Friday, July 20, 2012

Movie Review: "The Dark Knight Rises" by Ben Foutch

Director: Christopher NolanWriters: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, and David S. Goyer
Stars: Christian Bale, Michael Cain, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Tom Hardy, and Mathew Modine

Rated: PG-13
Run Time: 164 min

I've been a fan of this incarnation of the Caped Crusader since Batman Begins, when Christopher Nolan resurrected him from the neon tinted, nipple-studded pile of "did this movie just happen?" shame that was Batman and Robin. This version of Batman has shown the world that a movie focusing on a man who wears a costume can be serious, intelligent and entertaining. Does The Dark Knight Rises meet the same level of quality that the previous installments set?

Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is now a shadow of the man he was after the tragic events of The Dark Knight. Living like a recluse, he is still the target of gossip in Gotham, but not for being an irresponsible playboy. His life soon becomes entwined with the thieving seductress, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), who is mysteriously linked to the feared terrorist, Bane (Tom Hardy). In order to save Gotham, Bruce must rebuild his mind and body or watch Bane burn the city to the ground.

Bane is Batman's most worthy adversary so far in this universe. He has intelligence, strength, determination, and the means to follow through with his destructive convictions. He also has the benefit of stepping into Gotham when Bruce is no longer in his prime; years of physical abuse have taken a toll on his body. This, to me, was the most entertaining, inspiring, and poetic aspect of this film. Bruce isn't a young man propelled by vision and inspiration. His return to the cowl is merely from lingering feelings of duty and responsibility. It was almost as if he was just waiting to die before this last chance at redemption and purpose walked through his door. In order to have a chance against Bane, he must rise from despair with the drive to live again.

John Blake (Joseph Gordon Levitt) was a great addition to this story. He is kind of like a young version of Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) with a dark past, and also understands why Batman is so important for Gotham. It was great to see the two of them onscreen together because you could see in Gordan's eyes, that at one point in his life, his spirit was much like Blake's. Untainted and without regret. Selina is also a welcome personality and often brings the fun tones from the first film. She is only focused on her own interests, but for some reason Bruce sees something in her that she doesn't even see in herself, no matter if she doesn't give him any reason in the world to have trust in her.

The film's biggest problem is that it is too complex for its own good. Peripheral characters that don't add anything worthwhile to the story, more often than not, just end up clogging the already bloated run time. I'm not trying to downplay Nolan's ambitions or vision, because it is still epic. However, when Batman-hungry consumers are snoring within an hour into the movie, you know you have problems. Snipping off about twenty minutes would have greatly helped the sluggish pace and would probably enhance future viewings when sitting through this behemoth might start to feel like a chore. Which is a shame, because some of the best scenes in the trilogy are present. My personal favorite was the first showdown between Bane and Batman.

While certainly convoluted and a little long-winded, this is the end of a trilogy that is equal parts satisfying and inspiring.
 I can see where some might be disappointed, but this is in no way an unworthy bookend to this trendsetting superhero epic. It is still smart, gritty, powerful, visually immersive, and weighted with emotion like the previous installments. When you decide to give this a watch, my best advice is to clear your mind and remove all expectations, letting this sit on its own. Remember, this kind of material doesn't come very often from Hollywood, and we have been blessed to let Nolan take us on this journey and comeback pretty much unscathed. The Dark Knight Rises is more Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, nowhere close to X-Men: The Last Stand.