of Ras Al Ghul, and how she stopped Batman from subduing Bane, it was very unsatisfying that Batman was essentially saved by Catwoman. Basically, if Catwoman didn’t show up, Bane would’ve probably killed Batman. So we never get the redeeming triumph of Batman over Bane.

Finally, my last complaint would be about Detective Blake and where his character ended up at the end. Since Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan said there would be no Robin featured in these films. So why does Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character set up to be Robin at the end of the film? And if that’s the case, why the name change? The first Robin was named Dick Grayson, not Robin! Yeah, we find out, when Detective Blake goes to pick up some belongings he had, he reveals his real first name—a name he doesn’t go by—is Robin! What???!!!

I know trying to make a better film than the previous one, The Dark Knight, would be impossible, so I can’t fault Christopher Nolan for that, but this film, as a whole, didn’t seem as epic as the aforementioned film. Seems like they tried to make it ambitious and grand, but instead, it seemed choppy and didn’t flow as well.

But don’t get me wrong, this film was very enjoyable and is a good close to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy; I just think it could’ve been better. If I had to compare it to The Amazing Spider-Man, it’s hands-down a way better film. Compared to most part threes in film history, I’d say this was a good effort. I’ll definitely add this to my Blu-Ray shelf when it’s released later this year—a claim I can’t say about The Amazing Spider-Man (are you seeing a trend here?).

My final “bit” on The Dark Knight Rises?

Overall, this movie is solid, with great performances throughout. If you’re not a Batman comic book fan, you probably won’t see anything wrong with this outing. I’m not that big a fan of the comic book (I’ve always been a Marvel Comics fan over DC), but I know a little bit about the characters portrayed in this film, so that’s why a lot of things bothered me. But I enjoyed and, for the most part, was satisfied with the ending. It left room for more sequels, if Warner Bros. goes that route. But, more than likely, the franchise will be rebooted yet again. I’d say, go to your local movie theater, buy a tub of popcorn and a soda, sit down, turn off your brain, and enjoy a good Batman movie!

You can reach me on Twitter: @Just CallMeManny.

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