Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises Film Review

Special Note: this review contains some spoilers.

Inspiring, unpredictable, tragic, menacing, sacrifice, complex, solemn, profound, impactful, unprecedented, realistic, strong, …unforgettable.

This conclusion to Christopher Nolan's film trilogy gives audiences an amazing swan song for the Caped Crusader that features constant surprises, character reveals, and compelling closure all set in the tumultuous city of Gotham.

The Dark Knight Rises represents superior filmmaking that lives up to the hype. This film reaches several amazing results and memorable moments including the multi-layered ending.

Director Christopher Nolan’s (Inception, The Prestige, Memento) outstanding continuity gives every element presented some form of resolution. Nolan, who also co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Jonathan, and co-wrote the story with David S. Goyer, weaves several elements to create the aura of an epic play disguised as a superhero blockbuster.

Christian Bale returns as Bruce Wayne / Batman who encounters several new challenges including Wayne Enterprises’ finances, rival business executives, and a big bad baddie called Bane, played by Tom Hardy whose vocal delivery and darting eyes shape a uniquely masked, brawny antagonist that Batman has never experienced before.

Bale presents compelling chinks in Batman’s armor, which have been progressive and noticeable. His earnest and determination infuses potent vulnerability with steady disposition for a stalwart hero who transitions into legendary status.

Filmmakers build on the sequence when the Joker made Batman hang his head in possible failure high above Gotham in The Dark Knight and increase the challenge as Bane takes the Caped Crusader to his core.

Notice how Batman gradually connects with each character in each scene as physical ailments, technological gadgets and more profound business decisions eventually wash away to reflect the real interest in this character.

The sheer will Bale portrays to overcome the odds after such personal defeat is worth the price of admission. Bale’s performance balances patience and temperament as his intellect, physicality, and resources all mold into amazing achievements that reverberate to every character he encounters, most profoundly Bane at the climactic ending.

Hardy impresses in his physical role while his audio delivery through a covered mask requires a small learning curve (though it’s going to help different language version of the film). The punishment he unleashes represents misguided logic and revenge that eventually runs empty though filmmakers incorporate a hopeful hint of redemption at the end. Bane really culminates into the question what humans are capable of, especially after enduring hardships from fellow humans.

Initially I wanted a better character build up for Bane in the beginning, but too much detail would have ruined character reveal. Filmmakers create a nice balance, which even mirrors the Joker’s introduction in the previous installment as the audience learns in a beginning sequence that includes the character.

Returning cast members include Gary Oldman who reprises his role as an increasingly vigilante Commissioner James Gordon and Morgan Freeman who plays Lucius Fox Wayne Enterprises’s business manager. New characters include Marion Cotillard as Miranda, and Juno Temple as Holly Robinson, Catwoman’s confidante and Matthew Modine appears as Deputy Commissioner Foley.

Michael Caine also returns as Bruce’s life-long supporter and servant Alfred. Caine’s distinct voice is the perfect deliverable as his character expands and replaces Rachel in functionality as Bruce/Batman’s challenger yet steady confidante even more in this installment.

Two new characters have great characters arcs directly relating to Bruce/Batman Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake and Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle / Catwoman. Blake supports Bruce and Gordon as a “hothead” officer who mirrors their vigilance while emoting impressive integrity and a revealing background.

Hathaway plays Catwoman straight up with no auras of an alter ego or dual personality. The only duality seen here is her moral choice between good and bad while handling the physical duties incredibly well. Hathaway’s multi-layered performance impresses with her intellect, seduction, manipulation, and temperament with reducing her to a sexual object. A great female protagonist that does not need to be rescued yet still exudes independence, vulnerability, and, most importantly, malleability.

Hathaway’s heart really comes through, especially in scenes with Bruce/Batman where filmmakers create strong scenarios not about advantage, age difference, or even physical difference, but defeating evil. Both Selina and John provide valuable support to Bruce/Batman similar to Alfred’s.

Audiences get action, surprises, character reveals and encores from some characters from the past two films, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight while other characters are not mentioned at all (avoid any further spoilers by avoiding the cast list).

Nolan keeps his core crew intact including cinematographer Wally Pfister, musical score composer Hans Zimmer, and editor Lee Smith – all worked on the two previous films.

Economic, social, and political themes in the film stem from basic morality themes, which have made this series so compelling and memorable. Nolan, the cast and crew weave such real life connections into this realistic movie experience.

The ideal ending provides nice closure on many levels with a hint of predictability, which stems from constant morals embedded into the characters throughout this film series. This predictability creates hope for everyone through the Batman character.

Based in the characters created by Bob Kane, this conclusion to Nolan’s film trilogy gives audiences an amazing swan song for the Caped Crusader. An impressive legacy full supported by every character’s involvement that yields amazing results to realistically and naturally progress the plot filled with tense circumstances and challenges.

A powerful and complete film work bolstered even more by the previous two installments. I enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises as part of the Dark Knight Marathon with a friend who had not seen The Dark Knight and his son who was viewing this series for the first time. “Powerful”, was the only word I could think of to describe the movie experience he was about   The Dark Knight Rises is destined for several overall filmmaking awards including a certain Best Picture Academy Award nomination.

Gotham provides an important bridge almost like a character as Nolan’s impressive overhead setting shots make ideal eye candy for the IMAX theater showing. Modern audiences don’t usually feel pain when viewing civic destruction in modern cinema today – they feel thrills, but when multiple bridges go down at the same time audience feel the heartbeat of Gotham weakening. Gotham was always a place Alfred never wanted for Bruce who eventually endures incredible hardships to save this city and its people. The difference between perception and reality in Gotham was an especially strong theme in The Dark Knight as this final installment cements the reality of Batman both literally and figuratively.

Those beginning words in this review apply to this film, Nolan’s entire Batman trilogy, and the unfortunate shooting at the Aurora, Colorado movie theater showing this film. After all the emotions, analysis and explanations – all we have to do is ask ourselves will we honor life or seek to destroy it?

Highly recommended (****) and rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language.

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