The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Directed by Christopher Nolan
With so much talk about the newest installment of Christopher Nolan’s 21st century Batman trilogy, I think I’ll keep my review informal and just get my thoughts across. When Batman finally meets his match in Bane, a superhuman terrorist, who will save Gotham from its ultimate destruction? Does Gotham even want to be saved by the hero they labeled a murderer 8 years ago with the death of Harvey Dent? Will Batman make the ultimate sacrifice for the city he loves?
Let’s start by putting “The Dark Knight Rises” in context with its predecessor, 2008’s “The Dark Knight” (we’ll stick with the latter one, since most will agree “Batman Begins” wasn’t on the same level). Christopher Nolan (to distinguish from his brother, the remarkably under-mentioned screenwriter Jonathan Nolan) vowed not to mention the Joker in the franchise capper in order to avoid any throwaway lines that may trivialize Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance. I didn’t make the same promise. In comparison, Bane (Tom Hardy, with no disrespect to him) doesn’t hold a candle to the Joker’s menace and Ledger’s superior acting ability. Hardy does a fine job making the character his own and looking the superhuman badass he’s supposed to be, but Oscar likely won’t be looking his way. The auto-tuned sound of Bane’s voice has caught a lot of heck lately (and it does bare a certain resemblance to Sean Connery), but it’s his cadence (a sing-songy sort of speech, like Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof”) that annoyed me more. It just doesn’t fit his persona, but it does start to get creepy after a while. “The Dark Knight Rises” heightens the stakes and put far more people in the path of Bane’s terror. While the Joker tended to fight smaller groups of people at a time, Bane’s army made it possible to turn the entire city of Gotham into a group of Bane haters (does anyone else find it funny that in this election year, Bain Capital is also a villain? But while Bain Capital represents the 1%, Bane represents the 99% in this political commentary…hmm…)
I wouldn’t go as far as saying the bulk of the action is on a more exciting level than “The Dark Knight,” but I would say “The Dark Knight Rises” certainly rose to a level of intensity unmatched by its forbearers. Epicness was at a 10 when Bane and Batman took to fighting, and when Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) threw her weight around, it got even cooler. But the jury in my head is still out on whether or not Hathaway did anything to make the story better. The Oscar nominee wasn’t at the top of her game, and the emotion she attempted all came off as a bit phony. On the other hand, J. Nolan has a functional funny bone that mingles the humor of “The Avengers” with the gravity of “The Dark Knight.” It helped Hathaway fit in, to be sure. On the other hand, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (as Gotham City cop Blake) surprised me. I didn’t expect much from him, but he was able to blend in perfectly with the more veteran characters (like Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox). Michael Caine gives a supremely emotional performance as Alfred, and Oscar-nominee Gary Oldman uses his few scenes to get down and dirty as police commissioner Jim Gordon. With most of Gotham’s police crew unable to fight, Gordon has to think like a cop. Hans Zimmer (who donated his time and skills to help the victims in Aurora, who deserve your thoughts and prayers) wrote his score in such a way as to show Batman’s fall and then aid his rise. A great score can help excitement reach new heights.
Where “The Dark Knight Rises” fails to meet the standards placed before it by “The Dark Knight” is somewhere in its complexity. It seems as if the Nolan Bros. wanted to make two movies fit into one 2.5 hour finale—it tries too hard to end it on an epic note. “The Dark Knight” didn’t have that pressure, and for that it was able to make a terrific movie without worrying about introducing or concluding any plot points or characters.
Despite valiant efforts by “X-Men: First Class” and “The Avengers,” “The Dark Knight Rises” is easily the best superhero movie I’ve seen since Heath Ledger graced the screen. Unfortunately, he set the bar way too high for even a great movie to surpass.