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I would like to preface that while I feel for those that underwent the tragedy in Colorado last Friday, this is about the movie itself. I’m not going to allow myself to be pulled into the politics that are surrounding a senseless tragedy. I am also going to do my best to keep this review spoiler free. I might unintentionally reveal a minor plot point. If this is an issue, please stop reading now and come back after you have seen the movie.
I don’t want to write too much about the plot. This is where I could get into spoilers without thinking about it. I will say that in the beginning of the film you discover that Batman has been out of action for eight years. The events of The Dark Knight created a world where they no longer thought Batman was needed. It also was an environment where Batman became a villain. Obviously since you are going to the theater you know that Bruce Wayne is going to have to put on the cowl one more time.
The script is original, but I feel it is influenced by three major batman storylines. The first storyline is Knightfall:
Image from Wikipedia
You couldn’t get into any major storyline about Bane without it be compared to Knightfall. To huge Batman geeks, every punch between the two in cinema it is compared to this book. In Knightfall Bane breaks Batman’s back. This causes Batman to become paralyzed and unable to continue. As part of this line Bruce examines the need for a Batman. He chooses a successor who does not work out. He then recovers through magical means and regains his cowl.
While we could nitpick how closely certain segments of this book match the movie. It doesn’t. Yes there are similar plot points, but this is not a movie rendition of Knightfall.
The next storyline it seems to pull from is No Man’s Land:
Image from Wikipedia
In No Man’s Land, Gotham City is half destroyed by an earthquake and cut off from the rest of the United States. Batman and his allies must restore peace to the city as it has become overrun by criminals and mob mentality. Stuck in the middle are the innocent citizens that are just trying to survive. There are no Earthquakes in The Dark Knight Rises, but for a while Gotham does get isolated. This isolation echoed No Man’s Land to me.
The last book I feel had some contribution was Frank Miller’s classical work, The Dark Knight Returns:
Image from Wikipedia
If you squint your eyes while standing on your head, then you proceeded to hit yourself with a hammer – you would then notice that The Dark Knight Rises is exactly like The Dark Knight Returns. In other words, it has nothing to do with one another. It does have some shots within the movie that feel like they were taken out of The Dark Knight Returns. They just lifted a frame from the book and storyboarded it into the movie.
To finish on the plot, if you like any of the three story-lines I mentioned or are a Batman fan – you will love this movie. Don’t go in expecting any of these stories to play out on the big screen, just look at them as influences to what you do see.
Image from DC Movies
The movie has a huge cast. You run across people you recognize from other properties and they are only in one or two scenes. There are huge scenes of just masses of people. Most scenes are large and feel spacious. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any scenes where the characters looked cramped. Everything in this movie screams large.
The script is so large it takes you down rabbit holes that don’t mean anything to the main plot. It allows you explore minor characters in a way that would not otherwise have done in most movies. While rabbit holes in most movies just annoy me, the ones in The Dark Knight Rises were enjoyable and I was happy to take the journey.
Image from Wikipedia
This movie has a massive cast, but only a few major players. There are scenes of secondary characters that are important to the overall movie, unfortunately I don’t have the time to go over each of their roles. I will say that no acting in this movie seemed weak. It was all important.
Christian Bale: As a fan of Bale, I’m a bit biased. There are few movies that I dislike with him. I fell in love with his screen presence in American Pyscho. I have followed his career ever since.
He is the Batman from the previous two movies, so if you liked those you know what to expect. Some people have issue with it. I think it falls into realistic. With this movie he has finally replaced Michael Keaton as my Batman of choice (I’m very very sorry Micheal, I will wash your car if you ever need it).
Tom Hardy: Hardy was phenomenal as Bane. For the first half of the movie it wasn’t believable to me and what I know about Bane. By the end of the film as everything was pieced together of how he got to where he is – it was fantastic. It makes sense within the scope of the movie and the feel that this movie series has always had.
Anne Hathaway: For Catwoman I’m old school. I bounce between Eartha Kitt and Julie Newmar when I visualize Catwoman. My wife has always loved Michelle Pfeiffer’s representation of the character. Anne however has played the truest to comic version of the character ever.
I originally disliked the idea of Hathaway playing Catwoman. How was the princess from The Princess Diaries going to do the character justice. I was wrong. I think she deserves as much credit for her role as Heath Ledger received for his as The Joker.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Joseph plays a character not from the comic books, but ingrains himself in the Batman mythos. As he get’s older I respect his acting more. I expect great things from him in the long run of his career.
Michael Caine: Caine is a great Alfred as always. The character just feels right. If anything the Alfred character is the closest to the real comics with no deviation.
Gary Oldman: Oldman is another favorite of mine. The first movie that grabbed my eye showcasing his ability was Immortal Beloved. Whether he is composing music, sucking blood, or looking for his stones – Oldman always brings a distinct personality on every character he does.
Morgan Freeman: Freeman was Freeman. He is god. Moving on.
Marion Cotillard: Marion played Bruce Wayne’s love interest in this movie. We know Batman always needs a love interest. In this movie we have two of them. She was great as an actress, but I can say I wanted more from the character. It was almost as if Bruce jumped into bed too easily. I’m thinking we may see their relationship play out more if there is an extended cut released later.
Gotham City: Gotham felt fantastic. The city felt real and breathing. That the citizens were just part of the blood stream of this enormous beast. From the aerial shots Gotham is based on New York City. I’ve always been in the school that it was more Chicago. Regardless from the wide shots to the open streets, Gotham felt like a real place.
While these actors are the main stars, they did manage with cameos to squeeze in at least six villains into a single film. Batman does not fight each villain. Some of them are only there for set direction. It was still fantastic that fit them in without feeling gimmicky.
From the music to the film color tones the film was the dark. This in sharp contrast to the bright tones of the Avengers and most of the Marvel movies. This works especially by making the Marvel movies seem like living cartoons. This in turn makes The Dark Knight Rises seem realistic and plausible.
Ever since Tim Burton directed the 1989, most of the franchise has gone dark (we will ignore Batman and Robin’s neon). Nolan has managed to make this series the darkest made. I am curious on how someone can top this in the future. I guess only time will tell.
My first review was on twitter immediately after the movie ended:
Storyline, size, and overall all cinema – batman made the avengers look like the teletubbies
I stand by that assessment. The Avengers was geek porn. It was bright and fun, but had a simplistic plot. It had obvious CGI eye-candy for the sole purpose of making you eat more popcorn. You loved it. In the end though it was unsatisfying. The Marvel movie characters are shallow. You don’t dig into them. Iron Man is a recovering alcoholic in the comics. The only shot of this being a problem in any of the films is the birthday party scene. In the end that scene falls flat.
None of the Marvel movies dig deep into the characters. To be fair they don’t need to. Movie-goers will whip out their money for the chance of seeing geek porn and action porn on-screen in an environment that you aren’t showing an eight year old anything really dirty. It lacks emotion and a disconnection. With the Marvel movies you are watching humanized gods. They might be gods with some imperfections, but gods all the same.
Batman is not a god. In Nolan’s Batman franchise he is a guy with motivation to get things done. He conquers his ghosts and fears and moves on. Yes he has tons of money to throw at problems, but he uses a fair amount of brute force to getting things done. Batman seems plausible. Bruce Wayne feels real and tortured. I wish they could have given that depth to Tony Stark in Ironman.
Overall cinematically, Nolan not only made a blockbuster, he made a film that should work over time. Most blockbusters have an overuse of CGI. I know there is CGI in the film, but none of it stands out. It all looks like pre-CGI special effects (the motorcycle being an exception). It all felt realistic. If he didn’t use miniatures for this film, all other directors take note. This is way to use CGI perfectly within your film
You have emotions for the character that echo the triumph you get from Rocky. You feel for Bruce from his ghosts haunting him all the way up through his triumphs. It is the little things that pull you in and as he states in the movie – It could be anyone in the suit. The Batman symbol matters to Gotham, but the movie shows you the man beneath the mask of a god.
The most important thing this movie taught me was that canon doesn’t matter. This whole film series took a sharp right from canon. It used to annoy me. What I realized is Batman isn’t a historical character as much as legend. With historical characters accuracy matters. With legends, the story may change – but in the heart it is still the same.
In the end this is a film in every sense of the way. It has depth and it has art. It makes you feel. You won’t regret watching it.