Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan’s dark take on the caped crusader is one of the most popular movie franchises to date. After the massive success of The Dark Knight, it would be hard to create something better. Does this Dark Knight Rise, or will it fall by the hype of its predecessors?

Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne is at his lowest point; a recluse to the world and suffering from injuries he’s received from his years as the caped crusader. His company is steadily losing money and his reputation is at an all-time low. But that’s all okay; the city doesn’t seem to need Batman anymore. Through the spirit of Harvey Dent’s laws passed when he was a District Attorney, the city of Gotham is prospering. Crime is the lowest it has been in years. Gotham is safe, right? Well, I mean, it wouldn’t be much of a Batman movie if Batman didn’t turn up to save the day.

A new villain shows up in Gotham. He goes by the name of Bane and he is not to be trifled with. This masked man is by far the most well developed character in Rises. He is ruthless, strong, smart, and has actual motive for bringing Gotham to its knees. Bane’s brand of terrorism is truly frightening. He is a villain who, at first, I didn’t think could really beat out the Joker for best Nolan Batman villain. The Joker is better acted, sure, but Bane is actually terrifying in a very realistic, well-written way.

Being hard of hearing, I had hoped I could understand Bane’s dialogue through his mouth-covering mask. My concerns were soon replaced by one of my annoyances with Rises. Bane’s audio track is much louder than other characters, causing a glaring disconnect when he’s having a conversation. It’s as if Bane is constantly speaking through a megaphone, except for the scene where he speaks through a megaphone where it sounds like he’s speaking through a megaphone deep in a cave. All of the characters, except for Bane, sound like they’re in a real world. Bane’s voice sounds sterile and unrealistic.

The Nolan brothers introduce new characters in an already staggering cast list. Selina Kyle, or Catwoman as most know her, is just a shell of her comic-book persona. Straddling the line between good and evil, this cat thief is one of the weaker characters in Rises. She only appears to push Batman in a direction the plot needs to be headed to move anywhere.

Gotham City Police Officer Blake, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, seems to be the unpronounced star of The Dark Knight Rises. Blake is an integral part to the narrative, unlike the other new characters. He does more to save Gotham than any other character, save for Batman, who is barely in the movie as it is.

Herein lays my main criticism with The Dark Knight Rises: I could see this movie without Batman. Nolan has crafted a brilliant thriller about the fears of terrorism. Batman almost seems like an afterthought. Through most of the movie, Batman is nowhere to be found. The city is left for Bane to destroy as he sees fit. Jim Gordon, Blake, and a ragtag group of brave citizens and police officers alike are the only ones who can stop Bane. This would have made a great two hour thriller about terrorism, but when you throw Batman in the mix, the plot becomes overlong and convoluted.

Cinematographer Wally Pfister and Director Christopher Nolan are a great cinematic team. The cinematography in The Dark Knight Rises is among the finest this duo have crafted. If anything, this is where they reveal the true essence of the characters. The powerful Bane, the broken Batman, and the fearful Gotham all come to life. This feels like a real world, with real people living in it.

With a cast too large, and a script too convoluted, The Dark Knight Rises isn’t a great movie. But I left the theater contemplating how I really felt about it, until now, writing this review. The Dark Knight Rises certainly made me think for a long time about what it was actually trying to accomplish. Many of my complaints about The Dark Knight return in Rises, but I find myself enjoying the tale of Rises more than its predecessor.

I went in expecting a new Batman movie. I came out seeing a thriller that just so happened to have Batman in it. Nolan has crafted something truly interesting with his trilogy. In Batman Begins we have a Batman movie, in The Dark Knight we have a character piece about the Joker, and in The Dark Knight Rises we see Gotham take the spotlight. Batman doesn’t feel needed in this installment, but he is welcome nonetheless.

Second Opinion by Evan Tognotti

I left my screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” with one pervasive thought in my head: why on earth would anyone call this a Batman movie? Sure, the titular vigilante does appear in the film, but only for around 35 minutes. For the other bloated 2 hours and 10 minutes, we’re treated to a cavalcade of supporting characters, all of whom are sterile and uninteresting. Well, all but one. Anne Hathaway’s performance as Selina Kyle brings a much needed energy to the film, though in the end, it’s not enough.

Not by a long shot. “Rises” is so portentous and epic that it falls over on itself, losing all sense of what made the previous film enjoyable. The script, penned by director Nolan and his brother, is almost laughably stilted. Bit characters are introduced and then thrown to the side-lines, while few words are spoken that don’t serve to move the plot forward or deliver expository speeches. Bane makes for a wholly unsatisfying villain, even excluding his ridiculous voice, which is poorly mixed and more funny than threatening. The scenes in which Christian Bale’s terrible Batman growl clashes with Bane’s British purr are impossible to take seriously.

All this would be somewhat forgiveable if the movie was entertaining, but it’s really not. The final action sequence is well-shot, but steeped in a telegraphed twist that merely infuriated me. All that comes before is a test of patience; ham-fisted financial crisis allegories run through a filter of tedium. At times, Nolan seems so bent on giving the spotlight to his poorly-developed side characters, social commentary, and faux-profound dialogue that one must wonder if his ego has gotten to him, or if he never wanted to make a Batman movie in the first place.

2 Star Rating