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Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises Review.

Cartoon by Christopher McElfresh
The Dark Knight Rises is the highly-anticipated finale to the massively successful and critically-acclaimed Christopher Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy.  So, how does this one stack up in the trilogy?  Well the best thing I can say is it is my second favorite film in the trilogy, after the Dark Knight, if only because it is a pretty intense, dark story with great set pieces, not because it is a great film.  The events that occur in this film line up nicely to a (somewhat) probable, violent, tragic and truly frightening series of events, culminating in an army of maniacal zealots and violent criminals keeping the good citizens of the city of Gotham in their homes, in fear for their very lives.

Initially, while I watched the film, I was utterly pissed off by just how broken this film really is.  There are so many problems with this movie, it may take a two-parter to really, honestly provide the necessary information as to why I did not thoroughly enjoy this movie.  Still, I’m going to keep this brief and start with this very important note:  If you take this as a dumb Summer action blockbuster, it is good by comparison.  However, if expectations are set for an intense, powerful, psychological drama with action, like the Dark Knight, then you will be entirely disappointed.


I’ll start with the acting.  First off, the best performances in the movie.  For me it goes to Michael Caine (no duh?!) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  The latter is essential to the plot, while Cain’s Alfred is there when the plot needs some drama and then he disappears, ultimately getting thrown out entirely until the very, VERY end of the movie.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the principal connection of the idea of Batman to the average citizen and the downtrodden.  He is the embodiment of the idea of a hero and how heroes inspire the best in us.  His character really drives this movie, as he is the actually conscience of the City of Gotham and he takes up the mantle during a large chunk of the movie where the Bat is out of the picture.  

Now, the worst acting comes from the two main sources of conflict in the most of the movie, Tom Hardy as Bane, and Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle (she is never actually referred to as “Catwoman”).  Starting with Bane, Tom Hardy’s accent is simultaneously unintentionally-hilarious and incomprehensible.  Probably about a third of his lines are actually coherent, the rest sound like a jumbled mess of digital filters and some really bad ADR that sounds like it was recorded clear on the other side of the world and sent to the editing booth via the worst possible mail service in the world on a dirty old audio cassette tape.  Now, my understanding is that test screenings had people saying they couldn’t understand ANYTHING that was said by Bane so they redid the whole of his lines and added them back in.  Note, this is third-hand information that I have not fully verified.  

The Dark Knight Rises Batman Logo Flat-Brim Baseball Cap

Now, I’m devoting a whole paragraph to Anne Hathaway because her character represents a principal issue with this whole film.  Catwoman had no reason to be in this movie.  Those who know me know that I have no love for Anne Hathaway.  Oscar aside, I find her exceptionally annoying and her expressions and vocal gymnastics she goes through in the Dark Knight Rises only further affirm my dislike of her as an actress.  I don’t know how she is personally, but as a talent, she is greatly lacking.  In DKR she is lost in how to carry Ms. Kyle.  She bounces between voices and demeanors and even goes so far as to mimic Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry (WHY!?) all in a single brief scene.  This is not a good performance and it hurts the movie, not only because it was bad, but because it was completely unnecessary.  As I mentioned, she bears none of the weight of the plot and it is entirely obvious that she was written into a final draft of the script to throw in another female lead that wasn’t kidnapping fodder.  This is ultimately my big issue with this movie.  The Dark Knight Rises has studio stink all over it.  

You can make a freaking drinking game out of the elements that are obviously marketing decisions, not artistic ones.  A few other examples of this include the return of Cillian Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane as an evil judge and the last-minute reference to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character name change from “Robin”.  Both of these were eye-rolling and unnecessary and were obviously meant to quell speculation and ensure they can make the same little Scarecrow action figures, this time with a Dark Knight Rises graphic on the cardboard packaging instead of Batman Begins.

The Dark Knight Rises Bane Tee

DKR is really just a poor Batman Movie.  Batman is barely in it and when he is he is thoroughly getting his ass kicked.  I do like it when the movies makes their heroes breakable and human, but this is excessive.  The first time he doesn’t make the climb out of the pit I said “Man, you’ll get there.  I know you can do it Bruce!”, the second time I said “Oh, come on!” and when he finally makes it out I thought “About freaking time!”  The scenes with him in prison are some of the most boooooring parts of any movie I’ve seen all Summer, bringing the intense events we see in Gotham to a grinding halt so we can watch Christian Bale work out.

Now, I’ll offer few more positives before I seem like too much of a hater.  The action is good.  Like, really, really good.  This makes the Dark Knight Rises a fun sit, if you fast forward through the dragged-out prison scenes.  I did not completely hate DKR, and I was thoroughly entertained throughout most of this film.  The exciting action is sort of what pushes this one just a little higher than Batman Begins for me.  The climax is tense and well-done despite them going for the lowest-common-denominator in the obligatory “bomb diffused in the last second” cliche.  I do, however, like how the various citizens of Gotham work together to stop Bane’s boss, Bane himself and their army instead of just having Batman do all of the heavy lifting.

All in all, as a Summer blockbuster, DKR is not a bad movie.  It is a solid film with lots of good action and some great tension.  Still, it is not a great film.  It is not going to be a game changer and it certainly feels like a massive step backwards from the Dark Knight.  It will continue to make a ton of money through its run and through merchandise, but at this point, the Avengers remains my favorite blockbuster of this Summer so far.  I haven’t seen a single film yet in 2012 that can come close to the fun I had while watching that movie.

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