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The Dark Knight Rises - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The Dark Knight Rises
Directing: A-
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B+
Editing: A
Special Effects: A-

The Dark Knight Rises is top-notch entertainment. But is it top-notch cinema -- a Great Film? Not so fast.

As superhero movies go, The Dark Knight came close. That one, at least, had a truly iconic performance in Heath Ledger, who unfortunately obscured a truly underrated performance by Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent. We get no such performances in The Dark Knight Rises, which is really why, although it's not exactly a letdown, it is a bit of a comedown.

I would have been thrilled if this movie had at least matched the quality of the previous two. And to be fair, it's incredibly well done on many fronts. But I do have some issues with it.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: a superhero movie is only as good as its villain. Granted, Batman Begins really had no iconic villain but it still managed to be pretty great, infusing the franchise with an unprecedented look and feel, steeped in gritty realism. That realism has remained consistent through director Christopher Nolan's trilogy -- a welcome element, given he is the first director to work on three Batman films. There is little left to be infused into this world to make it fresh now, however, and the primary villain, Bane, is far from iconic. As a bald guy whose face is never not obscured by a mask, he hardly has any personality at all. There's something oddly static about him. Tom Hardy does his best, but his best really isn't enough.

It doesn't help that that mask distorts Baene's dialogue so much. I was in a theatre with a very good sound system and I still couldn't pick up more than maybe two thirds of what he said. It was very frustrating. It might have been easier if I could see his lips moving, but Bane's mouth, poor thing, never gets any screen time.

And then, of course, there's Catwoman. Anne Hathaway respectably makes the character her own, but only within the restrictions of a merely decent script. And when it comes to this script, co-written by Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan, Selina Kyle is easily the most problematic character. Catwoman is supposed to be ambiguous: we aren't meant to know for sure if she's a villain or a heroine. Nolan establishes quite early on which she is. I won't reveal it here, but I will say I found that disappointing, and it robbed the character of the cracklingly erotic intrigue given to her so fantastically by Michelle Pfeiffer in 1992.

There's a vaguely obligatory feeling to The Dark Knight Rises that wasn't really present in the previous films. It's almost like Nolan reluctantly agreed to tie things up with a trilogy -- but, like so many trilogies, part three just doesn't stand up to its predecessors. The ending is suitably provocative and ambiguous in typical Nolan style, but it lacks the closure it could have had.

All that said, this movie still has a hell of a lot going for it. Its greatest asset is probably the editing: Lee Smith cut both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, but he outdid himself here. At two hours and 44 minutes, this is the longest of the Christopher Nolan Batman films and it feels like the shortest. If anything, it feels like it could have been fleshed out more. There is truly never a dull moment.

Slightly inferior script notwithstanding, this movie never stops being compelling. Christian Bale -- also the first actor to play the part of Batman in three movies -- continues to prove an astute choice for the part of Bruce Wayne. And with this film set eight years after the previous one, it's nice to see Batman make some mistakes he never would have before. Our Caped Crusader is getting on in years.

Of course, he rises to the occasion when in demand, and is the focal point of several spectacular action sequences. None of them really top what we've already seen before, but they deliver the goods we came for. The only thing truly missing, really, is the focused exploration of duality that the Joker brought to the fore. This movie's themes are presently much more broadly. There's a point at which Bane releases all of the city's criminals from prison (didn't the Joker already do that?), and if you think too much about it, you might wonder where the Joker -- who survives at the end of the last film -- is in all of this. Nolan deliberately avoids any mention of the Joker here out of respect for Heath Ledger, but it really isn't conducive to continuity.

There's a lot of references to Harvey Dent, though, and coming full circle to the League of Shadows we learned of in Batman Begins: there's a Bane connection. (It's also connected to the mask he wears, which both augments his strength and controls chronic pain, or something, I think.)

There is a nice twist at the end, and we discover the villain mastermind is someone we never suspected. It almost makes up for the use of a bomb as a device to hold citizens of Gotham hostage . . . again.

That reminds me: Gotham itself is too recognizable as New York City in this movie. Gotham is supposed to be a fictional city, and although there are several city skylines used as stand-ins for Gotham, in one shot the Empire State Building is clearly visible and in another you can see the Chrysler Building. I'm probably in the minority here but I found that distracting.

Truthfully, though, this may me a movie with many flaws, but they mostly come to light only in retrospect. That speaks to the power of its entertainment value: while the film is running, you're too caught up in the story to realize its imperfections, or care. The bottom line is that this is a movie that deserves the massive success it's already getting. It just isn't the great Batman film it could have been.

THE DARK KNIGHT fulfills an obligation.

Overall: B+
3 comments or Leave a comment
susandennis From: susandennis Date: July 26th, 2012 03:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
did you want to have such a giant link?
cinema_holic From: cinema_holic Date: July 26th, 2012 03:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Giant link? I don't know what you mean. The page looks normal on my screen. Which link is giant?
susandennis From: susandennis Date: July 26th, 2012 03:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
i'll send screen shot in email
3 comments or Leave a comment