AEOS Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Not Avengers. Not The Hobbit. Not the first of The Hunger Games or the last of Twilight produced the most anticipated hype for movies in 2012. I still believe that The Dark Knight Rises was the most anticipated film of the year. You can even add in a Tom Hooper and Quentin Tarantino flick near Oscar movie season, and I still hold firm in casting Nolan’s ending Batman in that top spot.

And with so much hoopla surrounding a film, only the inevitable seems probable, right? In other words, it’s not really possible for a movie to fulfill the impossible expectations that we, as film viewers, critics, audience, or even your average, everyday film-goers, have placed upon the film and shoulders of one Christopher Nolan, right?

Code language aside, The Dark Knight Rises was faced with an uphill battle the moment The Dark Knight hit theaters back in 2008. With a Batman movie receiving that kind of critical acclaim and love from critics and audiences together, how could the now much-recognized director deliver on an even higher and better level? He still has all the same people in his pockets–his brother, Jonathan, as co-writer; his cast with Christian Bale and Michael Caine leading; his composer, Hans Zimmer; his executive producer, Michael Uslan–the list goes on of course. But can the same team of people create an even better film?

With the unexpected death of Heath Ledger, perhaps there were minor (or major) script changes following The Dark Knight. Regardless, following TDK‘s massive success came the decision to finish the series with a final film, thus creating another trilogy film set–and according to some (and me in that group)–the best film trilogy made yet. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

This Is Not a Summary

I met up with my film buddy, Fredo, from FilmYarn yesterday to record a podcast on the film. When he posts it, I’ll be sure to include a link here. Before recording, one idea we talked about was how oftentimes many film reviews are just pretty summaries of the film. Am I guilty of doing that? Oh yes. Multiple times, in fact. But in order to offer something I hope will be a little fresher, I’m working extra hard with this “review” in order to make it not just a film review reiterating plot points, but something a little different, and hopefully something that will boost some outside-of-the-box thoughts and discussion from you guys.

My Initial Reaction(s)

I forced myself to not write this review until I had seen the film at least twice. Often when I see a film a second time, I have a very different reaction. I’m happy to say that this was the case, even though I didn’t even allow 24 hours between my two viewings.

After I saw TDKR for the first time, I loved it. Thought it was great. But I couldn’t dispose of the nagging feeling in my head that TDK was better, superior, and overall the better film of the two. And that was frustrating, because this was the END! Never again will I get to see a new Nolan Batman film and compare. Regardless, I went back the following day and caught an afternoon viewing with a friend who had yet to see it. The result this time?

Still, I loved it. But my complaints had narrowed considerably. I liked it probably ten times better than the first viewing. Partly, because I caught quite a few more things the second time around, and was able to better relax while watching. Any movie that has a decent amount of depth and plot usually requires me to view it twice minimum in order to get out as much as possible about a film.

Comparison to Its Older Cousin, Spiderman 2

Although this may seem like an odd comparison, I felt like I kept seeing parts of Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 2 while watching. Spiderman 2, was, in fact my favorite of Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy, as well as the best-reviewed of the three. That point aside, consider the plot of Spiderman 2. In the opening scene, Peter Parker loses his job. Mary-Jane is with another guy. Peter gives up being Spiderman for a short time. The guy is picked apart and stripped down. It isn’t until he hits his lowest point that he regains speed, reclaims his title as Spiderman, fights the bad guys, and reunites with the girl.

In TDKR, in an effort to not spoil or give anything away (in this section), I’ll hold off on revealing too much. Essentially, however, the same idea takes place; any person who has viewed the trailer can piece that together. The idea is in the title–the action on Batman’s part, “rises”–implies that he must be low in order to rise. This idea moves me into the next thought I had . . . .

Metaphorical vs. Heavy-Handed

Fredo and I argued about whether TDKR treated its theme as a metaphor in a literal sense, or was it really just Christopher Nolan being heavy-handed in over-exaggerating the theme? I, for one, vote on the side of metaphorical. Picking up where I left off, Batman is in a low place, and therefore must rise. Several parts of the film adopted the idea of being low in order to rise. Various scenes were filmed underground. Bruce Wayne/Batman started off the film in a low place–weak mentally, physically, and emotionally. Even the time of day/weather played a role in literally rising.

Fredo saw this use of emphasizing the theme of rising as more like banging the audience over the head with a hammer constantly. It wasn’t just enough to have Batman rise to the occasion, to rise to the problems of Gotham and put his best foot forward; Nolan had to emphasize the idea of rising in multiple outlets and formats throughout the film. While I very much appreciated the purposefulness of it all, others, like Fredo, did not.

For those of you who saw the film, would you consider the film more metaphorical, or handled far too heavy? For those of you who have not seen it, please take this idea in mind and let me know what you think when you do see it!

It’s Such a Nolan Film

Anyone who has seen multiple Nolan films will agree that TDKR follows the same formula of his other films. Every scene, every piece of dialogue, every action, every tangible and intangible element has a purpose and point for being in its place at its time in the film. Everything is planned out. His films are literally puzzles, and each scene acts as a piece that must be placed at a specific time and place in the correct space.

The element of time, while is important for the film, doesn’t bear the necessity it does in his other films. In Memento, the time functioned in a more nonlinear structure. In Inception, time could be extended in various levels of dream stages, thus elongating itself in order for certain actions to take place. Nolan’s Batman films don’t quite restructure time like his others; however, time plays an essential role in certain actions needing to take place.

The film contained quite a few flashbacks in order to successfully tell the story. Nolan loves him some flashbacks. He makes great use of the device in The PrestigeInception, and Memento. The flashbacks tell a great story that reveals pertinent information in the film. 

Ensemble Cast from Heaven

In his review of the film, Richard Roeper called watching this cast work as “movie heaven.” Even with TDKR‘s flaws, the cast really pulled out all the stops. There wasn’t a weak force on screen. Anne Hathaway was a stand-out just for not screwing up the role. Viewers went into the film with the lowest expectations for her, and she turned around and surprised many of us, including me.

Complaints have been made regarding Tom Hardy’s Bane. I talk more about his motivations in the Closing Thoughts/Queries section, but speaking just on his performance, I’d have to say he was nothing short of excellent. Talking with that device over his face had to be pretty difficult to deal with. He was menacing and expressed himself through his eyes, and while he might not have “stolen” scenes, he certainly took center stage when he was on screen.

The scenes shared between Christian Bale and Michael Caine were some of the strongest. My one big frustration (SPOILER) was Alfred going MIA the entire second half of the film.

Full Circle . . . for the Fans

SPOILERS AHEAD! 

And now I can’t hold back from spoiling parts, because in order to appreciate the idea that TDKR fulfilled Nolan’s Batman in such a satisfying way, one has to point out those lovely gifts Nolan wrote into the film. Getting to see Liam Neeson in a few short scenes as Ra’s al Ghul was such a treat. To learn of his connection in TDKR with Miranda Tate as his daughter, his heir who desires to finish his legacy, really makes it feel like we’re watching a finished, fulfilled version of Batman Begins.

Cillian Murphy returning for a couple short scenes as a crazy version of himself (was he really being Scarecrow?) felt like Nolan just saying to the fans, “Here ya go, fans. Enjoy.” Even when the prisoners were released to run about and eventually engage in battle, I was again reminded of Batman Begins. I felt like TDKR had quite a few parts that mirrored Batman Begins.

Closing Thoughts/Queries

SPOILERS AHEAD!

  • What did you think of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robin? Do you think the idea of leaving the Batman legacy to Robin was a smart choice? I, for one, enjoyed the reveal at the end, even though there were little hints dropped throughout the film if you hadn’t already caught on that JGL fit the Robin profile exactly.
  • Did the ending feel like Inception to anyone else aside from me? Two different people afterwards asked me if that end scene was a dream. I’m not sure whether to laugh or consider the possibility! But really, I don’t believe it was a dream.
  • Can someone please fill me in on what exactly Bane’s intention was? He kills, kills, kills. He constructs these nearly flawless plans to destroy Gotham and its inhabitants. You can’t tell me he did this all for the love of a woman. While the fake-out at the end revealing Miranda Tate as the villain was a little surprising, it really makes Bane’s motivations fall apart at the seams.
  • Did anyone else wish that the Joker story would have been closed? Every villain in all three films–except the Joker–was brought up in some way. Ra’s al Ghul, Scarecrow, Two-Face/Harvey Dent, and of course the two in the film, Catwoman and Bane, all had a place.
  • So many films end with the hero sacrificing himself by destroying something bad in order to save a place. In Lord of the Rings, Frodo sacrificed himself to destroy the Ring to save Middle-Earth. In The Avengers, Iron Man sacrificed himself to destroy a missile to save New York City. In Captain America, the captain sacrificed himself. Even Jack Bauer in 24 was about to fly a plane down in order to save the world, or something like that. The Dark Knight Rises follows suite: Batman sacrifices himself to destroy a time bomb to save Gotham. Yet all the heroes live in the end. Would it have been a better ending for Batman to die?
  • We have to compare (of course), so did you dig The Dark Knight or The Dark Knight Rises more? Was either one a better film than the other? While in some aspects I consider The Dark Knight the better film, I couldn’t imagine Rises being any better than it was. It completed a trilogy. It brought the series full circle. It even had hints of humor that the previous two films lacked. It pulled out all the stops, was epic in almost every proportion possible.

I’ll really miss this series. I believe it’s the best film trilogy made yet. Although the goodbye is bittersweet, I can’t help but wonder, what is Christopher Nolan going to do next?

21 thoughts on “AEOS Review: The Dark Knight Rises

  1. I like to believe that Batman did die at the end of the film. Batman died, Bruce lived. But, as we know, Gotham will always need a Batman. A legend to look over it. And that’s where JGL’s Blake steps into things. Who I LOVED! Ok, being a bit bias here with my JGL love. But I was relieved to read rave reviews about him from a lot of other people too. Though, I thought that they didn’t need to explicitly say the whole Robin thing. It was implied enough throughout he rest of the film.

    Michael Caine was nothing short of brilliant. His scene with Christian Bale where he walks away? Where are my tissues damnit! Heart broken.

    The ending felt very Inception to me. I was half hoping it would end with Alfred’s happy face and not show anything more. Once again, letting the audience decide/interpret what happened.

    I’ve had to force myself to NOT listen to the soundtrack anymore until I see it again. I’ve been listening to it at least 3 times a day! It really flows and sounds great. Love the use of the “rise” chant throughout the film.

    Well, I’m off to see it again in another couple of hours. Can’t wait :D

    Like

    • Such a good point, and one that I thought of as well, Jaina. Batman DID die, and Bruce Wayne lived. I’m biased as well with my JGL love, but hey, at least you understand :)

      Yeah, through talking with other people, I didn’t understand why they had to go all out and tell us. There were enough hints dropped throughout the film to tell us he was the “Robin” character.

      Michael Caine really brought it again as Alfred in this film.

      I KNOW!! I was thinking the same thing. It even looked eerily similar to the cafe in France for that memorable scene shot in Inception with DiCaprio, to me. Then again, part of me is still appreciative that we got to see that Bruce Wayne lived :)

      I really love it as well! Originally, I wasn’t going to buy it, but after seeing the film twice, I decided I had to. I love the new “Rises” theme in it. Very catchy. And it’s even creepy in parts. Glad you enjoy it too!

      Hope you really enjoyed it the second time around, Jaina!

      Like

  2. I don’t think Caine’s scene at the end was a dream but I would have preferred it if it had been kept with a little more ambiguity. Maybe seeing Caine’s reaction without seeing what he is looking at, leaving it open to whether he actually got his wish or not.

    Like

    • Hey Ben! Yeah, I don’t think so either. That seems to be the common consensus, and I must say, I agree — I loved the ambiguous ending of Inception. It was pitch perfect. I was thinking the exact same thing in hoping just to see a small smile curve on Caine’s face and then credits roll! Oh well. It was nice to know Bruce Wayne lived nonetheless.

      Like

  3. You like this ten times better than the first viewing? Wow, I’m curious how I’d feel about it and the plot holes, can’t imagine those would just disappear?? :)

    I’ll come back to this once I have a chance to go through your spoiler list, but glad to see you back blogging!

    P.S. Sorry haven’t got a chance to reply your email, been crazy w/ work lately.

    Like

    • Haha! Crazy, huh? Well, for me, I relaxed a lot more the second time around. I tend to be overthinking and analyzing everything the first time around, especially when the plot has a lot going on with it. It was nice to be able connect all the dots this time around better.

      Yes, please do! And I will be sure to head over to your site as well and check out the review.

      No prob — I definitely understand! No pressure at all.

      Like

  4. While I enjoyed the film, It seemed like the weak sister in the trilogy to me. Perhaps Nolan set the bar too high with the last film, Or perhaps it was that I just did not see mush mouth Bain, as a Villain with the same sort of grandiose personality, as the Joker. Plot holes aside, I just did not see TDKR hitting the level of greatness that the last two films had.

    I was pleasantly surprised by Hathaway in her role as “Catwoman”, I thought JGL was great as well. I only wished they had sped up his story line, and had his reveal in the first act. How sweet that would have been. I also thougtht the last ten minutes really pulled the whole trilogy together, for a very solid conclusion.

    I walked out of the theater satisfied, but I was expecting to be blown away, and that just wasn’t the case.

    Like

    • Hey there, yeah, I felt like that a lot right after my first viewing. But then after the second, I enjoyed it more, and while I have a hard time calling it “better” than Batman Begins or The Dark Knight, I still consider it a strong, good film to end the trilogy.

      Same here! Both of their performances were stand-outs. JGL really did have quite the big role in the film. I actually didn’t mind the reveal at the end :)

      I would agree! Strong, great ending to conclude such a great movie series.

      I understand where you’re coming from. CNolan and crew had everything working against them with all the hype, and it was nearly impossible to not have steep expectations walking in. I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Glad you did as well! Perhaps another viewing will blow you away? ;)

      Like

  5. I too felt some comparisons to Spiderman 2. But while Nolan really did bang you over the head with the idea of “rising” I loved it! He used the idea in so many creative ways, and the soundtrack absolutely mirrored it if you listen closely. What do you do when you are not just physically, mentally, and soulfully defeated, but you realize that every single possible dream you had for the future is absolutely gone? Do you hide or do you take some big risks and “rise”? Batman is such an interesting character to me because he possesses no supernatural powers, and you get the gritty reality of that in this film in how he has to overcome physical challenges as well as mental challenges. Not to sound cheesy or sappy, but I walked out feeling really encouraged (no, I do not believe that was a dream:).

    Like

    • Yeah, I’m with you, Jenn. I love the fact that Batman needed to “rise to the occasion” (that being Gotham’s doom) as well as physically from the prison. It was a good film, and it was what it said it would be — the Dark Knight *rising*. Glad you enjoyed it so much too! :)

      Like

  6. I’m back after seeing the movie, free to read the spoilers ;)

    ***SPOILERS AHEAD***

    I too loved seeing Neeson and Murphy again :)

    I loved the idea of JGL as Robin, although I’d prefer if they left as something of a what-could-have-been instead of making a movie or series of movies with Robin at the helm. I don’t think they’d be bankable.

    The ending did remind me of Inception a bit but no, I don’t think it was a dream. I think Bruce just retired. Besides, Alfred saw him with Selina, who he knew from when she “worked” at the party but Alfred didn’t know they were romantically involved, did he?

    I’m not entirely sure what Bane’s motivations were, but what bothered me more was the way he died. I mean, that was a good scene but I thought he was going to get up after that. The worst death was Miranda’s though. SO FAKE.

    I hadn’t thought about it as I was watching the film, but yes, it would’ve been nice to see the Joker story given some closure.

    I would’ve liked seeing Batman die, but the way they handled the brilliant ending, left me satisfied.

    And, while I liked TDKR a lot, I still prefer TDK. That one is just a masterpiece.

    Like

    • Completely agree with you on TDK — it really is a masterpiece, and I think it’s the strongest of the trilogy.

      Multiple people have commented that they would have preferred more left to the imagination with both the Robin “reveal” and the ending. Call them minor infractions if you will, but it was still a very satisfying end in my opinion.

      Both Bane’s motivations and death were extremely underwhelming when revealed/happened. It was too bad that he wasn’t a more epic villain. Tisk tisk.

      Thanks for all your thoughts! I’ve enjoyed the back and forth with you! :)

      Like

  7. Yeah. I’ve enjoyed this too. Glad someone agrees with me in my love for TDK over the other two parts of the trilogy. Bane was a towering villain (although not as stunning as the Joker) but the character development faltered towards the end. I didn’t have any trouble with the Robin reveal or the ending; the ending was probably my favorite part and thought it was a fantastic way of closing the film.

    Like

  8. I like how Nolan ended TDKR, but I kinda wish he hadn’t called Blake Robin at the end. I feel like I’ve argued with too many people who thought that he was going to become Robin, not the next Batman. Maybe I’m just too nerdy about it.

    I feel like I’m in the minority in not loving TDK the most. My personal favorite of the trilogy is still Batman Begins.

    I guess every time I re-watch TDK I like it a little less. It’s hard to sort out. It is a great film, but it really does have a lot of problems. It’s hard to sort it out though.

    Like

What do you think? Leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s