Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Starring Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway,  Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman, and Marion Cotillard

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Release Date: July 20th, 2012

A champion returns. Evil plagues a city. Who will fall, and who will rise?

Eight years after the death of Harvey Dent,  Gotham City has experienced a lull in criminal activity. The people feel safe, and The Batman has been banished to whispers and speculation. Bruce Wayne (Bale), still reeling from all his loss, cannot move on now that Gotham no longer needs the Batman. Still, there are those like Officer John Blake (Gordon-Levitt), who still believe in the Batman. But there is a dark shadow looming in Gotham's path, a shadow known only as BANE (Hardy). Bane, a terrorist known for his unusual mask, is looking to take Gotham to its' knees. Will the Batman return? Can he?

I'm honestly sad this is the finale.  I have truly enjoyed Nolan's series and will miss his sense of direction in the Batman film series. Still, he has given us a fitting finale to the trilogy. He had brought a flagging franchise back into success and turned out stellar set pieces and striking character studies with Batman, The Joker, and Ra's Al Ghul (to name a few). His name has become a titan of visual storytelling similar to directors like Hitchcock, Spielberg, and Scorsese.  Now, onto the movie...

 Let's just get it over with quickly. I've already said how good Bale and Caine are in their roles. Despite the "Growl", Bale does a  great job at juggling both Bruce Wayne and Batman. As seen in the last movie, more focus is displayed on Batman's detective and tactician skills. So props to Bale. Also, Caine has less of a supporting role this time around, but still does a commendable job as Wayne's oldest ally who wants him to save Gotham as Bruce Wayne, not Batman. Also, there's Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman as Commissioner Gordon and Lucius Fox. Both are good, commendable actors, but nothing they haven't done in the last two movies; not bad, just nothing new to add. Therefore, it's time to discuss the newest additions to the cast: Tom Hardy as BANE,  Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate, and Joesph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake. 

After a command performance of Heath Ledger's The Joker, how do you follow it up? Do you imitate and pattern it into another character? Do you run in a completely different direction? Nolan said, "Let's do it with more discipline". Bane is NOT JOKER. He's a ruthless terrorist with an agenda and a goal. Hardy makes Bane into a monster who is just as intelligent as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Hardy's Bane is nothing like Bane from Batman and Robin; this Bane is a leader of men whose goal is to destroy and terrorize Gotham City. While he isn't as charismatic as Ledger's Joker, I found myself captivated by Bane's dry sense of humor, or his cold, emotionless voice as he looms over someone. His fight scenes are tough, loud, and brutal. When Bane hits someone, YOU feel it. 

When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was Batman Returns which co-starred Michelle Pfiffer as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. While many have reviled Pfiffer's performance as too weird or not faithful to the comics, I enjoyed her performance and thought it was the best live action Catwoman (the less said about Halle Berry, the better). Still, when photos surfaced of Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, many were unsure she could be the feline thief. What do I think? Since my younger days, I have gotten into the wonderful Catwoman Series during 2002-2007 that featured the likes of Darwyn Cooke, Ed Brubaker, and Adam Hughes. The series is a crime noir that makes great use of the title character and explores more of her character outside of her relationship with The Dark Knight. (If you're interested, the latest printing of Volume 1 is titled "Trial of the Catwoman"). What does this have to do with Hathaway? It's fairly obvious that Nolan (or his brother Jonathan) had been reading the more recent Catwoman as it makes her a more competent fighter and gives her the seductive personality that really works in her scenes with Bale. I just wish they gave her the whip. Meh. It's still a good part and Hathaway did a good with it.

Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake? In the words of River Song "Sorry, spoilers".

What doesn't work (as well)? Honestly, the film is a little slow at first. Then, there's the problem of secondary characters. While I may know that the young woman Selina Kyle pals around with is Holly Robinson (sidekick to Selina Kyle and one-time Catwoman herself), others may not know of her or other comic characters in the film. This is the same problem I had with The Amazing Spider-Man, where characters show up and no one says who they are. They're tertiary characters, but that doesn't mean I have to guess who their names. 

Final Thoughts:  Despite a slow build-up, The Dark Knight Rises is a rousing action film that makes for a thrill ride adventure. While admittedly the darkest of the three "Dark Knight" films, it's still really good. 

Rating: 5 out 5. GO NOW! SEE IT NOW! 

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