It is times like these when I sometimes hate being a critic. When I walked out of The Dark Knight Rises I was on an high, absolutely loving the film while overlooking some major flaws. I did not find the movie “depressing” at all and left the theater feeling exhilarated and satisfied. The movie at times is just so overwhelmingly gorgeous in its full 65 Millimeter Imax sized visual splendor that you can’t help but admire grandeur of the storytelling and visual flair of the entire thing. A funny thing happened in the three days since I saw it. I actually had to sit and think about what I actually watched and not how I felt about the experience.
Don’t roll your eyes at me, this isn’t going to be another bashing like The Amazing Spider-Man. Ultimately I’m going to go with my first gut reaction and say, in the beginning of this review, that I loved this movie. However, my head deserves to be heard. There will be some minor spoilers in this review so it is fairly safe to read.
This movie does not hold up well to repeat viewings. The flaws become hard to overlook. Character motivations become big problems and there are gaping logic issues.
Ok, you still here?
Where do I start? Let’s go with the good. Director Christopher Nolan has done an amazing job of wrapping this trilogy up in a grand fashion. There are a lot of amazing, grand scale shots of Gotham City that just takes your breath away, especially if you see this in REAL Imax and not the fake one. However, I’m not a fan of Nolan’s realistic take on Gotham and all the daytime shots. It takes away from the specialness of Batman. To me, I still prefer Tim Burton’s dark, Gothic vision of Batman’s world over Nolan’s any day of the week.
The character work in this movie is mostly outstanding. Christian Bale once again does a fine job again this time out, but somehow seems to get lost in the scale of the sets and all the wide-angle shots. This time out Bruce Wayne isn’t supposed to be larger than life. He’s a man who is lost, listless and no longer has that spark of life. He gave it all up so that Gotham can be the City that he dreams it could/can be. For some reason he spends the first hour of the movie walking around with a limp until Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) saunters into his life and off with his mother’s pearls. This is enough to get him reengaged with the world.
I did not understand the whole limp thing he goes to a Doctor and they show him X-Rays that show his leg is completely healed, but the Doctor says he can’t go skiing (or some such) then the next scene he’s wearing a brace and back out fighting crime. The transition was jarring.
There isn’t much chemistry between Bale and Hathaway but the Nolan Brother (Chris and Jonathon) script does such a great job of building the story that their lack of chemistry doesn’t really matter. Usually Catwoman is portrayed as sexy, eye candy, but she comes across as more of a real woman this time and that is both good and bad. We hardly see her be a real bad ass. The police capture her a bit too easily.
Some fans may complain that Bruce would never give up and retire. But there are several stories where that’s exactly what happens namely The Dark Knight Returns, Batman Beyond and some other Elseworld Graphic Novels. So I actually had no problem with this idea. Nolan’s strength is in his ability to tell a story and this being his last Batman Movie he threw everything in there and blended elements from some of Batman’s most famous stories including Knightfall, bit of Cataclysm (although Gotham is just to darn clean) and a bit of old Bruce Wayne into a nice almost 3 hour bow.
This goes to Christopher Nolan’s biggest flaw as a big budget director. He can’t direct a decent action scene to save his life. Only time he ever did was in Inception. While I love the world he created in this series of Batman films none of them had any real stand out action moments and all three of them suffer from the fact that it seems like Nolan took on the Batman project to explore the depths of Batman’s psyche and the character of the people who live in Gotham City; which he does an amazing job at and this material certainly calls for this level of deep exploration, it is also supposed to be a COMIC BOOK movie. I love the opening shots of Bane hijacking the plane, but the staging of the action felt a bit pedestrian because Nolan wanted it to be real. I also absolutely hated seeing all the tumblers roll down the streets of Gotham in broad daylight in bright desert storms colors. It just rubbed me the wrong way.
For instance all of Batman’s gadgets are based on “real world” tech so the Batmobile instead of being the coolest car in the world, it’s just this big hunking tank. I never liked the Tumbler. Batman wears the utility belt but we never really see him use it in this movie. The Batpod was a cool looking cycle but every time it made a turn, it looked weird, fake and like it didn’t belong in this movie. Remember how exhilarating it was the first time the Batwing is shown in the Tim Burton movie? I really wanted to feel that at least once in this trilogy and I never did. We also don’t get to see Batman do any detective work in the course this epic finale. There were times when I thought I was watching a really good film, but not a real Batman movie.
This isn’t meant to be a slam on the film, because it is the characters and the story that matters. But it is called The Dark Knight Rises, so I wished there was a lot more of, you know, Batman being Batman, doing what he does – kicking ass in spectacular fashion and investigate some mystery. There was not much of that here. I also did not like Hans Zimmer’s score. The Drums sound great in the commercials, but once you realize that’s all there is to it, it becomes a bit during the course of an almost 3 hour movie.
Nolan is to be commended for thinking outside the box and going with Bane (Tom Hardy) as the villain this time out, however he was sort of bad. It annoyed me that Nolan had Bane on the one had be a normal guy, but then they would show him somehow punching holes in brick walls. He was also a ridiculous monologuer. Towards the end he was giving 5 or 10-minute dissertations I was screaming to myself “Shut up” get on with it already! His constant speechifying ruined the big initial fight moment. Bain turned out to be about as bad as I thought he would be, maybe even worse.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt was great as the mysterious rookie police officer John Blake. When everyone else in Gotham stopped believing in Batman, he was the one person who kept hope alive. The movie kept teasing us as to what his role was ultimately going to be and we find out at the very end. I’m not even that upset with what they do with the character and it leaves open the possibility of another series of movies featuring John Blake in this “alternative” world.
I avoided every spoiler, didn’t watch any of the EPK material, read Press Kits or anything so I walked into this movie as cold as possible. That non “prep” work paid off as the movie rewards its “unsuspecting” audience with an amazing 3rd act that brings it all together in a spectacular way with many twists, turns, cameos that leads to a real satisfying conclusion to this trilogy.
Final Grade B+