Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises review

    I was originally going to review this the day it came out, as I saw a midnight showing. However, the fact is that Colorado shooting made any attempt by me to put my fingers to the keys look shallow and morbid. It's been a couple of weeks since then so I'm feeling slightly better about reviewing it.

    I wanted dearly to like The Dark Knight Rises but, having had time to mull over the movie, it's really only above average. It's entertaining popcorn fair but compared to Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, the movie doesn't really have a lot going for it.

    Tom Hardy makes a serviceable villain as Bane, easily the best adaptation of the character since Knightfall. Bane is simultaneously smarter, stronger, faster, and in better shape than Batman. We get to see Bane thoroughly dominate Batman in their few encounters and that's a rare enough sight in any fiction involving the caped crusader.

    Anne Hathaway does an excellent Catwoman as well but I can't say there's much to her performance. She does a couple of robberies and has some sexual tension with Bruce Wayne but, otherwise, I can't say there's really much to say about the character. She's almost an afterthought in the picture.

    The movie certainly doesn't lack for ambition and there's homages to several Batman stories I never expected to see on-screen. I'd mention which ones I'm referring too but that would be a spoiler. The scale of the terrorism done by the Joker, who blew up hospitals and acted like an unstoppable force of nature, is dwarfed here.

    Unfortunately, it's just so....derivative.

    Christian Bale's Batman is meant to be older and on his last legs as a hero but the actor is not noticeably aged from his earlier appearances. The fact he doesn't show any real diminished combat capacity whenever he's required to do an action sequence causes my enjoyment factor to suffer. Also, while the events of The Dark Knight were traumatic, I find it difficult to believe the first thing on Bruce's mind after the events of the film were retirement.

    The standout performance from the movie is definitely Joseph Gordon Levitt who provides an 'everyman' perspective on the subject. Detective Blake is a man who has grown up in Gotham and seen it transformed by the presence of Batman into a place where people might reasonably want to live. I would very much like to see him in another superhero movie, perhaps as the lead this time. Warner Brothers, get on it! He should be the Flash.

    Really, there are no surprises in The Dark Knight Rises. Batman will face his greatest threat in Bane, will suffer tremendously for it, only to rally back and something heroic to happen. It's a formula they don't bother to really do much with and the film feels self-congratulatory for following.

    There's a lot to like about the film but I feel like they could have done more with the premise. This felt more like a send-off with all of the players wanting to end on a high note. Unfortunately, that would have been The Dark Knight.

    The other performances in the film from Morgan Freeman to Gary Oldman to Michael Cain are all well-done but nothing really approaches the original two movies. The characters are set-pieces, meant to do a above-average special-effects extravaganza that wows the audience into not questioning the plot holes. There are considerable plot-holes too, all things which require a greater-than-normal suspension of one's disbelief to ignore.

    Maybe my expectations were too high but I wanted to like this movie more. Oh well, it didn't go out on a bad note and I suppose that's all we can hope for.


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