Dark Knight Rises review

I haven’t updated what has happened to me post surgery… I’ll do that someday, as I sort things out in my head.

But for a more lighthearted post, here is a review of the much anticipated finale to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises.

I watched the movie yesterday morning at the IMAX theater in Fort Worth.  For some reason, the IMAX experience was not quite as epic as when I watched The Dark Knight, but it was still pretty cool, albeit loud and disorienting at first.  I actually got a free ticket because somebody left an unwanted one, so the people up front offered it to me.  Win.

WARNING:  There may be spoilers here.

Anyway, I thought the movie was very good and a must-see.  It may not be better than the first two, but depending on what you’re looking for, it’s better than The Avengers.  Granted, that movie is of a different type, more of a feel-good summer blockbuster while Batman is dark and grim, but I think for mature audiences, The Dark Knight Rises will resonate more.  I think it does a better job exploring the inner turmoil of Bruce Wayne, continuing the theme of the first movie, as the second movie was more about the antics of the Joker rather than about Batman.  Even eight years after he last put on his cape and cowl, Wayne is still an angry dude who has secluded himself from society, and he is at a point where he feels there is nothing to live for.  This obsession with the past–his loss of his parents and Rachel–and his almost reckless treatment of his own life, makes him a pretty tragic figure, far different than the boy scout feel of Captain America.  Nolan does a good job developing Wayne’s character to the point where the audience almost wishes, alongside Alfred, that he would put the Batman persona behind him forever and live a normal life, quite a feat when people are coming to watch Batman beat up bad guys.

Personally, I enjoyed the character of Bane and Nolan’s interpretation of him.  He wisely jettisoned the idea that Bane would use “venom” to give himself superhuman strength, as it would have probably looked ridiculous in this particular Batman universe, and instead portrayed Bane as simply a huge, skilled, , and calculating baddie.  The explanation for the mask is a little silly, since if Bane is in constant pain from getting his face mutilated, he’d probably just need to take normal painkillers, but Bane has to have some sort of mask, so… well, there’s your explanation.  The only mildly annoying thing was that sometimes it was difficult to understand what the heck he was saying with his accent + Darth Vader like mask, but you get used to it quickly.  In many ways, Bane was a more convincing enemy for Batman than the Joker was.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Ledger did a great job with the Joker in the second movie, but unlike Liam Neeson’s and Tom Hardy’s character, you never got the sense that the Joker could actually threaten Batman himself.  He could threaten other people and cause chaos, but he was no physical match for Batman.  Bane, however, was menacing because he looked fifty pounds heavier than Batman and could crush him.  In some ways, he was Batman on steroids because he received the same training but was even hardier due to the circumstances of his life.  The way he died was kind of lame, but overall, Bane was a wise choice for a villain.  To my surprise and delight, they did show the classic scene of Bane breaking Batman over his knee.

I thought Anne Hathaway did a decent job as Catwoman (well, actually just as Selina Kyle), but her character was more or less underdeveloped.  Hathaway did well to show Selina as toeing the line between the good guys and the bad guys, but I wish they showed more of her during the film.  She just kind of showed up randomly here and there, beat up people, hung out with Batman, then disappeared for a bit.  They could have worked her in the storyline more deeply as a foil to Batman, and perhaps given us an explanation as to how she has the skills that she does.  She sometimes felt more like a sideshow than anything.

The way they introduced Talia al Ghul was clever and the actress does a good job giving off a very creepy vibe (similar to how she performed in Inception), but the character was a little underwhelming as a criminal mastermind.  Despite being trained in the League of Shadows, we never see her actually fight or do much of anything.  Far, far from the intelligent yet threatening character Liam Neeson portrayed.  Speaking of Neeson, I’m glad we saw him again this film.  I’m probably in the minority here because of all the brouhaha over Ledger’s Joker, but Ra’s al Ghul is probably my favorite villain in all three movies.  He has the most epic lines and you can almost sympathize with his view that criminals cannot be tolerated in any manner, representing what Batman could become if he ever crossed that proverbial line.

Like most comic book hero/action movies, there were a few ridiculous things.  To list a some:

-I know it would be boring if fights ended quickly in action movies, but seriously, if the UFC heavyweight champion just stood there and let even a little guy like me kick and punch his face at will, that would hurt a lot.  Bane just taking Batman’s punches in the first fight and shrugging it off as if a fly hit him was just goofy.

-I’m glad the military actually cares what happens to its cities, unlike other movies (cough, Avengers), but all these movies continue to show the military and the cops as being hopelessly incompetent to the point of unbelievability.  For example, in the recent Spiderman, the Feds don’t seem to care that a giant freaking lizard is terrorizing New York City.  Yeah, that makes sense.  There’s even some doubt that there IS a giant lizard, despite a bazillion eye witnesses and things like camera phones.  *Facepalm.  Sorry, moving back on to Batman…

-Speaking of military incompetence, Special Forces guys get owned by the League of Shadows, but Selina Kyle can whoop them without breaking a sweat.  Yeah… that makes sense.  See above on the absence of any background information on Catwoman.

-The Batwing thingy was cool… and dangerous, and probably would be followed and possibly blown out of the sky by a fighter jet if someone was flying an unauthorized prototype military aircraft around a city.

-One of the silliest scenes was when the police force, after being underground for an astonishing five months, came out and charged Bane’s forces who were armed with unmodified tumblers and machine guns.  Eh?  Whose bright idea was that?  I imagine this conversation going on in the middle of it:

“Um… so our plan is to run down a street, packed together in straight lines, right at guys with machine guns and explosives and big tank-like vehicles.”

“Yeah!  RISE!”

“Are you sure this is a good idea?  I mean, don’t we have guns ourselves?”

“Have you not seen Lord of the Rings?  It’s much cooler to run at the bad guys and fight hand-to-hand than it is to use the cover of buildings and shoot from a distance.  Unless you have bows and arrows, but we only have pistols and rifles and crap.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t think it’s cool to get massacred.”

“Don’t worry.  They’ll inexplicably miss most of us as we run towards them, and then cease to use their weapons as they run back at us to fight like MEN.”

“If you say so.  Um, excuse me, I’m going to the back…”

Nolan might as well have told all the extras to equip armor, shields, and swords for that to make more sense.

-All these movies act like it is easy to place explosives all around a city and destroy things.  In the second movie, the Joker blows up a whole dang hospital and hijacks ferries with explosives.  In this one, Bane blows up a football stadium, bridges, and streets… at the same time.

-Not to sound sexist or anything, but the idea that a little girl can make a dangerous jump while hardened men can’t make the same one for years doesn’t make a lick of sense.  Zilch.  It’d only make sense if the child’s lighter weight and smaller size would give her an advantage, but that is not true for this particular jump.  Yeah, of course Bruce Wayne can’t initially make that jump.  He was only trained by crazy ninjas and spends his nights leaping from building to building.  Sigh…

-There is no explanation how Wayne got from that underground prison, located out of the country, back to Gotham, which is on lockdown.  I guess he’s just Batman and we have to accept it.  Also, I’d love to know how Batman escaped a nuclear bomb…

I’ll just stop there.  Those things above make me laugh, but we can just overlook them because it’s a movie and appreciate the conclusion of a very convincing Batman series.  I really wish we could have seen what Nolan would have done if Ledger was still alive; the interplay between someone like Bane and the Joker would have been interesting and maybe would have been an opportunity to show some irony, as the chaotic Joker ends up screwing up the League of Shadows’ best laid plans.

Lastly, I’m not a big fan of the character John Blake.  He was likable enough, but it was almost forced how Nolan tried to introduce Robin.  He didn’t name him Dick Grayson or Tim Drake to avoid fans identifying him immediately (but we kind of figured that out anyway), and he just kinds of pops out of nowhere as a young cop who somehow figured out Batman’s identity on his own.  It just wasn’t believable.  Either leave Robin out of it entirely or actually introduce Dick Grayson.  This half-attempt to give Batman a successor while also giving the fans Robin was not done very well.

Nonetheless, it was a great, entertaining movie that I would recommend.  I will say this about some of the negative movie reviews:  It is incredible how idiotic “professional” movie reviewers think it is their job to comment on religious or political messages in movies (real or perceived).  I don’t give a rip what some knucklehead reviewer thinks about politics.  The fact that many of them imagined some conservative agenda in this movie and then slammed the movie for it says a lot about their liberal insecurities.  My goodness.

One can debate which movie in the series is the best, but regardless of how you rank them, The Dark Knight Rises was a good conclusion.  It’s the best movie I’ve seen in the summer and, unlike most movies, well worth the $10+ you’ll pay at a theater.

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