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The Dark Knight Rises IMAX (2012)

July 20, 2012

 

written by: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan & David S. Goyer

produced by: Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas & Charles Roven

directed by: Christopher Nolan

rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language)

runtime: 165 min.

U.S. release date: July 20, 2012

 

With “The Dark Knight Rises”, Christopher Nolan completes what will go down as one of the most impressive and remarkable comic book superhero trilogies in cinematic history. As co-writer, co-producer, and director, Nolan has deconstructed and revitalized the iconic Caped Crusader for the big-screen, immersing him in a real-world setting with respect for the source material. His epic and ambitious final Batman film has outstanding strengths and slight weaknesses (as it veers into social commentary) in his epic and ambitious final Batman film. But most of all, “Rises” successfully expands on and concludes the already compelling characters and narrative which started in 2005’s “Batman Begins” and continued with 2008’s “The Dark Knight”, while injected the sequel with new faces and surprising twists. It’s a bittersweet but fitting farewell to a creative and immensely satisfying take on a complex hero who will undoubtedly be rebooted in the near future. We’ll always have Nolan though.

In the eight years since the death of Harvey Dent, Gotham has lived under a period of peace, with the championed District Attorney having inspired the mayor (Nestor Carbonell) to enact a strict law that has filled Blackgate prison with the criminals that once ran rampant. An annual Harvey Dent Day is held to commemorate the good everyone thinks their “White Knight” had accomplished. Commisioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) knows better and is wracked with the burden of the truth of Dent’s actions. He is now seen by his peers as a relic from a time of war. The criminal element may not be as prevalent in this Gotham, but they’re still there, either wearing tailored suits with their immaculate portfolios or lurking in the shadows.

 

 

Hidden away in his mansion is a bearded Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), who hasn’t made any public appearances in years.  The billionaire playboy would usually be found about town, now he resembles a Howard Hughes-type whose fortune has dwindled due to mismanagement and neglect. Wayne wobbles around with a cane now that his joints are bone on bone, still taken care of by Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) the heavy-hearted loyal butler who encourages the wounded (both physically and emotionally) Wayne to get out and make some step forward toward a life beyond his past.

This also means his alter-ego, Batman, has not been seen either. Most of Gotham is fine with that, since the Dark Knight is considered a murderer, but there are others such as curious and idealistic beat cop, John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who think otherwise. When beautiful thief Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) manages to steal a valued item (and then some) from within Wayne Manor, while Bruce is there, his detective skills are reawakened and his investigation of this mysterious cat burglar leads him to once again don his symbolic cape and cowl.

All that occurs a good 40 minutes into the film. This shouldn’t surprise fans of Nolan’s Bat-films, since from “Begins” he has always been more concerned with the journey of the man behind the cowl over any heroic feats (something that was recently duplicated in “The Amazing Spider-Man” reboot). Some may even feel like this “Dark Knight” film hardly has any Batman in it, but they forget who and what the real Batman really is. In no way was I not absorbed during this first act, after all I had seen these characters go through in the previous two films, there’s no way I wasn’t fully invested.

 

 

Following Selina’s trail leads Bruce to a terrorist named Bane (Tom Hardy), a soulless madman whose hulking strength is matched by his indomitable drive to topple Gotham. Having taken himself out of the game for so long, Bruce is unaware of who this mysterious presence is, but Alfred  knows the truth (maybe too many truths). He sees Bane’s intense spirit, his fierce will and knows that Bruce is in no condition to deal with such a threat. Out of concern for the man he loves, he leaves with a broken heart.

Not only is Bruce alone now, he is also financially sapped, thanks to the dubious dealings of a particular Wayne Enterprises weasel (Ben Mendelsohn, “Animal Kingdom”), who has connections to both Selina and Bane. Maybe luminous conservationist Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) can help salvage the Wayne fortune and maybe Bruce’s R&D ally, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) has a little something to help Batman return to battle.

Underestimating his opponent, Batman gets his cracked mask handed to him after confronting Bane, having been seriously outmatched and broken (again, more than just physically). Bane tosses Bruce into exile, a far away hole in the earth far away from Gotham, a prison tied to Bane’s harrowing origin. While Bruce licks his wounds and rehabilitates his resilient chi, Bane and his army of mercenaries spend months wreaking havoc on Gotham. They crash the Stock Market (literally), produce a mass exodus on Blackgate, and make a mess out of a football stadium. Bane also commandeers all of Bruce’s weapons and those nifty camouflage tumblers, and proclaims to all of Gotham the truths that were hidden over the past eight years.

 

 

Well, I’ve given you enough. At nearly three hours in length (never once did I feel it, well maybe my tailbone did) you know that the final hour or so will live up to the film’s title. Nolan and his co-writers, brother Jonathan and David S. Goyer, provide so much for us to devour here, so many supporting characters that I haven’t even mentioned – some crucial, some humorous and some superfluous, inhabited by solid actors – that flesh out this world with the realistic tone we’ve come to respect and admire.

And that right there is one of the main reasons why it’s a wasted effort to compare something like this to Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers”. I’m not even gonna go there. Oh, but people will do it, nevertheless.

The screenplay here may have spent a little too much time on set-up at the start and has its masked villain monologuing a bit, but I was most impressed by the twists that I truly did not see coming. Now that’s refreshing. Oh, I knew the whos and the whys, just not the whats and the hows. So, that was very cool.

As one would expect, “Rises” has similarities that appropriately sync it to the other films, making it a satisfying coda. There’s the spectacularly vivid and fluid cinematography by Wally Pfister and the irreplaceable Hans Zimmer supplying the film with his hypnotic, propelling score.  Once again, Nolan handles the action superbly but ups his game with a dizzying finale. But what I found most rewarding were the performances, just like in the other films. Like most of what we saw before, the performances here are fantastic. No one is simply serviceable (Katie Holmes and Maggie Gyllenhaal come to mind). The talented ensemble cast in “Rises” range from good to great, but all enjoyable to watch.

Nolan recruits three “Inception” alumni and among them Hardy has to supply the most powerful performance. Anyone who’s seen his work in “Bronson” and “Warrior” knows this guy can play physically intense and mentally on-the-edge characters. Most of Hardy’s face is covered in a breathing apparatus (think Darth Vader meets Hannibal Lecter) that forces the actor to rely on his physicality all the more. Sure, much of what he says is hard to follow (then again, so is Batman half the time), but it certainly made me pay attention even more.

The newest actor to work under Nolan is Hathaway, a casting choice that I will admit left me with reservations. I didn’t really care for how the other females in Bruce’s life were written, so I was left to wonder how such a strong and independently capable character would be handled. Well, I should’ve known better. Hathaway delivered (although I had some costume issues with her), pulling off the playfully seductive and coldly deceptive role in a confidant, assured manner. She’s probably the only suited-up actor who is giving a chance to have a little fun, which helps add a needed dose of levity.

Instead of Bale doing what he’s already done, it’s nice to see him inhabit a hero who still has his work cut out for him. After all, when our heroes have “arrived” that’s when it gets boring. Just as Bruce grows as a person, so does Bale grow with the role, bringing a real humanity to the character in and out of costume. In one of the final climactic scenes, the camera fixates on Bale as Batman and it dawned on me that it’s the first time we have the character all to ourselves and it almost feels like in that moment Bale is reflecting on his time as this iconic character. Surprisingly poignant.

 

 

The heart of this film though belongs to two ordinary heroes who never don a costume or strap themselves into a magnificent flying Bat. One of which is Oldman’s Gordon (probably my favorite Oldman role), who was also the heart in the other films and the other is Gordon-Levitt (ironic, right?) who basically turns out to be an amalgam of a young Gordon and a young Bruce Wayne. Gordon-Levitt is terrific. His character is honest and earnest without coming across as a do-gooder. He is easily likable and enjoyable to follow, injecting a vitality to those around him. In a film full of entertaining performances, Gordon-Levitt just about steals the show.

Nolan still gives everyone enough time to shine in this third time around, even veteran actors like Freeman and Caine aren’t just left standing around. In fact, Caine delivers some truly emotional scenes that genuinely got to me. Another surprise.

As I sat there watching “The Dark Knight Rises” on an expansive IMAX screen (highly recommended in 70mm) with it’s booming sound, my friend sitting next to me would occasionally giggle. Not necessarily during humorous moments, so I really wasn’t sure what was going on with him. After my second glare he apologized with a smile and said, “I just can’t help it – it’s so good!”

There ya have it. He’s right. Once I understood where he was coming from, I admitted how correct he was. It will inevitably be compared to “The Dark Knight”, which I consider a highpoint in the trilogy, but if I had to comparably rate this one, I would say it’s slightly better than “Batman Begins”. Filled with engaging, complex characters and an almost overly complex plot, “The Dark Knight Rises” is another smart blockbuster from Nolan that demands multiple viewings – and yes, it is “so good”.

 

 

 

RATING: ***1/2

 

 

 

 

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4 Comments leave one →
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