Ashvegas movie review: Flawed ‘Dark Knight Rises’ exceeds expectations


Everything that rises must converge.
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

Review by The Isolated Moviegoer:

The Dark Knight Rises, indeed!  After a bumpy start, the final installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga steadily improves, building to a stunning conclusion that validates its title in numerous ways.  In the tradition of The Bourne Ultimatum and Toy Story 3, the third go-round remains fresh, bringing plentiful surprises and mining its subjects to previously unexplored depths.  Considering its series forebears and appreciation of Nolan’s non-Batman work, I went in expecting to enjoy the film.  The extent to which the final product moved me, however, was something for which I was wholly unprepared.

Don’t call her Catwoman.
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Gotham is at peace.  Crime is down thanks to the example of the late D.A. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), whose legacy endures despite being a lie.  Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) has maintained the ruse for the city’s sake, and Batman, who took the rap for Dent’s murders and death, hasn’t been seen since.  Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) lives as a recluse in his mansion, away from a Gotham that no longer needs Batman.

Naturally, peace is boring, and without chaos The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t quite know what to do with itself.  Awaiting an heir to Heath Ledger’s masterful Joker, masked mercenary Bane (Tom Hardy) emerges as an ideal disruptor.  His hulking presence is a ferocious sight and his electro-static voice emanates a terrific menace…when you can understand what he’s saying.  Too often his words are muddled, especially early on, and even when they ring clear they suggest Sean Connery playing Darth Vader.  Hardy does all he can with some unusual dramatic parameters, but a near-indecipherable villain does the film few favors.  Combine that with a few distractingly bad supporting turns, some forced contemporary issues, and an M.I.A. Batman, and we’ve got one rough beginning.

Sorry, Joe. No wall-climbing this time.
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

Amidst this mess is Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle, a jewel thief in search of a clean slate.  Hathaway imbues each scene with a cynical wit, giving The Dark Knight Rises a much-needed hook.  Equally magnetic is Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Officer Blake, a young ambitious cop whose no-nonsense dedication to the law echoes that of Batman and Gordon.  As he did in the likes of Brick and Inception, Gordon-Levitt brings a subtle professionalism to the role and further grounds the film.  Together, these new additions to the Dark Knight universe prove critical in establishing a consistent tone.  Once they get things rolling, the film never lets up.

Drawn out of retirement, Batman returns to battle his most dangerous foe to date.  In Bane, he meets his match and in turn finds himself at a personal low, powerless to aid Gotham in its most vulnerable hour.  As our hero struggles to regroup in a place intended to defeat his spirit, Bane seizes control of the city and incites something resembling an extreme version of the Occupy movement, one in which chaos overpowers reason in the absence of leadership.  Stepping aside, Bane allows anarchy to rule, and though the upper class these criminals and downtrodden rage against is a poorly-established enemy, the terror of this pseudo apocalypse is alarmingly real.  Through this sudden shift of power, the film’s darkest moments emerge and set the stage for a thrilling, well-earned reversal.

Hardy unleashing his mob on the sound mixing department.
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

Along the way, The Dark Knight Rises showcases the stellar action sequences, top-flight performances, and tight (but, let’s face it, overly scripted) dialogue that have defined this most impressive series.  Here more than ever, Bale proves an ideal Batman, striking the right balance of Bruce Wayne’s multiple personas.  Neither too showy nor too sinister, he powers the trilogy without getting in the way, which is no easy task for a lead role.

But that’s precisely what’s made Nolan’s Batman films so special.  Fully embodying the series’ core concept of Batman as everyman, this interpretation depicts violence and terror as unglamorous acts, combated by one of our own.  Batman’s work is tough, gritty business, and though his opponents are infinitely more flashy, their style is presented as cruel and despicable.  Instead, it’s the bland dependability of the caped crusader who deserves praise, and Nolan’s just-so depiction filtered through Bale’s performance absolutely nails it.  As such, this Batman is a a true cinematic hero for our time and a standard for generations to come.

Bale deserves a little R&R. Michael Caine, too.
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

By the climax of an ending, the welling of emotion for such beloved characters (and a beloved series) becomes so great that I’m tempted to give The Dark Knight Rises an A+ based on that final feeling.  The film as a whole doesn’t quite earn such high marks, but it’s awfully close.

Grade: A

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language.

The Dark Knight Rises is playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Road.

For more film reviews, visit The Isolated Moviegoer.


The Week in Film: Young boozer edition December 4, 2012 - 9:56 pm

[…] deck this week, with a smattering of quality.  The best offering by far is the good-as-advertised Dark Knight Rises.  Qualifying as “interesting” is the collaborative horror film V/H/S.  Elsewhere on […]

Grant July 26, 2012 - 1:42 pm

I enjoyed reading your review. It was difficult understanding Bane (aka Wayne Rooney) at times, and Christian Bale in his ridiculous, raspy Batman voice. Definitely worth seeing in the IMAX. Hello Googles.

Edwin Arnaudin July 26, 2012 - 1:50 pm

Thanks, Grant. Yes, the answer to “Who ate all the pies?” is 100% Bane, but I don’t mind Clint Eastwood as Batman.

Sarah July 26, 2012 - 1:19 pm

If they could have condensed the first hour and a half or so I would have been much happier with the overall film. I just got so antsy, really, during the first half, that when it finally got good I was tired already.

Edwin Arnaudin July 26, 2012 - 1:29 pm

The film’s first hour is not its finest. But for a near three hour movie, I was too engrossed to look at my watch.

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