Anthony's Film Review

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Director Christopher Nolan delivers a breathtaking finale for his outstanding Batman film trilogy...

With the success of Batman Begins in 2005 and the phenomenal critical acclaim for The Dark Knight in 2008, the question that naturally comes to mind for The Dark Knight Rises, director Christopher Nolan's third Batman movie in 2012, is whether it lives up to expectations. The answer depends on what your expectations are. If you set the bar at the level of The Dark Knight, as I imagine many people will do, The Dark Knight Rises doesn't quite reach it. If, however, the bar is set at Batman Begins, The Dark Knight Rises is maybe a tiny step below it. So while I do rank The Dark Knight Rises as the third best in the trilogy, it's still a very fine piece of work.

I say this because the film still has the following things that I consider to be the core of Nolan's Batman movies: striking realism, very thoughtful writing, and an equal mix of intense action and nail-biting suspense. Yes, philosophical and psychological depth are important elements in The Dark Knight, but Batman Begins didn't have as much and I still loved that movie. The same is true for character development, which is very deep in The Dark Knight and just plenty in Batman Begins. The point is that The Dark Knight Rises does not fall way below either of its two predecessors and is still very enjoyable as long as you let yourself go and avoid being nitpicky. Still, if you're curious, I can talk about some of the minor flaws I perceived, which were primarily related to the characters in this movie.

First off, Bruce Wayne/Batman. Actor Christian Bale still does a fine job playing this character. What's noticeable is how Batman does not appear as often throughout the movie as I might like. Part of it is that The Dark Knight Rises takes place eight years after The Dark Knight and begins with Bruce Wayne being a crippled recluse. Yes, Batman has some action scenes in the first half, but from there, there's a long hiatus because Bruce Wayne is going through a period of imprisonment, both physical and mental, that he has to overcome. It's as if the movie is less about Batman and more about Gotham City versus the villain (which I'll get to in a bit).

Also leading the cast is Anne Hathaway as a cat burglar named Selina Kyle (who is also known as Catwoman, though the movie, surprisingly enough, doesn't mention that name even once). I will admit that this character is not fully developed. Rather, she is minimally developed. There is just enough information about what kind of person she is. She is no doubt very good with stealing things, which is reflected by her lengthy criminal record. Also, her intentions are ambiguous, because it's not clear whether she fully sides with criminals, the forces of good, or both. As for Anne Hathaway's performance, I would just simply describe it as decent. Not terrible, but nothing extraordinary.

Among the supporting characters, the familiar ones are as great as ever, including Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), weapons specialist Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), and Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred (Michael Caine). One minor character, like Selina Kyle, is not as developed as one should be: Miranda Tate, whom Bruce meets at a charity ball. The character, played by Marion Cotillard, quickly develops a romance with Bruce with little prior interaction. Another supporting character is one where I briefly questioned the casting choice but ultimately let it go: Gotham City police officer Blake, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Before this film, the actor tended to look far younger than his actual age, so it was a bit surprising to see him cast as a cop in The Dark Knight Rises. But after a while, it's clear that he looks old enough, and his character does play a big role later in the movie.

Now let's get to the best character in The Dark Knight Rises: the villain named Bane, played by Tom Hardy. Although this character isn't nearly as memorable as Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight, Bane is still an intimidating presence, with a muscular physique and a face mask that amplifies his authoritative voice and gives it a somewhat creepy metallic quality. Halfway through the movie, he proves to be a real menacing terrorist when he and his mercenaries put the Gotham City police out of commission and take the entire city hostage. He is certainly a character we get to know, because glimpses of his past are revealed bit by bit.

I won't go into the plot details all that much, but at least I'll give everyone an idea of its overall structure. First off, The Dark Knight Rises runs for 2 hours and 40 minutes, but thankfully the story is so engaging that it does not seem stretched at all. The first half hour or so may seem a bit slow, with little events here and there that don't seem to connect right away. But after some time, their purpose becomes clear, and the story becomes more streamlined. From there, the situation with Gotham City becomes very grim and the suspense picks up. There is another stretch of time as various characters are carrying out their own agendas. Eventually, the film reaches a thrilling climax where the action becomes intense and the stakes are high. Afterwards, it ends in a way that nicely wraps up Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy.

And on that note, I want to thank Mr. Nolan for bringing us a vision of Batman that we'll never forget. While earlier Batman films by other directors do deserve credit, the Dark Knight trilogy is a masterpiece in filmmaking that stands above the rest, even with subtle differences that make it possible to rank Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises according to one's opinion of quality. Now that the director is done with Batman, the question now is what he'll do next. While the answer isn't clear, one thing is certain: Christopher Nolan is a masterful film director, and it is likely that his next movie will be just as fantastic as his three Dark Knight movies.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about The Dark Knight Rises, visit the Internet Movie Database.

In addition, check out my review of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.


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