My Review of The Dark Knight Rises

BANE
Seriously, this guy is so believable and well-played, that I’m bummed everyone will just compare him to The Joker and miss the point.

DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS FILM. DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS FILM.

You have been warned, this review is CHOCK FULL OF SPOILERS in the sense that I am not going to discriminate and exclude any plot points for the sake of keeping your surprise factor intact.

So this is your last chance to turn around, shut down your browser and take responsibility for your own actions.

DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS FILM. DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS FILM.

The Short Version: What Did I Think?

I loved it. It was different in so many ways from The Dark Knight, which I loved in a whole different way. But this film had themes that built on the ones explored there and tuned back into the heroic arc that makes you want to march out of the theatre, find a criminal and punch them in the throat.

I wanted to cheer at the end of the film. I wanted to cry.

DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS FILM. DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS FILM.

Most of all, I was happy with the arc over the course of the three films. I felt fulfilled and that the journey had gone everywhere it could in every way it could.

Was it a long film? Yep. But I didn’t check my watch once. Were there parts in the beginning where the transitions felt a little awkward? Yep. But I don’t expect/demand perfection from a film. That happens only once in a blue moon. I appreciated that they made this film accessible to everyone regardless of whether they’d seen the first two films, and the only way to do that was to contain it in such a way that there was a large, expansive story.

So What Did I Love in Specific?

Being me, I’ll take it down to five things that stand out as superlatively awesome. These would be the five things I point to as the keys to enjoying the film.

1. The Villain

Bane is a completely different creation from The Joker. The Joker was theatrical and manipulative. Bane is like a fearsome leader. Whereas The Joker used people against themselves by finding their weak points, Bane demands complete fealty. His desires are your desires and his goals are your goals.

This is only fitting for the fact that he is leading the League of Shadows (something I predicted years ago), a group from the first film that demands nothing less than complete and total loyalty. Bane is the type of leader you’re afraid to betray.

It was also a welcome departure from The Joker’s narcissistic charisma—they didn’t try to duplicate anything from that character. Bane is a villain who is legitimately terrifying on several levels, up to and including his motivations and goals.

Also, that plane scene at the beginning? The fights between him and Batman? Holy crapload of awesome.

Bane fights Batman
Get it? Snow? Coldness? I don’t know who you are anymore.

2. Compassion Amid Coldness

Bruce Wayne is able to show compassion to someone who betrayed his trust on a fundamental level. He never gives up on Selina Kyle though she was the one most responsible for putting him in a situation to get his ass handed to him by Bane.

This of course ties into Ra’s Al Ghul’s criticism of him in Batman Begins: “Your compassion is a weakness your enemies will not share.”

Bruce’s reponse at the time was, “That’s why it’s so important. It separates us from them.”

Gotham is possessed by Bane’s cold psuedo–French Revolution, and it is cold and frozen over when Batman returns to reignite the fire of passion and dedication to a just cause. I love that symbolism.

3. Batman Matures to Leader

To answer Ra’s Al Ghul, Batman had to overcome his teacher and himself. To overcome The Joker, Batman had to be a sacrifice. To overcome Bane, Batman becomes a leader. He fulfills his destiny: he inspires and drives forward the people that need a spark.

He remembers what his father taught him in the first film. We fall so we can learn to get back up. The pit into which Bane throws him is purposely evocative of the well into which he fell as a child, where Batman was truly born. And so Batman is reborn in the same manner. He has been swallowed by pain and fear, broken and sure he could never get out.

But this time he is the one who gets himself out of the pit. His father was not there for him anymore, and so he lifts himself out of pain and despair to own completely who he is supposed to be. I won’t lie, I listen to the music from the part of the film where he finally overcomes and owns the mantle of hero once more, and I want to go find someone who’s a jackass and punch them in the throat.

I refrain from doing that, though. For now.

4. Surprises

Catwoman - Anne Hathaway
Look, I have to be honest that this is the first time Catwoman did anything for me since Julie Newmar.

Gordon losing his family, Alfred leaving and admitting he never wanted Bruce Wayne to come back to Gotham, Selina Kyle deserving the compassion of Batman, the truth behind the League of Shadows and Ra’s Al Ghul’s legacy, the character of John Blake, the allusions to the French Revolution and Occupy Wall Street, the allusions to A Tale of Two Cities, one of the greatest books of all time…all were pleasant surprises.

And even when thinking about them, they’re only better because like Memento, you realize that Nolan uses some masterful slight of hand to distract you from the clues he leaves throughout the entire film.

5. It’s Over, with the Promise That More Could Come

I’ll be honest that I wish Warner Bros. would exercise some intellect and carry on the series with Joseph Gordon–Levitt. He deserves it. And they could take it in really interesting ways, with Wayne coming back to mentor him and then having to assume the mantle again when Blake goes all Azrael with things.

The ending was completely satisfying, and was happy without being pedantic. Was Alfred fantasizing? I say no, but an argument could be made for him imagining that last little bit. I’m actually happy either way.

So In A Nutshell

I have friends who will consider my love for the film to be predictable and unwarranted. I don’t care. I was completely satisfied with the film, it was a fitting conclusion and I’m glad they closed it out like this. I can guarantee you I’m going to dress as Bane for the next 5 Halloweens, too.

Were there imperfections with the film? Again, yes. There were imperfections with the first two as well. But this is a film that only gets better the more I think about it. And in the end, that’s the mark of a truly terrific effort.

But what do I know? I’m just a guy who even finds the redeemable parts of Star Trek V. It’s a pretty happy world I live in.

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15 thoughts on “My Review of The Dark Knight Rises

  1. Argh! Not enough love for Selina Kyle in your recap. You have slighted her, oh mighter slighter.

    Ewok Hater and I loved the conflict of Selina’s character. Self-interested, but full of regret and only seeing a way out that causes her to do more bad things. Unhappy with herself. This character was so well reimagined, Michelle Pfiffer (sp??) looks like a cheap whore by comparison. I’m SO impressed with that aspect of the movie.

    1. “Not enough love for Selina Kyle in your recap.”

      At almost 1300 words, I was becoming pretty aware of time. I figured the photo with its own caption made up for any shortcomings in the text.

      I see now how wrong I was.

      “This character was so well reimagined, Michelle Pfiffer (sp??) looks like a cheap whore by comparison. ”

      Yeah, well…her Catwoman had no real dynamic arc. She existed for the sake of existing. This Catwoman had purpose and was related to the plot.

      In short, when they rebooted Batman initially, there was never a question that Nolan far surpassed Schumacher. But now that the trilogy is complete and Nolan has even reinvented a second of three major characters from Burton’s films, I’m confident saying he’s overcome my decades-long sentimentality for the Burton stuff too, which was no small task.

  2. God dammit, KESSEL Q. JUNKIE, I haven’t see it yet! You spoiled it for me! Well, I guess I just saved myself $50 in ticket, popcorn, and soda fees.

    #1. I read Nolan’s explanation for what he was trying to do with Bane. You forgot to mention that he was also the first villain that was physically stronger than Batman, which as I understand it is in line with the comics. As for the plane scene, it seemed like an awfully roundabout way to do what he did. It was visually stunning, but logically had be asking, “What?”

    #4. First, I never understood the purpose of Gordon losing his family. Why? Why just tell us that things suck for the guy? I guess it makes sense that his lie was wearing on him and eventually drove away his family, but it seemed an unnecessarily depressing detail considering all the shit that was going down on Gordon and his city. As for Occupy Wall Street, Nolan and company say that the script was completed before OWS started. Of course, whatever statement you take away from the OWS allusions is probably strengthened by the fact that Nolan commented on it without that context.

    #5. We’ve discussed my feelings on Joseph Gordon–Levitt on my blog, but because I can confirm only one other person has read it, I’ll repeat it here. He’s completely unbelievable as a successor to Batman. This is an issue of casting for me. You responded that he might surprise me, but while surprises are always possible, they’re not really the norm (hence their title, “surprises”). I’ve studied martial arts my entire life, so I understand the idea that “size doesn’t matter” (or so I hope). However, it does matter. Size and technique are interchangeable, and a natural middleweight or light heavyweight is going to have the ideal combination of speed and strength. No matter how much he learns, Deep Roy (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0746989/) will *never* be Batman, and JGL isn’t much more believable, especially considering he’s playing a guy of average intelligence. So, the lesson to me is that they better damn well make another movie so that JGL can surprise me. Otherwise, that movie’s ending is going to (continue to) leave me disappointed in that regard.

    Jar Jar Hater’s Comment: I can’t spell her name off the top of my head either, but I’m pretty sure Pfiffer ain’t it. 🙂 Your point stands firm, though. I found that they handled her brilliantly. In fact, looking at the entire series, as someone who doesn’t read comics, I found the main characters very interesting and clever, each fulfilling a particular role for the trilogy’s overall story.

    1. They were staging the death of Dr. Pavel. Bane even states that they did what they did so they could find out “what he told them” — then Miranda/Talia mentions that Pavel was “killed in a plane crash” several months before Wayne showed her the device. They transferred Pavel’s blood to the “dead” guy in the plane so his DNA would show up in the crash. At least, that’s what I took from the scene; I’m not consulting any outside sources. In the grander scheme, the CIA stopped looking for Pavel and Miranda used it as a reason why Bruce could turn on this potentially deadly device.

      ” I guess it makes sense that his lie was wearing on him and eventually drove away his family,”

      That’s exactly the point. Wayne and Gordon are broken men (Wayne seemingly literally) from the circle of lies surrounding them.

      “the script was completed before OWS started”

      French Revolution, OWS — populist rage checks. I guess I saw similarities based on their shared motivations. Any chance to bash OWS is never missed on kessel korner, BT.

      ” Size and technique are interchangeable, and a natural middleweight or light heavyweight is going to have the ideal combination of speed and strength.”

      I think they were more focused on his character type than anything else. Which is fine by me. He played the role right and I bought it. I wasn’t wondering how he’d do against Silva or Mir.

      1. As for Dr. Pavel, I couldn’t follow what was going on because I didn’t understand what Bane was saying. Really, I understood about 50% of his words during that scene, and maybe 80% of all of his dialogue in the movie. (Yes, my hearing is failing, and that’s not Nolan’s fault as far as I know.) Still, it’s an awfully convoluted plan with far too many potential pitfalls to justify itself. He could have accomplished the same thing with a car, and in the spirit of your unanswered questions series, I won’t accept, “But it was so cool,” as a defense. That just encourages lazy screenwriting anyway.

        As for JGL, you must have seriously suspended your disbelief to buy him as the next Batman. I can’t name anyone over the age of 10 that I wouldn’t bet could beat JGL in a fair fight. He’s a scrawny, unthreatening guy with a frame that will never allow him to be anything else. Playing a person of unexceptional intelligence, he has nothing to make up for that shortcoming. Unless you give him a power ring — which is possible; it’s the DC universe — his willpower won’t help him. I just didn’t buy it.

        Overall, as I said in my blog, it’s a good film, but it wasn’t great, and it certainly wasn’t Oscar-worthy (even in an alternate reality where the Oscars are about judging the quality of films). At times, I was bored. I would have preferred about 30 minutes less movie.

        1. I’d blame your sound system. He was clear as day to me. Maybe one line I had to think about in context here or there.

          As for the plane, Pavel had already been found by the CIA. the only way to get him off the map was to make it really messy. Makes sense to me.

          Im puzzled by your read of the Blake character as unintelligent. He’s shown to be a rookie, then becomes a detective – and Batman is, above all things, a detective. He figured out who Batman was, that the city was rigged to blow and helped run the resistance. Seemed like a bright guy.

          To speak to your own review, you’ve fallen back to the “Oscar worthy” meme. I think that despite your best efforts, you let the hype color your expectations.

          But what do I know? I don’t even like Google Plus.

          1. I said he had unexceptional intelligence. “Unintelligent” suggests “stupid,” so if that’s what you’re reading, you’ve misinterpreted me.

            Google+ tastes like Kit Kats.

  3. I agree with most of what you said. Where you lost me is with the whole maturation to leadership idea. Who was he leading? He was overcoming obstacles to get out of that hole, although he did not do it alone. He had help from some old criminals with nothing better to do. And why did it take the Batman three tries to get out? You would think someone with Batman’s background would have the foresight to figure out sooner that he needed to remove the rope to make the jump.

    Also, the comparison to the French Revolution was mine. You plagiarized me, bitch-ass.

    1. 1. He becomes a leader by marshaling an army (the cops) to lead a counter-revolution, and delegating to people like someone in command…instead of working alone. Bane had an army, and then *he* had an army to match his at the end. This shows maturation because he doesn’t try to take every last thing on his shoulders (remember Alfred’s admonishing him in TDK to take a night off and let someone else do it once in a while).

      2. You’re confusing metaphor and method. “Getting rid of the rope” wasn’t about how to escape in a practical sense. But someone with as much brain juice as yourself should know that.

      3. “Also, the comparison to the French Revolution was mine. You plagiarized me, bitch-ass.” I realize you’re just trying to get me riled up with that comment, but I’ll bite because I hate it when you’re a spiteful jackass just for the sake of being one.

      Though you *read* this on August 20, I wrote it about a month before that (I wrote it on July 22/23 and held posting it until July 26)? You do know that you’re not the *only* person to have seen the comparison, or noted while watching that Gordon was reading from “A Tale of Two Cities”, which has to do with the French Revolution (and not Spock’s sacrifice in Star Trek II), which happens to be one of my favorite books of all time. Right?

      Retard.

      1. 1. Commissioner Gordon was still really the one in charge of the police and rallied them to get back to work.
        2. I am not big on metaphors in comic book movies at the expense of what is expected in the physical world of the movie.
        3. I will just have to take your word for it.

        1. 1. Batman’s return was what sparked the counter-revolution. The police were trapped and/or a rag-tag band meeting in kitchens before then. Given your powers of insight, I figure you’d see that.

          2. Again, “taking the rope off” wasn’t like solving a gosh-darn puzzle for how to get out of there. I feel like I’m explaining Film 101 to my kids.

          3. OK, half-wit. I’d argue the point further but you’re purposely being a douchebag.

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