To no one’s surprise The Dark Knight Rises was good. More than that, it was great. It wrapped up the trilogy in probably the best way possible while leaving the door open for future possibilities. So for my review (in no particular order): 23 reasons to love it, 1 reason not to.
There’s probably more if I really thought about it but 23 is no short order. Plus, there’s one thing that’ll probably grind some gears.
As always, spoilers aplenty.
There are a lot of choices Chris Nolan has made with his Batman films that make them stick out, one of the most interesting is his tendency to have the title character share the screen more than you’d think. While Batman Begins is probably the biggest exception of the three Sergent James Gordon is that character who touches Batman and just about every other character and event, an intentional third wheel that keeps all the ends tied together. It worked. We see this in Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, which REALLY worked, and we see it here with police officer John Blake played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
He was that intentional third wheel, touching just about every character, every event, carrying the plot, and connecting all the dots. I mean, one could make an argument that he plays just as big of a role as Batman. And he was great. His own story was interesting, he weaved into the plot organically, never felt forced, and Gordon-Levitt knocked it out of the park.
I look back at the three movies and aside from the obvious (the guy dressed like a bat in an awesome suit with an awesome car kicking all kinds of butt) and James Gordon helped make the first movie, Harvey Dent helped make the second one, and John Blake definitely helped to make this finale.
John Blake wasn’t Robin
So many rumors that Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character was going to end up being Robin. And as much as the fanboy in me would have kinda enjoyed seeing Nolan’s interpretation I’m glad it didn’t happen. I mean, given the story it would have been a bit (ok, more than just a bit) much for good-ol-police-officer-off-the-streets to be trained and suited up as Bat’s sidekick. Not to mention that’s kinda what Catwoman was (kinda), and proof that two at once would have been too much is probably in how great Batman and Catwoman ended up working out together as a team.
John Blake was Robin
Well, his name was “Robin” Blake.
I knew it. And so did everyone else. If he wasn’t going to put on the yellow cape John Blake, the random guy all the sudden taking up half the time in the trailers, wasn’t going to just be the random guy all the sudden taking up half the time in the trailers. In the end “Robin” Blake is left knowing Bruce’s secret, directions to the cave, and Wayne Manor. Oh, and he quit being a cop. But still wants to help Gotham. I guess were left to our own reasoning but the set up is pretty obvious, John Blake was never going to be Robin, he was going to be Batman.
Marion Cotillard was Talia Al Ghul
It probably doesn’t count that I called this considering how unbelievablly obvious it was. If the getting-pretty-big-and-was-just-featued-in-your-most-recent-film foreign actress is seen everywhere online standing on top of camo tumblers in clothes that someone from a foreign land would wear it’s a safe bet she’s not the minor Wayne board member you hope we buy into.
It was actually Talia who climbed out of the prison
It’s turning into a classic move of Nolan’s – “So your really smart and figured out one of the twists, good for you, but did you see THIS coming?!” I didn’t see Rachel dying, didn’t see Harvey Dent dying, and I didn’t see that Talia was actually the kid who climbed out of the prison pit. Excellent twist that made the reveal refreshing. I doubt anyone ever fully trusted Marion Cotillard’s character but the twist was sweet and her ending was poetic (the truck falling down the hole seemed very similar to Ra’s tram falling off the tracks).
Bane was awesome, what more can I say? He was huge, he was oddly calm, still, and reserved at times, he was scary and mysterious, and was a completely different type of villain than the Joker while still being pure evil. Tom Hardy absolutely killed it. I think the Talia revelation at the end kinda weakened him a little bit (sooo he’s not crazy smart because someone else planned it all out? He’s just kind the muscle?) but he had already been set up so well with the story and Tom Hardy’s acting that it didn’t take away from anything.
Just like the Joker, if I had ever met Bane in real life (or heck, Tom Hardy dressed up and pretending to be Bane) I would legitimately be scared out of my skull.
Bane broke Batman, specifically in the back region
The mid-movie showdown between Bane and Batman might go down as one of my favorite fight scenes ever. Seriously. Here’s a chance to use camera tricks, music, and computer graphics to have the comic book battle of the century and really pull out all the stops – a real Yoda vs. Palpatine opportunity - and instead we watch, with no music or added effects, a terrorist beat the living crap out of Batman.
And in a split second Bane picked Batman up and broke his back over his knee.
It wasn’t as epic as I had expected, or as I’d been imaging it every since I first read Knightfall, and I was honestly a little let down when watching it for the the first time, but I appreciate the rawness of it now having had time to reflect on it. This is what a Bane vs. Batman battle would have looked like, and it was epic.
Bane’s voice is still getting a lot of heat, and to be fair it was hard to understand and I’m not sure I understood everything he said but after having thought about it for awhile, I actually really appreciated it. It was so different and overbearing that it had to of been intentional, I mean these are experts, they can make it sound right if they want to. Yes, it’s unrealistic that Bane is heard so clearly with a sack over his head or in a plane in midair that just exploded but every time he spoke his voice was the loudest most commanding noise and it gave the character extra size for me, he seemed bigger and scarier than he actually was. I even thought to myself, I wonder if he’s supposed to sound this crazy loud and scary to the other characters in the movie or if this is for us? To scare and intimidate us the actual audience members.
For the audible effect it had on me in the theater I actually thought it was pretty cool.
I’ll be honest, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman made me nervous. Nervous that this big of a name usually demands more screen time and I didn’t want to get a Catwoman at the risk of losing any Batman or Bane. This of course was foolishness on my part; Chris Nolan has casted nothing but incredible actors in these films and he did it again in casting Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. She was great. Not only did she nail Catwoman but she nailed Selina Kyle. She played the master thief who can’t suppress the fun she has toying with Batman. Granted, I’m not the biggest fan of one liners and she seemed to get the most of them but in the end she killed it. And maybe, just maybe will help us forget the last interpretation.
“What last interpretation?”
Catwoman riding the Batpod
Um…I’m actually going to leave that one alone…
Yeah, Holly Robinson, the little girl prostitute living with Selina Kyle from Batman: Year One was in this movie! And not just as a quick cameo either. The addition wasn’t lost at all on me and was a layer of depth I didn’t expect (which had me wondering, was Selina Kyle a prostitute?). It wasn’t forced at all, a protective ‘hard knock life’ girl living with Selina made sense in the movie and made fans of the books smile I’m sure.
It’s not uncommon at all for villains or other character to make quick cameo’s in the comics, especially in situations where the villains are running around everywhere. And seeing the Scarecrow set up shop as the judge in the courtrooms with his suit all tattered up on that big pile of wreckage was one of the most comic book-y moments from the entire series while not being obviously comic book-y.
I think it goes without saying that the next person in charge of a Batman film has their work cut out for them coming up with vehicles that will beat the ones we’ve seen in this trilogy, and the icing on this cake was of course “The Bat.” It was the biggest stretch of all the vehicles and it breaks my geek heart a little to think that it doesn’t actually exist but it was cool anyways. I mean we get Batman flying around Gotham in a half-helicopter/half-jet Batwing, who doesn’t love that?
Should I ever become a billionaire (by using the lottery numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42) I’ll have a tough decision choosing between black or camo. Modified tumblers in camo – too freaking cool.
More of the Batpod
I don’t know what it is but every time I see that Bat-Pod do the wheel-flip thingy with the tires I turn 10 again and get all giddy. It’s too bad we didn’t see the wall-flip but the wheel-flip thingy done two or three times more than makes up for it.
I cannot recommenced seeing these movies in IMAX enough. These films were made for IMAX and missing out on the impressiveness of the format is a shame. It’s not available to everyone and the price difference is more than a buck or two so I understand it’s limitations or tangible shortcomings but the fullness of this movie is only completely seen on an IMAX screen and it was worth every penny for me.
At this point they’re isn’t too much to say about Gary Oldman’s Gordon that isn’t already known, his skill as an actor seem to be on their own planet and as a character hes the perfect string that connects the unreality of Batman and the reality of Gotham and it’s problems.
This guy might be the most underrated element to all these films that made them so great.
Ra’s Al Ghul & The League Of Shadows
Tying back to Batman Begins through Ra’s Al Ghul and the League Of Shadowns was about as perfect of way to web these movies together and end them as anyone could have constructed. And the icing on the cake is getting to see young Ra’s Al Ghul and the hints of his immortality. I wanted to see the Lazarus Pit and witness Ra’s Al Ghul using it but it’s absence from the film was probably necessary as there was a lot going on already and there were enough hints to Ra’s past to satisfy the fan in me.
And I was reminded again of how great an idea it was to use the League of Shadows in these films, with the scale and scope Chris Nolan was going for it was perfect to use an enemy that is older and bigger than Batman himself.
Anarchy/No Mans Land
The scale of this movie was incredible. An entire city on lock down for an extension of months being run by a terrorist, albeit impossible probably, was more than just an interesting interpretation from the movie makers but a sort of human experiment. Similar to the boat scene in The Dark Knight the morals and human psyche is acted out in front of us and Chris Nolan seems to never disappoint in those situations.
The scene of the police offers storming the terrorist was especially gripping. You know it’s a movie, you know Bane and his army aren’t real but it was so well done that you can’t help but get lost in the moment.
I love movie scores/soundtracks and anyone who shares that passion can attest to how great Hans Zimmer’s work has been for these films; like all good trilogy soundtracks each has it’s own uniqueness while combining themes from all three. The Dark Knight Rises especially ventured into musical choices that made it stand out both when I’m listening to in my headphones and cues I noticed during the film. On it’s own it’s stands up and as a whole it fits perfectly.
As I sat in the theater watching Batman tow the nuclear bomb off into the ocean I thought, “Yah know what, this feels right.” In this trilogy Bruce really has been a character of tragedy; his parents die, his mentor turns out to be a terrorist, his girlfriend dies, Harvey Dent the “White Knight” goes sour and dies, Alfred leaves him, he gets humiliated and broken (literally), and at the end his one-night stand ends up being a master terrorist related to his former mentor. As good as he is at playing the millionaire playboy Bruce has been chased by demons from the very start of this series.
And one of those demons has been sacrifice, which he experienced as a child, was willing to make at the end of The Dark Knight (but it ended up not being enough), and when he was the most needed in this film he stepped up again to sacrifice, righting all the wrong of his life and fulfilling his destiny.
So I was ok with him dying. He was the only one who could save Gotham and making the descision without any hesitation seemed fitting.
He’s a true hero.
Batman Didn’t Die
But he’s Batman.
And Batman is a superhero. So of course he didn’t die.
As Batman is found of doing he figured out the way no one else had thought of; he could be the hero, right all the wrongs, save Gotham, and start fresh all at the same time. Batman’s finale was set up so well that I think the audience would have been just fine with his riding off into the sunset ending, but finding out that he was still alive and had beaten all the odds was the ultimate fist pump to everyone who’s loved the character so much and was excited to see him win again. It’s hope for the character of Bruce, hope for the character of Batman as the mantle was passed on, and hope for the franchise – whatever it’s next incarnation looks like.
At the end of The Dark Knight I kept waiting for Harvey Dent to twitch or start coughing after he fell at the end, I thought, “No. They didn’t really kill him.” But they did. And it was awesome.
And here with Batman I thought, “Wow. They really killed him.” Awesome.
Then, “No! They didn’t really kill him!!” Awesome!!
It’s a classic trope that the hero miraculously lives at the end done extremely well.
Wait, maybe Batman did die
Now, this is a stretch I know but stick with me, in the final moments of the film Alfred see’s Bruce and Selina in the French cafe he alluded to earlier and it’s here where we find out Bruce is alive and well. We fist pump and the movie is over.
But…was he really there?
I mean, did Bruce really somehow survive the nuclear bomb (which we knew from earlier had a six mile radius), and if he did could he really swim to shore? Did he really shack up with Selina Kyle the thief he briefly met who robbed him and broke his rule about guns? Alfred never said the name of the cafe, so is it just pure coincidence that Bruce, Selina, and Alfred were all at the same cafe from all the cafes in France at the same time?
Am I suggesting that Alfred imagined it? Or that Chris Nolan pulled an Inception? Probably not; despite it seeming incredible unlikely that this would actually happen it seems even more unlikely that this would be the final “gotcha.”
But it’s a nice little “anything’s possible” kinda nod.
1 Reason Not To Like It: The Nitpicky Stuff
- Why was Batman so beat up at the start here, seemed fine at the end of The Dark Knight.
- You really want me to believe Batman’s broken back was healed by another man punching the vertebra back into place (was really hoping for a quick Thomas Elliot cameo by the way)?
- There’s no way the government would let a terrorist rule a city like that for months on end.
- Was the League of Shadows really going to nuke themselves? Thousands of years and they’re just going to sacrifice themselves along with Gotham?
- How did Bane get Batman to the prison all the way across the world so quickly?
- How did Batman get back to Gotham all the way across the world so quickly?
- People of Gotham: the nuke went off over the ocean, your saved. For now. Cancer is coming.
- Batman’s flaming bat-symbol; very cool, but with just hours away from a nuke exploding he spends the time setting that up?
- Alfred really just leaves?
- Bane’s mask, which keeps him alive (thought this was cool) starts breaking as Batman beats him up and Talia just plugs it all back in?
Of Nolan’s three Batman films this one seemed to be the most plagued with nitpicky things that even during the movie had my wondering. By NO MEANS did ANY of these take me away from the greatness that was this movie but you can’t escape some of the lack in logic.
And ultimately it’s a superhero comic book movie, so most logic goes out the window, which is why I lumped these nitpicky items into one category – because they’re just that, nitpicky. And anyone who can’t enjoy this movie because of the nitpicky things needs to get over the nitpicky things.
The movie was phenomenal. Hands down a fitting edition and finale to one of the finest comic book movie trilogies ever. What once was a franchise thought to be permanently dead wasn’t just resurrected but inspired the life of movies outside of itself. The scale of the movie was as epic as I had hoped for, the movie fan and comic fan in me left giddy, and like all good endings it was both satisfying and hopeful.
Please Warner Bros. keep this up.
A COMIC BOOK BLOG RATING
|Everything. Even Bane’s voice.||Minor nitpicky things|
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