The Dark Knight Rises
My Grade: A
Ever since Nolan's stunning near-masterpiece of bringing a comic book character real, gritty, life in "Batman Begins" we've seen probably the best interpretation of the famous DC super hero on screen. Whomever goes on with things from here will have quite the task ahead of them. Batman Begins is, overall, a decent movie that I think is bogged down by some details that don't make sense and a pretty weak villain (Scarecrow) but it climbs out of it and really sets the stage for the trilogy of films. The Dark Knight is pretty much a masterpiece when it comes to superhero movies and making "not like a comic" and deeply engrossing. Mostly helped by Heath Ledgers often lauded performance as The Joker.
TDK: Rises I would place between the two movies, I don't think it has as many struggles with growing pains and overcoming the previous set of movies but also has a LOT to live up to when it comes to the previous movie.
Eight years have passed since Batman took the blame for the death of Harvey Dent allowing his legacy of imprisoning Gotham's toughest criminals to stay intact along with a bill in his name making it easier to keep them imprisoned. In the intervening time Batman has been in "retirement" simultaneously a legend in getting the people of Gotham to have a symbol to stand behind and also a fugitive from the law. Bruce Wayne has retired to the reconstructed Wayne Manor and become a recluse entrusting the operation of Wayne Enterprises to the board and Lucius Fox much mystery surrounds what is happening with him and it's apparently done neither his personal reputation any good nor his business interests.
Meanwhile a foreign criminal, Bane, has escaped captivity with the help of some allies and is making his way to Gotham in order to fulfill the League of Shadow's goals from the first movie to destroy Gotham -now standing as a symbol of wealth, power, and prosperity. Wayne is eventually lured back into the game when a cat-burglar posing as one of his maids robs him of both a treasured necklace and his fingerprints (wanted by a criminal organization related to plans of bringing Gotham to its knees.) Wayne learns of Bane and in spite of having serious medical issues with his movement (requiring the need of a cane) redons the Cowl and tries to take down his new foe.
There's other threads in the movie too that all lead to interesting developments (one in particular I saw coming a mile away) and while it's pretty rocky to get there the events of last 30-45 of the film did leave me wanting more which then left me disappointed that this is the last Nolan's personal take on Batman and the last we'll see of these characters with these actors and in this form.
Honestly, this movie ends like a sequel is on the way and, sadly, there just isn't one.
Christian Bale continues to put on a good performance as Wayne only this time the edgier/reclusive burnout crippled type rather than the smug, clueless, playboy type. His Batman... Still left much to be desired though he's not quite as intense in this movie when it comes to the voice. (Or atleast it wasn't AutoTuned as much.)
Michale Cain and Morgan Freeman both return as Alfred and Lucius Fox (respectively) but in slightly diminished roles than from the previous films. They're still fantastic actors who are great to watch whenever they're on screen.
Anne Hathaway turns in probably the best portrayal of Catwoman since the Adam West TV series. She plays it just right, I was never a fan of how Catwoman was used in the Burton movie. Here she's not strictly a villain but more of the "anti-hero"/cat burglar out for her own good that she is in the comics. She happens to meet up with Bruce Wayne (and Batman) and proves to be an ideal distraction for him in more ways than one. Great, great, use of her. Loved every moment she was on screen.
Tom Hardy as Bane... This one is a toughy. His performance is mostly good but he's less "Bane" and more "ADR Man." After the poor reception of Bane's voice in an early release of a segment of the movie Nolan and Hardy went back, had Hardy re do his lines in a clearer manner and they're looped onto the film and, well, it shows. Whenever Bane talks there just seems to be a "disconnect" between him speaking and what's going on on screen. Though this could mostly be due to not being able to see his lips, jaws or anything like that which can do a lot when expression comes in. Physically though he was great, the first battle between Bane and Batman is just brutal and you can feel every punch Bane lands is just reverberating through the bones of the out-of-his-game (and league) Batman.
The movie has good action scenes but the key part of the plot is... a LOT to take. I don't normally do this in my "reviews" but I'm going to get into heavy-duty spoilers now.
Bane's plan is to cut Gotham (a city apparently completely on an island much like Manhattan) from the mainland save for one bridge. He's managed to trap all
of Gotham's police force inside a maze of underground pipes and tubes save for Gordon (who was laid up in the hospital) and an ambitious young detective. He tells authorities that he has his hands on a nuclear device capable of destroying Gotham that he will use should anyone leave the island or should any show of force be brought upon him. He manges to inspire the citizens of Gotham to, in some order, rise-up against the wealthy who control the city and to seize things. In essence, Bane manages to make Gotham -a city of 10 million people- an Apocolyptic noman's land.
The police, US forces and military just sort of roll with this, and Gotham apparently stays under this rule and control for a course of months.
The single bridge left intact is used to bring in supplies which, apparently, the government totally does with seemingly nothing in return other than "not blowing things up." (Of course all this time Bane has the nuclear bomb set to go of automatically at the end of six-month time frame these events take place in. (All of this while Wayne is recovering from a broken back (but uninjured spinal cord) in "The Pit" in another part of the world.)
This, honestly, strains a bit more "realism" than does the microwave device in the first movie (which instantly vaporized the water in Gotham's pipes but not the water in every organic being in the device's influence.) The country, President, military and the millions of people living in Gotham just seem to go along with what Bane proposes, a seemingly large number of Gotham's citizens even going along with Bane's idea of anarchy where the rich are put on a sentencing "trial" for their greed.
After six months of having pretty much no organized government or maintaining of infrastructure (I doubt Bane was allowing or ordering Public Works crews to go out and maintain water pipes and gas lines) and a rebelling public how is it even possible for Gotham to go back to anything even resembling
"normal" after things are cleared up? Hell, all of their bridges and tunnels in and out of the city have to be rebuilt!
It's when I'm asked to suspend my disbelief that much where a movie can start to fall apart.
No, real, explanation is given as to why Wayne's body is in such poor shape at the beginning of this movie. Sure he took a beating in the months to year he was Batman but in this movie he's told by doctors his body is completely FUBAR and he shouldn't consider doing any daredevil stunts like skydiving. Yet he goes through a lot
in this movie and apparently his body is able to handle it and he's able to recover enough from a broken spine inside of six months to take on Bane.
I suspect that maybe those with comic book lore knowledge are supposed to "assume" certain things are happening that we're not told about as it'd break the "real world" tone the movies try to present. I mean perhaps
even though we're not directly told this Bane's strength and power does come from archaic forms of steroid use (Venom), there's scars and a veinous look to his body that might suggest this. Maybe
climbing out of "The Pit" acted (something) like the "Lazarus Pit" from comics and it healed Bruce Wayne completely. (The Lazarus Pit is very different in the comics, though, and even has side effects to using it.)
The break in time between TDK this movie also seems odd as it suggests Wayne not having much of a Batman Career where we can presume he faced off against other rogue gallery foes in the intervening time. Hell, in this movie he even has an operational Batcave that he doesn't apparently need anymore.
It just seems like something is "missing" between the first movie(s) which seemed to want to set a "status quo" for Wayne's life as Batman only for this one to suggest that, yeah, the Batman thing never really worked out, Wayne -the richest man in the city with near limitless resources and compassion in foundations and stuff just went reclusive and let his parents' company go bankrupt/the Wane Legacy to get tarnished. (Something Alfred chides Wayne about in the second movie.)
There's a lot
to like about this movie, I highly enjoyed it but it just leaves me with a ton of questions, scratching my head, and thinking it doesn't fit well with what was established and built in the other two movies.
Everyone still turns in a great performance, the movie is certainly entertaining to watch with good action and drama scenes but the scrutiny of it just doesn't hold up very well, which is why I had to undergrade it so much.
The use of Bane and the "Knightfall" nods were nice (I actually wanted to clap when we got the iconic image of Bane breaking Batman's back over his knee) but damn
this movie has some holes in it.