Yes. That’s the best way I think I can describe Christopher Nolan’s final entry into the Batman legend.
From the opening sequence to the ending credits, “The Dark Knight Rises” is incredibly dense with tension. Much like it’s successful sibling “The Dark Knight,” Nolan and his team of film experts have crafted a movie that is much more than your average, run-of-the-mill hero flick and overfilled with a reality that borders both the comics and our real life realms.
This is not the “Avengers.” This is not “The Amazing Spider-Man.” This is Batman and once again, Nolan, along with writers Jonathan Nolan and Davis S. Goyer, brings the pain and delivers the darkest, on screen tale yet of Gotham’s Masked Crusader.
Dark? Yes. The best … eh.
Set eight years after the events of “The Dark Knight,” Batman and Bruce Wayne have seemingly disappeared from the world. Crime has become a thing of the past in Gotham and thanks to a little hero worship of the deceased Harvey Dent and the vilification of the Batman, local government has won the war on the streets. However, below, something more sinister is growing and unfortunately, it has both the Batman and the city in it’s sites.
Coming full circle from the events that occurred in “Batman Begins,” terrorism is once again given shape in the form of a one man wrecking ball named Bane. Famous in the comics for defeating Batman at one time, here, we are given a slightly different take on the character. Where Heath Ledger’s Joker was unpredictable and seemingly psychotic, Tom Hardy’s Bane is controlled and dangerous. As a character, he is methodical in his approach to the “plan” and is disturbing in his “black and white” approach to it’s strategy. As a character, this version of Bane is wonderful against Christian Bale’s Batman. Both characters are driven by their sense of justice and while, polar opposites on the scale, both represent the delicate balance between structure and chaos.
In my opinion, this film really shines in two places – the music and the acting. Hans Zimmer … amazing. Consistently throughout his run on Nolan’s trilogy, Zimmer has over-delivered greatness. Much like in “Knight,” the score of “Rises” is alive and as much a character as the actors throughout the film. Powerful, emotional and exceptional, Zimmer’s score holds the key to the tension and he and Nolan are relentless in how they layer it throughout the film. I am a big fan of the “chant” heard throughout the film and if you listen close, you can hear it peppered quietly in the background when certain characters are around.
Along with that, the lead cast is phenomenal. Bale, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman once again give us strong performance, but by far, the three best are Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Caine.
By far, Hathaway’s Selina Kyle is the best I’ve ever seen on screen. Far removed from the old days, this version of Kyle is the master thief that is closer to her roots in the comics than the over-the-top cat suit wearing version represented by Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry. (Don’t believe me? Read Batman #1.) Highly confident in her abilities, Hathaway slinks through every scene and effortlessly proves a match to the caped crusader.
At the same time, Gordon-Levitt’s Officer John Blake, is very much the core of the film. Where Batman was symbol for Gotham to use, Blake is a grounded man looking for change in a system that is becoming bloated with over-confidence. The relationship that develops between Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon and Blake is touching and very much needed when everything around them starts to crumble.
And yet, Caine’s heart-breaking performance as Alfred is by far the crown-jewel of this film. Nearly on the brink of tears, Caine is still able to put the Batman and Bruce Wayne in his place at will and bring him back to the realities of the world. Clearly the backbone to the Batman character, Alfred’s spirits are as much broken as Bruce Wayne’s and their relationship is integral to the success of the hero.
Is the film flawed. Oh yeah, big time. But for the most part, due to the excellent abilities of the actors and the compelling nature of the root story, for me, it is a little easier to get over them. My biggest gripes come with Bane’s voice, the curving nature of the storyline and the extremely long running time.
In terms of Bane, while Hardy is excellent in the role, his voice grated on my nerves. Early test screenings had viewers crying foul because, with the mask, Bane was too difficult to understand. So … they fixed the problem. Which kind of stinks. I think now, with his slightly clear, posh Darth Vader impression, he loses a little power. In contrast, I wish that they kept it hard to understand him. A personae represented here like Bane, deserves a more mysterious, quieter menace that I think would have been better achieved with less dialogue and more anger in his voice. Clearly, Hardy swaggers through every scene with the confidence of a bulldozer, but the clarity of his voice makes it seem like he’s out of gas.
At the same time, with a running time near three hours, “Rises” is just too long. Filled with subplots, extra scenes and character development, this film could easily have been trimmed by about half an hour if not more. Which, is kind of funny because, most other films find critics yammering for character development. Yet, here, while nice to see some of the quieter moments and have some of that overall tension released, the subplots and sub-character actions start to get in the way and thus make the movie start to blur a little on it’s focus.
Also, for me, eight years is just too long. As a society, we forget what happened yesterday as easily as what happened last year so for the Batman to be gone for that long and peace in Gotham city to continue isn’t very realistic. I’m sure that Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” was part of the inspiration for the film, but in this day and age it’s just not reasonable.
Overall, “The Dark Knight Rises” is a solid movie going experience. Excellent performances kept this film strong throughout while a storyline that curved just a little too much kept it from being great. Casual movie fans will enjoy this film and it’s expansive feeling, while comic book fans will more than likely tear it a part because … well … because that’s what we do. While not better than the achievement set by “The Dark Knight,” “Rises” is still a fantastic movie experience and good close to director Christopher Nolan’s view of Gotham City.
4 out of 5 Choruses of “Deh-shay, deh-shay bah-sah-rah, bah-sah-rah”