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A Tale of Two Cities
The Dark Knight Rises(DVD)
Member Name: Jake Speed
The Dark Knight Rises(DVD)
Advantages: Satisfying and solid end to the trilogy
Disadvantages: Not as good as the first two
This is the weakest of the three Nolan Batman films but it's a solid and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy and still knocks the spots off the competition in this genre. Yes, The Avengers was great fun but The Dark Knight Rises is a better film. Nolan is not really interested in superheroes or the comics. You are not going to get The Penguin or The Riddler in a Teutonic steam age Gotham City in a Nolan film and you just have to deal with that. Some feel that Nolan suggests the source material is beneath him and his Batman films are too portentous and full of themselves but we have to remember why we ended up here. Joel Schumacher. Batman & Robin. Nipples on the Batsuit. Making Batman films for children to sell toys. We should be grateful that we have these three Nolan films and maybe the next reboot (which knowing Hollywood will be here sooner rather than later) will be more to other tastes. Nolan's touchstone is not Batman Returns. It's Michael Mann's Heat. The Batman of the comics would not disappear for eight years just because he was tagged for a murder he didn't commit but this is not the Batman of the comics. It's Nolan's Batman. I think it is a valid criticism though to point out that in a film that runs to nearly three hours you only see Batman in costume for about 25 minutes. I felt that the action here lacked a kinetic rush and that maybe Nolan had lost interest in the Bat escapades. He's far more interested in the character of Bruce Wayne than Batman action sequences. Remember when Batman is swooping through a mist shrouded Gotham at the end of the first film taking out Ra's al Ghul's goons? Or Batman riding his Batbike through the streets of Gotham in the second film? There is nothing like that here. When Batman uses his bike in this film nothing really happens and his two fights with Bane are rather flat and uninspired. It's as if Nolan can hardly be bothered to shoot a mere fistfight. He wants his IMAX camera pointed at thousands of extras and a city blowing to smithereens.
The set-pieces involving "The Bat", Batman's new helicopter type vehicle, are pretty good but the film maybe lacks a signature action sequence that you remember afterwards. I did love the Batcave scenes though. The Batsuit emerging from the water on a big abstract cube. Bruce Wayne at the keyboard of his super computer and doing some detective work. Christian Bale gives his best acting performance in the series here and seems to appreciate Nolan's emphasis on the character of Bruce Wayne rather than his spandex clad alter ego. Bruce Wayne is shattered and broken at various points in the film and seems destined to suffer. The film is about giving Bruce Wayne a resolution and ending to his arc and I think Nolan manages to do this in a clever way. If you've read comics like Knightfall and The Dark Knight Returns you'll see which bits and pieces they've cribbed from and borrowed and it will maybe lessen the surprise of a few developments but not to a tremendous degree. This is not as tightly plotted or thrilling as The Dark Knight but - after a slow start - builds to an exciting third act that seems to owe quite a lot to John Carpenter's Escape From New York. Bane isolates Gotham from the world by blowing the bridges and getting hold of a Wayne Enterprises fusion reactor that can be turned into a nuclear device. When Nolan starts to orchestrate the Gotham turned to hell mayhem with hundreds, maybe thousands, of extras at his disposal The Dark Knight Rises all begins to come together and is highly entertaining in a much more epic Die Hard with a Vengeance sort of way. The Nolan post 9/11 Occupy Wall Street subtext to the film is getting a bit tedious and heavy handed by this point but when the pyrotechnics and carnage kicks into gear it doesn't really matter.
Bane is not as effective a villain as The Joker or Ra's al Ghul and is maybe someone who would work better as the puppet master like he did in the comics (with many other villains centre stage and Bane behind it all). I did find about 30% of his muffled dialogue completely incomprehensible but his voice is creepy and many of his asides were funny. The mid-air plane rescue of Bane at the start of the film is actually the best action sequence in the film but I could have done with more like an early scene where Bane is deep in the sewers plotting his masterplan and kills two of his goons. Tom Hardy is a fairly short chap but Nolan makes him look absolutely huge and exert real menace in this scene. It is the Bane of Knightfall come to life. Nolan seems determined to shoehorn some twists into the final act and one of these unfortunately diminishes Bane. I thought Hardy did a decent job but this film could probably have done with one or two more villains. Anne Hathaway is ok as Selina Kyle (this being Christopher Nolan she is strictly Selina Kyle Cat Burglar rather than Selina Kyle Catwoman) although I feel that any number of actresses could have played this role as well as she did and Gary Oldman is not so memorable as Jim Gordon this time and gets a bit lost in the story. Oldman often looks as if he has no idea what is going on here and how he is supposed to be playing Gordon. Michael Caine is superb though as Alfred. Alfred is desperately trying to stop Bruce Wayne from becoming Batman again and just wants him to have a normal life. A happy ending. Alfred looks as if he's on the verge of tears in every scene he's in and Michael Caine, god bless him, acts his socks off.
The big surprise amongst the large, heavyweight cast is Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake, a young police officer who becomes a confident of Gordon and Wayne and a heroic figure when Gotham comes under threat. Blake represents the idealism they once had and is morally incorruptible. To say anything about the arc of his character would be to give the end away but he was a great addition and I enjoyed where they took him at the conclusion. I thought that Matthew Modine (there is a name from the past) was surprisingly excellent too as a Deputy Commissioner who is not much more than a coward at the start of the film but eventually has a chance to redeem himself. Morgan Freeman also makes a welcome return as Batman's armourer Lucius Fox. Is this film too long? Maybe but I can't say I was ever bored and I even liked Nolan doing his Papillon homage when Bruce Wayne is put in an underground prison that seems impossible to escape from and everyone is wearing rags for clothes. I've seen reviews where critics have complained that this sequence drags the film down but I can't say I had a major problem with it myself. The Dark Knight Rises has more than a few plot holes and is not exactly perfect but it is a big, bold and impressive looking film that wraps up the trilogy in a way that feels complete. Nolan fumbles the ball a dew times here but he never drops it. If you thought The Dark Knight was overrated then you will not like this film but if you loved the first two then you should be happy enough. This is the Return of the Jedi of the trilogy but then I've always liked Return of the Jedi. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight have the edge but The Dark Knight Rises is still a superior blockbuster. Batman will be rebooted again soon enough but we'll be lucky indeed if anything ever surpasses the legacy left by Nolan.
Summary: Decent end to the Dark Knight series