The Dark Knight Rises — Review

Yes, like the other millions of cinema-philes across the country, I too partook of the biggest and most anticipated Hollywood Blockbuster of Summer 2012:  The Dark Knight Rises.  Billed as the end of the legend, this film had more hype than any film in many years and I can only guess that it will surpass the extremely high bar set by The Avengers earlier this year.  Despite the horribly tragic event that occurred in Colorado, which will undoubtedly cast a dark shadow over the otherwise monumental premiere, fans still flocked to the theatre to see how Christopher Nolan will end his extremely popular superhero franchise.  My friends and I were no exception, and in fact we made it a point to wait a full day to see it on Saturday so we could see it in glorious IMAX at the Edward’s Ontario Palace Stadium (The Far Side of the World).

Undoubtedly, there are thousands of reviews already floating around the cyber-sphere about the film itself which will be much better than mine.  So, instead of a full review, I will be sharing just the most important thoughts I had about the filmmaking and story directions in short sentences or paragraphs. I would love to know what you thought of the film, so please drop me a comment below or on my facebook page with your own review of Dark Knight Rises.  Of course, as one would expect…

…so please don’t read any further if you have not yet seen the movie.  I have so much respect for everyone who did not spoil the film for me and I certainly don’t want to be unduly accused of being that guy for someone else.  So without further ado, my thoughts on the Dark Knight Rises:

  • Watching Dark Knight Rises was very different from watching The Avengers, because I went into the latter with low expectations which were then shattered.  Going into this film, I was extremely excited for it and thus was hoping to be satisfied rather than surprised.  I expected DKR to be great and it was – end of story (though this does make for an interesting feeling of dissatisfaction, only being able to hit par rather than 3 under).
  • Further, Avengers is a different kind of film.  Joss Whedon crafted something closer to the original Spiderman, in that it was ever-so-slightly campy and extremely fun, with lots of humorous moments to lighten the mood.  On the contrary, Nolan’s film is much more emotionally engaging and darkly serious.  Instead of laughing at the hero’s antics, the audience is waiting with hushed breath to see how the Bat will get himself out of each situation.
  • The opening to Dark Knight Rises, for me, is right up there with the opening to its predecessor.  I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for the meeting where Nolan told the producers that he needed an AC130 to fly above a Learjet, grapple to it, and then pull the plane vertical so that the wings snap off and it dangles hundreds of feet above the ground.  Just sayin’. 🙂
  • I was very glad to see that the modifications to Bane’s voice did make it more easy to understand him.  There were some moments that I didn’t catch everything, but for the most part I was tracking with him the whole way.
  • The Dark Knight Rises did a great job of calling back to both of its preceding films.  I was afraid Batman Begins would be left by the wayside in favor of continuing the Dark Knight story, but Nolan does a great job weaving in elements from both films.
  • Unfortunately, it was very obvious which scene was the one that the incident in Colorado had occurred during.  This has the effect of pulling one out the movie for a reason entirely unavoidable by the audience and unintended by the filmmakers.  Sadly, I fear this will mar any viewing of the film from now on, as we are reminded of the severe tragedy that occurred Friday morning.
  • My heart jumped about ten feet when I saw several shots filmed at a studio that my friend Ryan and I have shot at before.  We were scouting locations there when they told us the street was being prepped for a scene from the Dark Knight Rises and I was really looking forward to seeing it on the big screen.  For those of you interested, it is the street Officer Blake is driving on when the bombs are detonated around Gotham, sealing the police underground.  The scene was filmed at Central City Studios, where we shot part of our short film, Expiration Date.
  • The choices made for the characters were very interesting.  On the one hand, I do not think any portrayal of Catwoman has come as close to the comics as Anne Hathoway’s.  She played Selina Kyle very well and did a lot of justice to the original character (though I think they could have pushed the bounds a bit further with her).  On the other hand, Bane received a major overhaul which both brought him closer to the original and distanced him almost entirely from his comic counterpart.  He was rough, foreign(ish), and extremely intelligent – just as the comics portrayed him.  However, there was no mention of the drug Venom at all, which is a major staple of the character.  I like what they did with him, but it was interesting to see that, while Batman and Robin over-used this element, Dark Knight Rises removed it entirely.
  • Speaking of the Boy Wonder, a major surprise to all Bat-fans was the reveal towards the end of the film that Officer/Detective John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is actually Robin John Blake, a clear reference to Batman’s sidekick.  It seems that, while rumored that Christian Bale would jump ship if a “Robin” character was introduced, Nolan found a work around that both appeased Bale and baffled everyone else.  Robin John Blake is NOT part of the comic series and, much like the franchise as a whole, he further shows the deviation Nolan has taken from the established DC Universe.  Not that this is a bad thing; it just came out of nowhere and I will be very curious to see how things change with this new character’s introduction.
  • As rumored, the film is based on the “Knightfall” trilogy of comics.  The central conflict revolves around Bane coming to Gotham to destroy Bruce Wayne, whom he knows to be Batman.  He does break the Bat’s back (which I thought was handled extremely well) and Bruce does have to recover in order to take back Gotham.  However, that is about as much as it does follow the comics because there is no established Robin or John Paul in Nolan’s franchise.  Instead of fighting a mechanized cross between Batman and Azrael, Bruce Wayne returns to battle Bane and his legion of minions.
  • I only have two critiques of the film and both are somewhat trifle matters.  First, I found it hard to separate some of the characters from the actors that played them.  Instead of thinking of Officer Blake or Miranda Tate, I found myself seeing Gordon-Levitt and Cotillard instead.  But that is what happens in a major blockbuster with a packed, star-studded cast, so I am willing to let that go.
  • The other criticism I have is that, with so many people deducing who Batman really is, it became almost impossible to believe that others couldn’t figure it out.  Lucius Fox and Alfred already knew, but first Bane, then Blake, (I hazard to say that Selina Kyle wasn’t far from it) and finally Miranda Tate all figure it out on their own.  So, when I see Commissioner Gordon and the rest of the police force utterly blind to the seemingly obvious fact that Bruce Wayne is Batman, it is very hard to suspend my disbelief that they cannot see it.  And particularly with the way the film ends, if anyone in Gotham still can’t figure it out, I can’t say that I don’t see what Ra’s Al Ghul is talking about. 🙂
  • One final thought before I go, because I know you are all thinking it.  Yes, the ending is somewhat similar to that of The Avengers, with the protagonist hero carrying a bomb to safety while facing almost certain death.  However, what I loved about the way Dark Knight Rises did it was that they dealt with, over the course of the film, the one objection that we would certainly have to this ending. Nolan and crew did a great job establishing the auto-pilot as an issue early on, but letting it sink to the bottom of our minds.  Just before the final moments of the film, they anticipate our prognostication that Batman will have to dispose of the bomb himself and remind us that there is not an auto-pilot.  So, for that one brief moment between the explosion and the reveal, we honestly consider the possibility that he didn’t make it, and that is an extremely powerful storytelling tool. They give us the solution and then carefully veil it, so that when we get to it, we are thrown off for just long enough to let the action happen and then we are let in on the brilliantly conceived plan. Hat’s off to Mr. Nolan for, yet again, destroying my mind with another amazing narrative crafting.

Thanks for sticking with me.  I know that this collection of “short” thoughts turned out to be not-so short after all.  If you have any additional thoughts about the film, please let me know in the comments below!

I am still hard at work on my Senior Seminar paper, as well as trying to finish up several other projects, and write a bunch of reviews. So, I don’t know when the next review will be up.  I still have several to catch up on for the Summer Film Challenge 2012: Apocalypse Edition, so be expecting those soon(ish).  Until the next one though, I will leave you with my newest ambition in life:
I want to be a “Bat Suit Wrangler”.

Please Comment Below and Subscribe!

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Author: Tyler D. Welch

Filmmaker, Storyteller, Scholar

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