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Does “The Dark Knight Rises” Suck? [SPOILERS]

November 22, 2012

Love it OR Hate it, Christopher Nolan’s final entry in his Dark Knight Trilogy left a great impact this past year. Fans & critics alike were electrified with such forceful feelings good and/or bad. In the grand scheme of things the “The Dark Knight Rises” was praised as a well deserved close to the trilogy. The endings final five minutes is some of the best dramatic build up I’ve seen in ages.

But…controversy clouds the film, fans have taken the movies whole structure into personal interest, I haven’t seen this kind of hoopla since…“Phantom Menace”? Ok, that was harsh. However, some feel that haters are over analyzing the flaws, while many feel that they’re right & everyone who liked the movie is wrong. I’ve seen the movie four times in theaters, twice in IMAX (one digital, one film), twice in regular anamorphic 2.35:1, all times I immensely loved the movie, not only for what it was, but for it staying true to the aesthetic feel and narrative message Nolan was getting across since “Batman Begins”.

Although, having recently revisited the film this Thanksgiving, I paid extra close attention, thoroughly analyzing it in just about every major aspect. I’ll admit it, the four times I saw it in theaters I mainly went in as a ‘FANBOY’. Now, I’m letting the film analyst side of me see it.

So, lets discuss “The Dark Knight Rises” and answer the big question: Does it suck?

Performances AND Characters?

“TDKR” continues in the same fashion by giving us such a top rate cast of actors in a superhero film. [Chris] Nolan knows exactly who he wants and how to utilize them. We know how Bale, Caine, Freeman, Oldman are; FANTASTIC, but lets discus the new kids on the block; Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard & Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Elephant in the room of course goes to Tom Hardy as the main(ish) villain Bane. It’s a complicated performance since more than likely 95% of his voice is done as post-production ADR. Hardy’s body language however is something of familiar territory for himself (see “Bronson”), the meat and potatoes of Bane’s presence comes from his eyes. If you have an actor portraying a villain simply telling us what kind of evil he is, through his eyes, then your certain to get some major props. The scenes I enjoyed most are when Bane has a one-on-one time with broken Bruce Wayne & his epic speeches to the people of Gotham. It really sticks it in your craw when you see a monster like Bane profess his plan of giving innocent people false hope, then subsequently giving such proud public speeches of that false hope to rile up the people. Hardy doesn’t ham it up like Ledger’s memorable Joker, but gives a more defiant one like Liam Neeson’s Ra’s, and that’s ok with me, it’s a different character, with different intent.

Anne Hathaway was a complicated choice for fanboys to accept as Selina Kyle aka. Catwoman. I was certain to believe that Nolan saw something in her that we didn’t. To this day I’m still happy to say that Anne’s performances is truly one of the best supporting roles in the film, ESPECIALLY supporting female. How she goes from a poor/helpless girl to sly/cunning jewel thief at the beginning of the film instantly convinced me that Nolan found the right woman for the job. She doesn’t go over the top, but she sneaks in a clever Catwoman-esq moment that I think many viewers found enjoyable. She wasn’t annoying, nor did she overstay her welcome in any sense of the word. Many fans, including myself felt that the character of Selina was finally done with justice.

Marion Cotillard’s Miranda Tate is without question the worst character in this film. It was so obvious that she’ll turn out to be Talia Al-Ghul (daughter of “Batman Begins” baddie Ra’s Al-Ghul), there were too many obvious use of foreshadowing on her character. Her performances, while it wasn’t terrible, it’s certainly not memorable. As a Nolan fan, all I saw in her was Moll from “Inception”, nothing more and nothing less. When she is revealed to be Talia, she doesn’t even show the slightest bit of rage and anger the character should’ve conveyed. I’m sure she was simply cast in the role because Nolan wanted to work with her again, much like reusing Hardy & JGL, but I think Cotillard was one “Inception” cast member that should’ve been left in limbo.

Lastly, we come to my boy JGL, who continues to dominate any role given to him, my favorite movie of his is still “50/50″, and how he was snubbed from an Oscar I will never know. If “TDKR”  was going to garner ANY Oscar nods for it’s performance categories, I’d like to think Joe’s supporting role as Officer Blake would earn that honorary nomination, but movies like this rarely get those kind of nominations. Yes, Ledger was nominated and won, but do you truly believe he would’ve WON if he were alive today? That’s a topic for another time. Gordon-Levitt’s performance as the cathartic Blake is the embodiment of everything that makes Bruce Wayne a good man. They share a similar past and Blake brings out the best in Bruce and his character by giving such a sincere performance. The ideal scene was when Blake confronts Wayne about his secret identity. In a lot of ways this film was a conclusion story for Bruce, but an origin tale for Blake.

“The Dark Knight Rises” has strong performances, some are not as memorable as “The Dark Knight”, but it succeeds in giving us a dream cast to enjoy on the big screen. The original cast members share terrific chemistry with the franchise newcomers, notably going to JGL & Gary Oldman.

Technical?

Cinematography, visual effects, production design, score, this movie bats it out of the park. However, people seem to have a beef with the editing, and as a freelance editor, I can see where this argument comes into play. The best thing though about this movie is it’s visual scope of using IMAX cameras in a greater use.

IMAX cinematography continues to thrive here, as it is used for 50 minutes out of the movies overall 2 and a half hour runtime. The scenes used in IMAX enhance the movies epic presence in every sense of the word, the plane heist, the motorcycle chase, even the “Warriors”-esq end battle give the feeling of a movie from another past time. A movie like this is supposed to feel epic, Nolan has stated that his style is to bring back that old time Hollywood feel, using real people, real sets, real locations, nothing looks better than having all that brought to life on a five story tall screen. The visual tone of the film maintains to follow in a similar aesthetic one as “Begins”“TDK”, but it makes a brilliant choice of giving us a neutral color palette. Earthy and organic colors, like blacks and browns set against high contrast lighting and blasts of white help succeed in the movies perceive feel of pain and dismay.

Hans Zimmer’s powerhouse score is something people seemed to complain about in theaters, it seems as if the sound mix of the music was overpowering the dialogue, and a few scenes that’s quite apparent. The chase scene with the Matthew Modine’s Foley & JGL’s Blake is a perfect example, every time I saw the movie in theaters I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. Be that as it may, Zimmer’s score continues to give each character an iconic theme and delivers emotion you feel when each character’s theme is played while they command the screen.

I’m an editor and I’ve got to side with the so called ‘haters’, there are A LOT of shots in this film that could’ve been easily cut, and some that I felt were put in the improper order. Example, the first Crane Court Room scene, when Bane asks to bring Miranda to him, next scene is Fox & Miranda finding Bruce. WHAT!?! Also, that painfully obvious villain shot, when she’s looking down at the city before her villainous reveal, the way that shot was composed looked too obvious. If the movie gets a best editing nomination like before in “The Dark Knight”, I’m likely to disagree with the Academy, hopefully they see what I see. Then again, the editing in the previous films weren’t that good, they were ok, but nothing compared to Nolan’s “Memento”.

Story?

Many superhero movies can suffer from overwhelming cast of villains; “Spider-Man 3″, “Batman & Robin” are prime examples. The Nolan-Batman films have a triple collection of classic DC villains in pivotal roles; they’re all well balanced in the scope of their presence for each film. “Begins” has Ra’s Al-Ghul, Falcone, & Scarecrow, “The Dark Knight” with Joker (posthumous Oscar winner Heath Ledger), Maroni & Harvey Two-Face, and “Rises” includes Bane, Catwoman (anti-hero really), & Talia Al-Ghul.

The biggest issue I see the ‘haters’ are having is the jumping of the shark use of an atom bomb in a Batman movie (and how he…spoiler alert: survived), Bane ending up as a glorified henchman, or even how Batman/Bruce recovers from his injury, then finally returning to Gotham. I get why people would have issues with these and at first I didn’t agree with them, but most of these points resurface in my minds eye. And while I’m sure there’s always a logical explanation for each one, a few of them consist of lazy or over-bloated writing.

I’ll defended a few things here; Bane being another henchman for one, while he was indeed working with/for Talia, Bane still conducted some masterful stunts to get this grand plan moving along the way it was intended. Talia has gained control of the League of Shadows, becoming its leader, and while the movie does show us that she is the leader, I definitely saw a balanced union between her and Bane. And if he was just another henchman, Bane is without question the most BADASS henchman in history of film, next to Darth Vader, yeah I said it, if you really look at the Star Wars films, Darth Vader was a ‘glorified henchman’.

The whole issue about Bruce’s recovery of his broken back is indeed silly. I mean c’mon, punching the vertebra back in place and having him hang from the ceiling till it heals?! That’s pretty far-fetched movie. You expect us to buy that movie? Then there are the times when Bruce climbs out of the pit with the rope tied around his waist. I’m almost certain that when someone falls with rope tied around your waist, your body will more thank likely snap in half, and you’ll DIE! Does this affect the movie as a whole? No! It’s obtuse to buy, but it’s a freakin’ Batman movie! The medical science behind Harvey Dent’s Two-Face face was preposterous without any question, and yet nobody said a word about that.

Now if there is one major thing I continue to hear people bitch and moan about, it’s how Batman returned to Gotham when no one was able to get in or out of the city. Well let’s look back, in the movie, food trucks were allowed in and out of the city, and if you’re suffering from amnesia those special force officials snuck into the city through those food trucks. I’m not saying Bruce did the same thing, but he’s Bruce fuckin’ Wayne, the man has worldwide resources to get around. If you could get around the world as a thief in “Batman Begins”, he can easily return to an imprisoned Gotham City.

The bomb, I have to confess my feelings on the bomb are mixed now. It is without question an extreme version of the same plan of Ra’s Al-Ghul’s fear gas attack on the city. Both devices will lead to total destruction, leaving the city in ruins, then having it rise again anew. But, it makes me beg the question, are Bane & Talia’s choice of using an atom bomb something Ra’s would’ve approved on? Ra’s intent of destroying Gotham was to give the city a fresh start on life, Bane/Talia’s plan seems more personal at heart, perhaps sticking it to the old man, while at the same time honoring him. After seeing “Batman Begins” again recently I don’t believe Ra’s would’ve gone as far as Bane/Talia did. In the end, emotions got in the way of their glorified message the league was trying to pass along to the world, they brought on an unexpected dichotomy into the mix, which certainly escalated the danger, more so than even the Joker could’ve ever conducted.

Of course, every bomb needs to blow, and for some people it seems that “TDKR” subtly pulled a nuking the fridge. How did Batman survive that blast? Ejecting out of the Bat thanks to the autopilot that he fixed, yes you have that to back up, but this is where the editing comes back into play, when it shows Batman looking back at the city all ready miles out of the cities limits. If he indeed inject there’s no way he could survive the blast or the heat of the radiation under water! But, naturally we have that one excuse that people love to throw out there…He’s Freaking Batman! Yes, he’s Batman, more importantly, this is a Batman movie, this isn’t “Saving Private Ryan”, and this is a fictional/fantastical world where the impossible becomes possible. It’s science fiction. That Bat plane has been crowned as ludicrous aerial design that could never in a million years work. People, in the end, it’s only a movie.

 

In the End…

It’s a movie. It’s a darn good one. It’s entertaining, it has strong performances, incredible visuals, and a story that closes everything from the previous films perfectly. Much like “Return of the Jedi”, the movie repeats certain plot elements from the first film, it doesn’t deliver the gravitas of the 2nd film, but it gives us a rightful conclusion to a trilogy that has a simple beginning, middle, and end.

In the case of the Dark Knight Trilogy, it BEGINS…FALLS…RISES. “The Dark Knight Rises” is a good movie, with questionable choices that I never would’ve imagined the masterful Christopher Nolan would’ve conceived, but overall it works for ME. It may not be my favorite of the three, but it certainly is my favorite ending to any trilogy out there; whether it’s “Back to the Future”, “Star Wars”, “Godfather”, whatever, “The Dark Knight Rises” got it’s trilogy ending right, and that I feel is the biggest feat of  them all.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. November 22, 2012 11:24 pm

    I agree with some of your points (I don’t find Marion’s performance to be weak, the weak point there was the writing of her character, in my opinion). But you should really edit your work before posting it. The grammatical errors were distracting and frankly unwarranted as your writing style is tight and compelling.

    • November 23, 2012 8:11 am

      in my defense i was really REALLY drunk when i wrote this up. lol. but the corrections you pointed out were made this morning.

      • November 23, 2012 4:41 pm

        I’m glad you went through and made the edits – you do have a great voice in your writing and simple errors can be distracting. 🙂

      • November 23, 2012 4:46 pm

        thank you. im actually surprised i wrote such a cohesive article while drunk. that right there is quite an achievement. lol

  2. Ryan S permalink
    November 23, 2012 3:15 pm

    Movie had a completely flawed story

    • November 23, 2012 3:35 pm

      it may have a flawed story, but it concludes everything about the character of bruce in a grand way. but that’s my opinion. it’s the weakest film in the series, but from a conclusional stand point it did it’s job.

  3. Adam permalink
    November 23, 2012 9:48 pm

    I think the epic scale of the film made it second to only “The Dark Knight” in the trilogy. The films flaws were minor and were overblown because of how popular the movie is.

  4. Andy permalink
    November 24, 2012 12:51 am

    Hmm this personally is one of my favorite all time movies. A movie with this big of scale was going to have “plotholes” as the nitpickers call. All the things that people are complaining about can be explained. Of course Bruce could get back to Gotham he had weeks to do it and hes freaking bruce wayne/batman. In regards to the injury, it was a dislocated vertebrae and there are levels of severity for it. I actually dislocated my vertebrae in football like bruce in this movie. It was about 2.5 months till i could do physical activity so thats not very farfetched in this movie because bruce had 5 months!

  5. Harvey Dent permalink
    November 28, 2012 11:05 pm

    I like this review, Great Job! (Jeff Goldblum Voice)

    I have one question, when you say you think the ending is perfect for the trilogy, at what point do you consider it “The Ending”.

    From the Nuclear Bomb, or straight from the graveyard scene?

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