The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The-Dark-Knight-Rises-Poster-01Please be aware, my talents are limited and simply put, reviewing ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ without revealing everything is beyond me. So I hereby provide this very, very important disclaimer.

If you haven’t seen ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, the film will be spoiled for you if read this review.

Now that I’ve protected myself with the official, ironclad online statute of ‘Don’t come crying to me if you ignore my warnings’, on with the review.

DARK KNIGHT RISESLike a well cooked soufflé, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ in Christopher Nolan’s dense, multi-faceted conclusion to his complex, occasionally flawed but ultimately satisfying Batman trilogy. Or is it the end? Nolan has flatly put the kibosh to any further association with the character, and this particular series, but the proof is in the pudding. As the film ends and the title card appears, accompanied by the thundering embrace of Hans Zimmer’s theme, it’s clear that he (or the Warner Bros. bean counters) refuses to close the door completely. Instead, it’s quite the opposite. Nolan has kicked the door wide open, offering up not just the further adventures of Bruce Wayne’s Batman, but both Selina Kyle’s Catwoman and John Blake’s Robin. This, I surprise myself in saying, is not a criticism. ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (from this point on I end the word count whoring and refer it the film as ‘TDKR’) has allowed itself time and space to develop these two supporting characters beyond periphery plot movers, and into the realm of individual characters capable of continuing the series. But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

Gotham City is at peace. It’s the 8thHarvey Dent day, a local holiday to commemorate the sacrifice of the White Knight of Gotham. A hobbled Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a shut in, Wayne Enterprises is in serious trouble and the burden of truth weighs heavily on Commissioner Gordon’s (Gary Oldman) shoulders. He’s conflicted. He wants to put things right, and has handily prepared a written speech revealing the true story of Harvey Dent and Batman. Unfortunately the speech falls into the hands of the dastardly Bane (Tom Hardy), a member of the League of Shadows, who has set in motion a plan to destroy Gotham City, and Batman along with it.

The Dark Knight RisesChristopher Nolan, along with his brother and screenwriting partner Jonathan, have concluded the Dark Knight trilogy with a huge, dour, thunderingly bombastic, intense, complex, exhilarating, overblown, involving and ultimately satisfying action drama. If you think that sentence is contradictory, you’re correct. I left the theatre marvelling at the film, but also looking for threads to pick at. There are a few, but unlike the previous entry in the series, ‘The Dark Knight’ which is riddled with plot holes and propped up by a stunning performance from Heath Ledger, overall, ‘TDKR’ works on all fronts. In varying degrees. Which I will discuss, henceforth.

I’ll start with the quibbles, of which there are a few, but are relatively minor. The first of which is that, despite the revelations being impressively kept under wraps prior to the films release, anyone who is familiar with the first two movies, and has a passing knowledge of the comic books, will immediately recognise every character for who they really are. Miranda Tate is so obviously Talia al Ghul that the lateness of the reveal just beggars belief. Even if you didn’t know that, in the comic books, Ras al Ghul has a daughter, it’s blatantly obvious that Miranda Tate isn’t who she says she is. The films attempts to red herring Bane as the child imprisoned is easily identifiable misdirection for these two reasons. Despite a shaved head and declarations to the contrary, the child is obviously female. And despite the full body shroud, the childs protector is so obviously the hulking Tom Hardy that we aren’t, for even a minute, fooled by Nolan’s valiant attempts to maintain this subterfuge.

Dark Knight RisesThen there is the fundamental nature of the Tate character. If there wasn’t any more to Miranda Tate than that which is portrayed for almost the entire length of the film, she would be the most superfluous, indulgent, incongruous waste of precious screen time since every single second of ‘Cosmopolis’. When Commissioner Gordon, Tate and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) are caught, tried and sentenced to death, Bane tells a goon ‘Bring her to me”. But because we aren’t provided with a scene between Bane and Tate, which would seem logical, this simply makes us all the more certain that Tate isn’t who she says she is. Miranda Tate’s role feels a little bit like trying to stuff a square peg in a round hole for most of the film, especially when we recognise that the real relationship that builds though ‘TDKR’ is between Bruce and Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), and Wayne’s rain soaked dalliance with Miranda seems forced upon the audience in an attempt to maintain the ruse. The fact that Miranda even remotely works as a character is nearly entirely down to the quality of Marion Cotillard’s performance.

Next on my hit list of ‘TDKR’ quibbles is the other obvious character revelation, John Blake. Blake’s full name is revealed at the end to be Robin John Blake. This character is so obviously Robin from the very beginning that it’s a wonder Nolan decided to play games with the characters name. So much of ‘TDKR’ is dedicated to him, (Gordon-Levitt basically carries the middle section of the film) that it may as well be called ‘Robin Begins’. Nolan utilises the same technique as he does with the Talia al Ghul reveal, except Robin’s is nearly entirely done through dialogue (as opposed to flashbacks). Information is littered throughout the film that is intended to build towards the reveal. Except we already know the score almost immediately, so we’re just watching the game unfold. For the record, I decided my strong suspicions were 100% correct when he visits Wayne and tells him he was an orphan and knew Wayne was Batman all along. Blake, however, is a far stronger character than Tate (he’s afforded five times more screen time, so this is understandable), so the gradual reveal isn’t quite as clunky. Constantly described as a “hot head”, Blake is a brave, strong willed, and resourceful character winningly portrayed by the likeable Joseph Gordon-Levitt. While I’m not desperate for a spinoff film about the Boy Wonder, if one were to eventuate I would be quite interested in how it turned out. Nolan’s dedicated a lot of ‘TDKR’s running time to establishing the character and I would be surprised if the result wasn’t a Robin film in the near future.

DARK KNIGHT RISESI have one quibble left, but it’s a minor one. Bane is a villain that surpassed my expectations. I flatly and stubbornly prepared for the worst, because from all evidence (ie. the trailers), Bane was nigh on impossible to understand, and my only knowledge of the character was from the embarrassingly awful ‘Batman and Robin’. My expectations were reserved, at best. But for nearly the entire running time of ‘TDKR’, Tom Hardy’s Bane is a terrifying, cold, brutal, cruel, vicious, remorseless and unstoppable portent of doom. His lilting, articulate brogue, only slightly obscured by the respirator permanently attached to his muzzle, is so oddly unexpected that it throws you a little off balance. Unlike the trailers, Bane’s dialogue is clearly audible, although it does sound quite dubbed over in places. I say nearly the entire running time, because the character loses a little of his imposing, intimidating power when he is undercut by the nature of the Tate revelation, which diminishes his role from intelligent, brutal master to the savage pit bull at the masters side. That Bane fails to live up to Heath Ledger’s The Joker is inevitable. Ledger’s performance was quite simply one of the best villainous performances of all time.

Despite the attention I’ve given these quibbles, ‘TDKR’ is a success. In fact, the film exemplifies the biggest success of Nolan’s trilogy as a whole, in that it provides an opposing argument to what is my biggest criticism levelled against ongoing superhero saga’s. Once the superhero’s origin is established, filmmakers find it difficult to create interesting drama for the character. Instead, they tend to overstuff each successive film with villains for origins and action scenes, and the focus of those films tends to stray from the central character. With his trilogy, Nolan has maintained the focus on Bruce Wayne, and not Batman. This is particularly true of ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘TDKR’, where the heart of the story lies with Wayne’s personal journey. Here, Wayne is a broken man. Living as a recluse, he’s hobbled, walking with the aid of a cane. The years as Batman having taken their toll on his body, he’s still mourning Rachel. His only human contact is with Alfred. Into his world comes Selina Kyle, and she is really the instigating factor in his rehabilitation and ultimate triumph. The challenge of a strong willed woman (doesn’t hurt that she’s looks great in a catsuit), is just the tonic a guys ailments require. That and a magic knee brace. Kyle draws Wayne out, back into the world, and through her actions he regains the fire in the belly, and rebuilds himself (not without hitting rock bottom first, literally) into a man fit to wear the cowl.

Dark Knight RisesIt’s a quieter, more introspective Bruce Wayne we meet in ‘TDKR’. It’s also a quieter Batman, with the BatVoice subdued from an manic bark to a quiet growl. This is my favourite portrayal of both Bruce Wayne and Batman in Nolan’s trilogy, and it is easily Christian Bale’s best performance from the three films. He seems more relaxed this time. Less intense. It’s probably relief on Bale’s part that he knows this can be his last Batman film. I never got the impression that he enjoyed portraying the Caped Crusader. But Bale brings great empathy to the role, and for the first time we feel sympathy for the character, as we learn and understand the heavy toll being Batman brings.

‘TDKR’ manages to create a surprising emotional resonance, and a great deal of this has to do with Michael Caine. He has such presence on screen, and is able to generate such warmth and goodwill that despite having very limited screen time, Alfred Pennyworth feels like a complete character, and during the lengthy section in the films second half when he goes AWOL, his presence is missed. I found that, particularly in the first two films, much of the reason I liked Bruce is because I liked Alfred. And any friend of Alfred’s is a friend of mine. That is all down to Caine’s natural likeability and screen presence, and I couldn’t help getting the warm and fuzzies at the end of ‘TDKR’. It’s a well handled moment, and the smile on Alfred’s face gave the trilogy a nice sense of closure.

The cast is universally superb, so much so that I’ve failed to even mention actors like Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Ben Mendelsohn, Matthew Modine and Cillian Murphy, who reprises the role of Dr. Jonathan Crane in an amusing cameo (much better than the cameo in ‘The Dark Knight’).

Dark Knight RisesThere are no individual stand out epic set pieces in ‘TDKR’. Not like the truck chase scene in ‘TDK’ anyway. Instead, Nolan builds a momentum that carries the long film along with perfect pacing towards a finale of sustained action and drama. It’s doesn’t feel like ‘Transformers 3’ for example, where the film trudges along in a mire of bad jokes and poorly developed characters until it can unleash the spectacle. Instead ‘TDKR’ builds, and builds, moving the characters into place and giving them each an important role to play. It’s a similar finale to ‘The Avengers’, even down to the sacrifice made by the main character. But here, after three films, I felt invested in the outcome, but with ‘The Avengers’, the sixth film in the series, I felt merely entertained by the silliness. I felt the stakes here, but not in ‘The Avengers’. The outcome doesn’t feel inevitable, because of the journey of Bruce Wayne and the seemingly unstoppable Bane. Bane’s complete and utter brutal dominance over Batman earlier in the film goes a long way to establishing doubt in the outcome.

Just like the previous entries in the series, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ has it’s flaws, but it has lived up to the standard set by ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘The Dark Knight’. The film avoids the third film curse and provides a very satisfying conclusion to one of the few great trilogies.

Three and a half pairs of Bat Nipples out of Four.

The-Dark-Knight-Rises-Rating

Droid Sig

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About Judge Droid

In between refining my procrastination skills I talk a lot of shit about movies and such.

44 responses to “The Dark Knight Rises (2012)”

  1. Jarv says :

    Huzzah!

    Bout time. Now off to read it.

    • Jarv says :

      Heady praise.

      I’d go 3 for it as I’ve got problems with the whole prison section.

      All in all, 3 of the best funnybook films. I’m curious to see if TDKR will hold up on rewatch on DVD.

      Loved the end, and gingerfats could not be more wrong.

      • Droid says :

        I’ll be honest, I walked out thinking 3. But I’ve let it settle, and my gripes have become quibbles. Writing the review, I bumped it up by a half.

      • Droid says :

        I guess I’ll have to read his review to see what he’s on about.

      • Jarv says :

        I wouldn’t bother, you’ll feel more stupid.

      • Jarv says :

        His complaints basically boil down to the following:

        1) It’s not Batman because Catwoman wouldn’t be able to knock him down
        2) It’s not batman because he wouldn’t quit over a woman
        3) Waste of Talia Al Ghul, who is apparently a great character (although where he gets this from is a fucking mystery)
        4) It’s not Batman because Alfred would never leave batman
        5) Bane is shit because the fight wasn’t enough like Rocky, and he was trained by Ras (which is apparently enraging, even though in one of the funnybooks Bane did hook up and WAS trained by Ras)
        6) Bane not having the chemicals in his body (ignoring the facemask completely) losing that fight makes Batman look like a pussy, ergo it’s not batman
        7) The gotham police are stupid
        8) It’s not realistic that the citizens would riot.
        9) Gotham doesn’t look like Old Detroit in Robocop (this one’s ridiculous even by his standards)
        10) The bomb blast was nicked from true lies (stupid this one too)
        11) It’s not catwoman, because we don’t get every single detail of her life
        12) You can’t kill Batman, therefore it’s not Batman. Again ignoring the fact that this end came straight from TDKR, which he apparently loves
        13) It feels exhausted (can’t really argue with this one, that’s purely subjective)
        14) He wanted Man-Bat (and I’m not joking) and for it to be better than Raiders.

        Basically, he’s profoundly wrong on every level. Every. Fucking. Level.

        I’ve got a cursory knowledge of the funnybooks, and I can see that a lot of his nitpicks actually come straight from them, so I haven’t a clue what he’s going on about. He’s basically a cunt.

      • Jarv says :

        If you’ve read it now, by the way. Sorry, I’ve had this ready to paste all day.

      • Droid says :

        I read it. It’s just the ranty whingings of a fanboi who didn’t get the film he wanted. I don’t really understand how a person could loathe this one but proclaim to love the first two.

      • Jarv says :

        Sorry.

        It’s not even that- he name drops Dini, but he did Batman Beyond- where bats retired and his chauffeur took the cowl.

        Can you imagine his version? Awful.

  2. ThereWolf says :

    Hopefully seeing ‘TDKR’ on Saturday.

    Then I’m allowed to read this!

  3. Jarv says :

    I suppose I should really elaborate on the Prison bit complaint.

    It didn’t work for me at all, in fact, it felt overextended. I didn’t need to see him fail multiple times, the fact I’d seen it once was more than enough. I also didn’t like the “fear” conversations. Not to mention the plot hole with his back, but I can ignore that happily.

    You’re right, though, it does instantly reveal who’s behind the villany.

    Realistically, though, this didn’t stop me enjoying the film.

    • Droid says :

      The only thing I felt was a quibble about that section of the film is the passage of time. I felt that was a bit off. But it’s such a minor quibble that it’s not really worth mentioning.

      • Jarv says :

        I honestly think it could have lost 10 minutes.

        Not worth whinging about, really.

        Having watched all 3 recently, I still go TDK, flaws and all, then TDKR, then begins but really fuck all to choose between them.

        They’ve all got pros and cons. However the women in TDKR piss all over Rachel Dawes.

      • Droid says :

        I agree. No wonder he immediately gets out of the house.

      • Jarv says :

        He didn’t plan it right, he’s a billionaire- threesome on the cards.

      • Jarv says :

        Oh and pedantry alert- it’s “nigh” not “nye”.

        Not worth changing, really, just for the future.

      • Droid says :

        HA! I sat there looking at that fucking word last night. I knew it wasn’t right, but I had a total puny brain meltdown and couldn’t think of the correct spelling.

        Anyhoo, I changed it because I’m a pedant.

      • Droid says :

        I love BB, but i think this is the more satisfying film. It’s a toss up though. And TDK has its merits. Very strong series.

  4. tombando says :

    Fine fine review. Its what Harold needed to do in his, but failed horribly, of course. Clears up a few possible problem spots and makes sense too; the other two were good, why wouldnt this be as well?

    I will check it out and see if the reputed lack of giant robots is as troubling as Harold seemed to think. I suspect such will not be the case.

  5. Echo the Bunnyman says :

    great review Droid. I suspected you would be strongly positive on this. I agree, in honesty it’s almost a toss-up depending on the day as to which is ‘better’. I imagine they will work very well as a complete sort of experience.

    As for the SPOILERS identity issues, I thought they were handled well, and I honestly like the reveals better than some half-way through thing, although I think allowing Levitt to become Knightwing a bit before the end (during the occumpation) might have made a stronger third act.

    The problem would be it would reduce the importance of Bats return.

    I liked the handling of Talia, and while I think it was obvious to comic readers, it wasn’t handled obviously or clunky in the film. Part of the fun was seeing how they were going to handle the reveal and the connections, and I think Nolan nailed it. It made the entire over-sized plot seem not so random, because of those personal connections..There’s good reason why they choose Gotham, why Bane knows so much about Batman’s hideouts, his methods, etc. Makes more sense than a loopy anarchist always being seventeen steps ahead of him.

    • Droid says :

      Cheers. I didn’t have a problem with the reveals in terms of what they were, or how they impacted the story. I simply felt that they were obvious. Miranda was never going to just be Miranda Tate: Philanthropist. The character stuck out, like she was grafted on to the films natural story. I mean, what does she actually do that effects the story? It’s Selina that draws Bruce back out into the open. She’s the instigating factor in the story. Miranda just shows up from time to time. If she wasn’t in it, the film could have played out exactly the same way. This is what I mean in terms of clunky. It’s a clunky reveal because comic knowledge or not, it’s obvious there’s more to her than just a philanthropist. Even that post-coitus scene where she’s stoking the fire, and Wayne says “You’re good at that.” and she regales him with her story of how she wasn’t always rich etc. It’s just screaming I’M UP TO SOMETHING!!!

      The biggest negative is that the reveal effects Bane’s menace. When he was seen as the brains of the operation he was terrifying, because he was highly intelligent and built like a brick shithouse. But that’s a quibble.

      You know, I didn’t have a problem with Robins story. I liked how it played out for him. I just thought, again, that it was obvious.

      • Droid says :

        The important thing here is, despite my quibbling about obvious plot details, the movie still works tremendously well. Usually that kind of thing would detract from a film, but it doesn’t have a substantial impact. It’s still a great film.

      • Echo the Bunnyman says :

        I agree to a point about Tate…I think she WOULD have been clunky if not for Cotillard, which has a presence that sort of calms the early sections, and it almost seems like thats why she’s there. The problem is that you are right–until she has a greater purpose she’s exactly the kind of stock character that Nolan typically avoids. With Levitt, he’s clearly headed for Nightwing really, from the beginning, I dont think its even hidden.

        If anything the Robin is just the extra there for the dopes in the audience, to help explain that last scene a bit. No one in Batman had the civilian name of Robin.

      • Droid says :

        Okay, so Nightwing is a different character to Robin? Excuse my ignorance, because I don’t really know the difference. I guess I’m one of the dupes.

      • Echo the Bunnyman says :

        no, nightwing is essentially robin on his own, equipped like batman. one of the robins–I dont recall which–became Nightwing. The point being that Robin is just the clue, since Robin was always the sidekick to Bats and they obviously avoided that. So it seemed to me that by naming him Robin and providing that last shot, it’s implying Nightwing. I mean, with Batman ‘dead’. he’s going to have start a new identity, and Robin was never a solo identity in the comics, and its his first name so he’s not gonna use it to fight crime.

      • Echo the Bunnyman says :

        Nightwing has apparently been lots of different characters:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nightwing

        At some point, he’s Dick Grayson once he jettisoned the Robin persona.

        But here it’s said that he’s pretty much a Kryptonian version of Batman. Superman tells Dick Grayson about the Knightwing of Krypton, and Grayson adopts the identity.

        For comic purposes, Ive always thought of him as another Batman without actually being Batman. Which is what I took away from TDKR.

      • Droid says :

        Okay, got it. Makes sense.

      • Jarv says :

        No. Batman actually handed over the cowl to Grayson and some other cunt who’s name escapes me in Knightfall, and that’s the funnybook they’ve lifted from.

    • Jarv says :

      I loved the handling of Talia. Thought is was superb, actually. Fuck Knowles.

  6. Just Pillow Talk says :

    So I’ve refrained from reading your review since of course I haven’t seen it, but I had to peek at your rating. I’m a bit relieved that it seems to be as good, or almost, as the previous two films. I just rewatched them and I quite love both still, albeit for different reasons. The first has the better story, the second has the better performance and better set pieces.

  7. AndyWatchesMovies says :

    Good ol’ Batnips.

    I felt really stupid for not recognizing that Miranda was actually Talia Al Ghul, I very nearly did a literal facepalm for not seeing it from the start. It was obvious that Blake was actually Robin but I still got chills during that revelation as well. I guess that’s just the power of these films.

    Very great write-up. I need to see this one again now that my proverbial beer goggles are off and I can soak in the film.

    • Jarv says :

      Hehehe. Well earned face palm.

      Thanks for the comment.

      I’m also looking Forward to rewatching it

    • Droid says :

      Cheers, Andy. I’m also looking forward to seeing it again. Probably even at the cinema!

      • Jarv says :

        Crikey! You never do that. It probably deserves a maximum if that’s the case.

      • Droid says :

        One reason is that I’m really interested in seeing how it holds up on second viewing. One reason is because I’d have given TDK 3.5 after seeing it at the cinema the first time. But I saw it again, and that’s when I really noticed the problems, and my rating dropped. I don’t think TDKR will be the same, but I’m curious.

      • Just Pillow Talk says :

        So Droid, you’d rank it higher than TDK but below Returns?
        I really need to find time and get my ass to the theater to see this….

      • Droid says :

        Returns or Begins?

        I’m really not sure if I’d rank it above Begins. I think I’ll have to wait until I watch it again. It’s definitely better than TDK.

        Yes, you need to sneak out for a few hours so you can see it.

    • koutchboom says :

      Yeah finally caught it on IMAX, plays even better a second time around. So crisp and good looking.

  8. ThereWolf says :

    SPOILERS!

    Superb film. Excellent review.

    The ‘obvious’ stuff is an odd one to judge in any movie. I think you’re supposed to have an idea about certain characters, it’s part of the buzz. I was on about the trailer a few weeks ago at work and I was saying based on the footage I wouldn’t be surprised if Gordon-Levitt turned out to be “a ‘Robin’ type character” and that I didn’t “trust” Cotillard purely coz of another film she was in (‘Inception’)!

    I didn’t know the ‘Talia’ character so the reveal stunned me. But you’re right, it does clunk in the scene you mention – “Bring her to me…” In the very next scene she’s back with Fox & Wayne and the klaxxons are going off in my head. From that moment, I knew she was a wrong ‘un – I just didn’t know how MUCH of a wrong ‘un. The problem is, Nolan couldn’t do ‘that’ scene (Bane & Tate) coz then the reveal is too soon – as an audience you see the hole where a scene should be but you’ve got to trust the storyteller and hope it all pays off. It does. Big time.

    The Gordon-Levitt stuff I really enjoyed, very well handled all of that. I wasn’t expecting the ‘Robin’ pay-off to be quite so on-the-nose, thought it would end ambiguously – but it was nicely played. Funny, actually, coz I had Gordon-Levitt down as a possible ‘Joker’ in a future ‘Batman’ film…

    Bane-voice… I understood almost all of it. No problem. All brought their A-game, the cast. Caine was heartbreaking!

    Is ‘TDKR’ better than ‘TDK’? I’d have to see it again.

    • koutchboom says :

      Yeah what’s funny about that Tallia thing is that I knew from the comics that Liam Neeson has a daughter not a boy and I didn’t even fucking think twice about it during the movie.

      I’ve seen it twice nice I think it’s better than TDK. Just deeper, more all around and nicer looking, one of the best looking movies I ever seen. The integration of practical effects and CGI (if any?) was pretty amazing. Also Marvel should take note of the importance of some city shots, show that they are actually in some city with more than 20 building.

      Also I’m glad only masters like Nolan know the greatness of The Collector and Blue Bloods.

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