The Dark Knight Rises – Review (2)


Nolan brings his Dark Knight trilogy to a close, but does the film rise to the occasion?

For well over a year now I’ve tried to accomplish an almost impossible task in this day and age, and that was to avoid any and all things related to The Dark Knight Rises. That’s right, no trailers, no TV spots, no Internet stories (all 15 billion of them), and no on-set pictures; hell, I never even looked up a simple tagline. Nothing. I don’t know how I did it, but somehow I did. All I knew was that Bane and Catwoman were in it (as if that could be avoided), but other than that I went in completely blank, unprepared in any way for what I was about to see. And what I ended up witnessing was the conclusion of one of the greatest trilogies ever created done to perfection.

Director Christopher Nolan has created a film that will blow away any and all expectations that anyone could have going in, as there’s simply no better way that he could have wrapped up this epic tale of the legend known as Batman. A saying began a while back that goes, “In Nolan we trust,” as his legions of fans have come to realize that whatever he chooses to do, he does for a reason. Even if a certain casting decision may not make sense to the fans of the comic books, or even fans of the previous films, they take a deep breath and realize that nobody knows what they’re doing better than Nolan right now – and he proves it once again with The Dark Knight Rises.

Nolan and his brother Jonathan (with a story credit also going to Batman Begins co-writer David S. Goyer, who’s helped shape the trilogy in a story capacity) have created a story that brings their tale of Bruce Wayne full circle in the best way possible. The story goes back to its roots, as Wayne must rediscover himself in this film in order to combat the evil that threatens to destroy Gotham once and for all. The structure to the story is fairly balanced, with a slower build leading into an epic climax that rivals that of The Avengers. That’s all I’ll say about the story, as there’s not much more I can talk about without spoiling even a fragment of this masterpiece. In short, this is a film is an experience, and it’s one that must be seen (especially in IMAX, if possible) in order to be fully appreciated.

One of the most vital aspects to this experience is the fantastic musical score by composer Hans Zimmer. His music for this series hasn’t been recognized by the Academy as of yet, but that will likely change, as his score adds so many epic layers to almost every scene that the movie wouldn’t be the same without it. Then again, I thought Alan Silvestri deserved to be nominated last year for Captain America: The First Avenger, and that didn’t happen, so maybe I don’t know what they’re looking for in the music category.

Major credit must also be given to the special effects team, set designers, sound department, cinematography, editing; honestly, the entire production crew deserves any and all accolades that this film will receive as they’ve all done a fantastic job creating a Gotham City that actually feels like it exists somewhere in the United States. Doing such a wonderful job at this helps make the film that much more engrossing, as everything that happens within Gotham feels that much more real.

On the acting side of things, all the major players are back, and they all bring their A-game. Christian Bale returns once again as Bruce Wayne/Batman, and as both Nolan and Bale have stated, this is the last time they’ll work on a Batman film. While it’s understandable after so many years, it’s still sad to see Bale go, as he truly is the definitive Bruce Wayne/Batman.

Also returning are: Michael Caine, as Wayne’s butler and guardian Alfred; Morgan Freeman as the always entertaining go-to man for gadgets, Lucius Fox; and Commissioner Gordon himself, Gary Oldman. These three have done their roles proud throughout this series, and each give wonderful final performances this time out, which is no surprise.

As for the new blood to the series, there are three major players that are a welcome addition to the franchise. First, there’s the film’s main villain, Bane, played by Tom Hardy. Hardy gained 30 pounds for the role and looks absolutely menacing, giving him an astonishing intimidation factor that really ups the ante physically for Batman like never before. In the previous films, there was never a moment where the audience thought Batman may not win. In the first film, Ra’s Al Ghul is a formidable foe, but he’s also one we know Batman can overcome, while in the sequel the Joker is a criminal mastermind who uses brains over brawn, as he’s someone that Batman can throw around like a rag doll. With Bane, there’s an overwhelming feeling that this is a guy who can honestly break the Batman. The voice of Bane (which is also Hardy) takes a minor amount of adjustment to get used to, though it’s never incomprehensible, and it adds a unique flair to his character as well.

The second new major role to the series is Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, played by Anne Hathaway. While her part isn’t as prominent as some may have initially thought, it actually works perfectly with how it’s handled, and much like Bale, Hathaway proves herself to be the best big-screen version of Catwoman yet. Finally, the third new major character is officer John Blake of the Gotham Police Department, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Gordon-Levitt is a great talent (as Nolan likely realized when he worked with him on Inception) and the addition of his character to this franchise is a welcome one.

There are plenty of new minor characters to go around as well, which may throw some people for a loop for the first few scenes; however, the Nolans do a good job of giving everyone a clear role and purpose, with nobody ever just being thrown to the wayside, or just being placed in the story for the hell of it. There’s a plan for everyone, even if it’s just a minor one that simply helps underline or push forward the themes of the film.

Back in 2008 there was a major uproar when The Dark Knight wasn’t nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards; however, I believe things will be different come awards season next year. And while some may think that a Best Picture nomination will be given to it simply to make up for the Dark Knight mishap, or to finally pay heed to the final chapter of a magnificent trilogy (much like what happened with The Lord of the Rings films), I don’t believe that will be the case. No, you see, The Dark Knight Rises deserves that nomination because it’s earned it. It’s the best picture of the year thus far, a brilliant conclusion to an epic trilogy, and just another reason why when it comes to creating something extraordinary, “In Nolan we trust.”

Directors: Christopher Nolan
Writer(s): Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan & David S. Goyer (story)
Notable Cast: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

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