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Film Review : The Dark Knight Rises

Jul 21, 2012 10:10AM ● By Justin Buettner

Eight years after the events of the Dark Knight, Gotham City has become a safe place to live. A new legislation passed as a result of Harvey Dent’s death made it easy for police to prosecute and incarcerate organized crime. Everything changes though when a mysterious cat-burglar shows up looking for the now reclusive Bruce Wayne’s fingerprints. However no is prepared for Bane who traps the entire Gotham police force underground, traps the citizens inside the city while threatening them with a nuclear bomb. This forces Batman from retirement but will he be a match for Bane? Bruce Wayne no longer has cartilage in his knees and elbows among other ailments due to his crime fighting days of the past and Bane is the most formidable foe he has ever faced.

I had some real reservations about the Dark Knight Rises before seeing it. The long list of actors joining the cast gave me the suspicion that the movie would have too many characters like many super-hero sequels tend to do at the detriment of the story. Christopher Nolan’s penchant for packing too much plot and far too many plot twists in films like Inception worried me about his ability to pull off even a decent movie. The expectation from fans were set so incredibly high after The Dark Knight I did not think it would be possible to meet them. In fact I was convinced that he would not be able to. Now after seeing the movie all my concerns before seeing the Dark Knight Rises were warranted as the movie did have too many characters, had too much plot, and had far too many plot twists but somehow none of that mattered, the Dark Knight Rises is a good movie!

Because the Dark Knight Rises is a ridiculously long movie at almost three hours, the movie is able to find time for all the characters it packs in. The film also is able to thread the dozen of subplots together and somehow make it work. It helps that the Dark Knight Rises has an all-star cast and employs one of the best directors in the business. Christopher Nolan is terrific and setting a tone. This third chapter matches that of Batman Begins. In fact most of the storyline ties the first and third movie together.

Many of the problems I had with the movie is that Nolan took the long scenic route in most of the plot points instead of taking a direct route which would have been a much more efficient way to tell a story. This would have really helped the middle section of the film when the pace seemed to sag. Bane’s occupation of Gotham in the film takes place over a five month period. This is also the time that Bruce Wayne sits in a foreign prison with a broken back. Everyone watching the movie knew Batman would return so why draw this section out? Not much was added to the story during this time and it gave the audience time to start thinking about the glaring plot holes in this film.

There are plot holes a plenty in this convoluted scheme. The worst of which are the villain’s plan of blowing up Gotham. I still don’t understand why the League of Shadows thinks blowing up one city will return balance to the world. It just makes no sense. It especially makes little sense when you include the villain’s backstory in this movie (which I won’t explain as to not ruin the twists).  

The Dark Knight Rises packs in several new character in addition to the characters from the previous two film. I know why Nolan included all these characters, but I can’t help to think the movie would have been stronger if he eliminated a few and kept the movie focused on a the main players in this story. With that being said I do like all these characters and the film gives each one a moment to shine. In particular I liked Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman. She has the most fun moments in the movie, I just wish there had been more. Tom Hardy’s Bane is an interesting character, but having to follow up Heath Ledger’s Joker is unfair, and it’s not even a contest to who the more engaging and menacing bad guy was.

Christian Bale was terrific in the role of Bruce Wayne, and aside from the horrible voice, a great Batman as well. The movie starts off very interesting as it follows the reclusive Bruce Wayne after his retirement from the Batman. This storyline was no doubt inspired by the graphic novel the Dark Knight Returns, which remains today as the best Batman story ever told. It’s too bad the movie drops this aspect as soon as Bane shows up in Gotham and Batman quickly becomes Batman again with what appears to be very little effort.

The action sequences in the Dark Knight Rises were entertaining, but when they are compared to recent box office hits such as The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man, the action seems fairly pedestrian. The big battles were a few chase scenes and a couple of hand to hand combat sequences between Bane and Batman. These boxing matches were largely unimaginative and ultimately were not staged particularly well. Catwoman’s combat scenes were far more interesting to watch. The drama that sets up the action scenes works very well and allows the audience to overlook the lack of imagination in the chorography.

I know much of this review comes across negative, but it’s really a tribute to the strength of the series and filmmakers that they can make a film with so many noticeable flaws and still the end result is a great movie. The Dark Knight Rises has several brilliant moments and really finds a way to end the series just the right way that doesn’t feel cheap or forced. I can’t help to think Christopher Nolan wanted a definitive ending to the Batman films so that he could walk away without the nagging questions of when he would return. Looking back over the three films I think Nolan has presented far and away the best Batman series, however I think the best is yet to come. I really hope the reboot features a Bruce Wayne that doesn’t sulk and look for ways to retire, but actually likes to take revenge upon the villains of the city. With the success of these Batman films you know a reboot to this character is not too far in the future. In the meantime please see this movie in Imax if possible, but a movie on this scale absolutely needs to be seen on the big screen. As far as trilogies go, Christopher Nolan stuck the landing and in the face of immense expectations pulled off a great finale. The Dark Knight series will be remember as one of the best trilogies in cinema history.

Films like Dark Knight Rises : Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.

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