Friday, November 9, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises: Movie Review

I realize this review is several months late but I only got the chance to see the movie a little while ago.  However, it was well worth the wait, and it was so good that I felt compelled to write about it.  Besides, I have Batman’s nickname as my blog handle. :-)

The Dark Knight Rises stars Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and a whole slew of actors in a long, 165-minute epic to a grand Chris Nolan trilogy.  It’s been eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, and Gotham City is in a state of peace.   At the end of TDK, Batman (Christian Bale) was an outlaw, a wanted masked vigilante who took the blame for Harvey Dent’s killings so Gotham’s citizens wouldn’t lose hope.  Now, as there was no need for Batman, he goes into hiding.  As Batman has disappeared from Gotham City, so too has Bruce Wayne, locking himself inside Wayne Manor.   Bruce Wayne is a broken man at this point, and he has aged unnaturally fast due to the overwhelming guilt he feels in supposedly causing Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes’ death. 
Under powers granted by the Dent Act, Commissioner Jim Gordon has nearly eradicated violent and organized crime. While following a lead in the abduction of a congressman from the function, Gordon's speech falls into the hands of terrorist leader Bane. Gordon is shot in the process, and he promotes patrol officer John Blake to detective, allowing Blake to report directly to him.  In addition, there’s a clever cat burglar named Selena Kyle, who is a modern-day feminist Robin Hood.  All this forces a broken, rusty old Batman to face his most physically imposing foe ever.

First of all, the title “The Dark Knight Rises” is a bit of a misnomer since Batman simply re-emerges from his reclusive hideout out of pure necessity.  For the most part, he falls… both as Bruce Wayne and as Batman.  As Batman, he struggles like hell to get back into crime-fighting shape and even more when fighting Bane; as Bruce Wayne, he struggles financially, emotionally and physically as Wayne Enterprises goes closer to bankruptcy everyday and he is a recluse in his own home convinced that he’s no longer needed as Batman.  Bane is the one who really “rises”, as he masterminds a hostile takeover of the city. What’s sadly ironic is that Bane, in many ways, ended up being a blessing in disguise for Bruce Wayne.  It meant that he was needed again as Batman, and that he once again had a purpose in life.  Bruce Wayne spent so many years honing and perfecting his skills into becoming an intimidating masked vigilante that he completely forgot how to be Bruce Wayne! Even though he had an eight year break from crime fighting, he never used the down time into anything fun or constructive.  He never partied, never continued his training, and never put more time into running his business better and it was all because his constant guilt never allowed his emotional scars to heal.  It was his self-imposed punishment for the sins he supposedly committed.  

As Bruce Wayne tries to work himself back into crime-fighting shape to fight Bane, he finds that he’s quite rusty.  This shows both in his confrontation with Catwoman and his fight against Bane.  He didn’t use any clever tactics or any fancy gadgetry -- it was more like watching a cage-fighting match, which was really disappointing.  As expected, he loses the fight badly, and is taken prisoner.  Fortunately, he re-emerges (again) to save Gotham.  Luckily, this time he gets an assist from an unlikely ally in Selena Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and an even bigger assist from detective John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).

This movie has a whole barrage of twists and turns and a flurry or details that keep you engaged…  and somewhat confused and overwhelmed at times.  You blink, and you will miss something important! Considering the hype around it and how good its predecessors were, Rises had some pretty big shoes to fill.  So the big question is….. Did it?!?!  Was it everything the movie-goers expected?!?!  Did Chris Nolan tie off the trilogy in proper fashion?!?!  Was it the biggest blockbuster of the year?!?!

Well… yes and no.

Chris Nolan did bring the series to a proper conclusion and did bring a proper feeling of closure to the Batman series.  The visual effects were also much more stunning in Rises than it was in TDK.  But it was impossible to top the villains of TDK and Batman Begins.  Tom Hardy is an imposing presence as Bane, but he has neither the charismatic and eerie quirkiness of Heath Ledger’s Joker nor the engaging complexity of Aaron Eckhart’s Two-Face.  He also lacks the cleverness of R’as Al-Ghul and the creepiness of Scarecrow.  Also, his takeover of Gotham didn’t quite make sense.  He frees Gotham’s inmates, holds the citizens captive with a nuclear bomb, and expects them to believe that the city belongs to them at that “Gotham will survive”.  Give me a break!  If some maniac terrorist were to take over your city and hold you hostage, would you believe anything he says?!?! But what’s really disappointing is his horrendous voice and his philosophical rants like “I am Gotham’s reckoning”.  It takes away from any menace he does have -- he sounds like the love-child of Sean Connery and Anthony Hopkins!  Ironically enough, his mask reminds you of Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter! :-)

On the other hand, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was simply outstanding as Detective John Blake.  He ends up being a very central character in the story, and he ends up doing a lot of the detective work that Batman usually does.  In many ways, he was the biggest hero of this movie.  It was, perhaps, an intentional foreshadowing of things to come.  Anne Hathaway was also spot-on as Catwoman.  She’s cunning and devious yet charismatic and vulnerable at the same time.  She was a much-needed female presence after the passing of Rachel Dawes’ character in TDK.  Christian Bale gets a lot less screen time in Rises, but he gets a chance to show other emotions that he didn’t in the previous prequels since Rises is more of a Bruce Wayne story.  As Batman, he is less impressive though, since he doesn’t use enough stealthy tactics in any part of the movie.  The rest of the supporting cast like Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman et al do their job well but they have a lot less to do and have a lot less screen time.

Overall, the ending in The Dark Knight Rises leaves you with a good sense of completion and closure.  Considering the circumstances, this is probably the best way to end the series.  In many ways, the legend of Batman does end, but in other ways, Batman does live on.  When I watched Batman movies and cartoons growing up, I used to envy Bruce Wayne’s life – he’s a billionaire playboy who gets to play with cool toys, jump off rooftops and kick villain ass!  But all that envy completely disappeared after Rises.  He was a shell of the man he used to be! Plus, even in the previous prequels, though he’s a billionaire, he only pretends to be a playboy to throw off people’s suspicions.  Deep down, he’s an angry, tortured soul who does a lot of pushups; the ultimate example that money alone doesn’t buy happiness.  The entire Chris Nolan trilogy is a beautiful body of work, and what makes the Batman series unique is that the series is that it is shot as a realistic drama rather than a superhero movie.  Not only can we all watch and thoroughly enjoy the trilogy, but also learn a lot from it.


  1. Yesterday when I opened your blog, I read the title twice, I associate the phrase 'Dark Knight' with your blog :P

    It is definitely a good series, you get a sense of good and bad and yes, like you said teaches you money can't buy happiness. I enjoyed reading your review. Write more often...:)

    1. haha... yeah I definitely can see how you got the blog handle and the post mixed up! :-)

      Chris Nolan is one of my favorite directors, and he definitely showed the good and the bad of Batman; he portrayed him as a person rather than a superhero. When he was driven to rid crime in Gotham, he ended up doing a lot of good and accomplished a lot; when the drive turned into obsession, it consumed him completely and all the money that he had couldn't make him happy.

      Glad you liked it Saru.... and thanks for your input! :-)

  2. The title of the post could be an allegorical trap but I hope and believe it is not. And even though I have not seen the final installment of the series -yes, I live under a stone - it was as if I knew each and everything being told, despite the rejoinder that you blink and you'll miss something. Maybe the fact that I have read way too many reviews of it, added to your excellent synopsis, has created a vague illusion in the mind. Back to your review: it is an excellent appraisal that puts many things in perspective.

    1. You're correct Umashankar, it's not an allegorical trap... but the "Rises" part in the movie title is a bit of a misnomer. Usually my movie reviews aren't this long, but since this is the last in the Chris Nolan series, I got a bit nostalgic.

      Glad you liked the review, hope to see you more often.