‘The Dark Knight Rises’ exceeds expectations
Published: Thursday, July 26, 2012
Updated: Thursday, July 26, 2012 10:07
Clearly one of the most highly anticipated films of this year, Christopher Nolan’s "The Dark Knight Rises" opened this weekend to mixed reviews and disappointment from some fans. However, if we remove the burden of viewers’ expectations from Nolan’s final installment in his larger-than-life take on the Batman, it proves itself as a standout in a pulpy sea of halfhearted superhero flicks.
Critics, too, have been widely divided about what Nolan was able to produce. Michael Phillips with the Chicago Tribune wrote "What worked beautifully in ‘The Dark Knight’ seems overworked and almost ridiculously grim in the ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’ " While Phillip French with the United Kingdom’s Observer said " ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ has an intelligence, epic thrust and visual grandeur."
While I am disinclined to claim "The Dark Knight Rises" had ‘epic thrust,’ Nolan’s take on Batman definitely felt epic.
Occurring eight years after the events of "The Dark Knight," "The Dark Knight Rises" gives us a Gotham City without organized crime. The Batman (Christian Bale) has gone off the grid as a wanted criminal because he has taken the fall for the crimes committed by Harvey Dent at the end of the last film. Like his alter ego, Bruce Wayne has also faded from the peace, prosperity and opulence that has become the norm in Gotham.
Unfortunately, the golden age of Gotham is short-lived because a new villain, Bane (Tom Hardy), has been stealthily following through with a plan to upend the supposed harmony in a vicious Robin Hood-esque takeover of the city and its financial institutions.
Meanwhile, a chance meeting with Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) has caused Bruce Wayne to reconsider Batman’s retirement. The timing could not have been more perfect, as Bane has begun his economic attack on the city, taking control of the heart of the financial sector with Gotham’s version of Wall Street. He continues on this trajectory, blowing up some of the infrastructure of Gotham, including the bridges leading into and out of the city.
Selina Kyle isn’t the only new femme fatale in "The Dark Knight Rises." Marion Cotillard plays Miranda Tate, an environmentally minded member on the board of Bruce Wayne’s company. While Wayne is easily seduced by Tate’s apparently philanthropic aims within his company, she soon proves to be after more than just an eco-friendlier Wayne Enterprises.
The visual aspect of "The Dark Knight Rises" was not as striking as "The Dark Knight," probably because it had been done before (in "The Dark Knight"), and for most of the movie Gotham was shown in a wintery state of anarchy. There were some bright spots, however, such as the collapse of a packed football stadium’s field, and the subtle placement of bat-shaped graffiti that litters the shots.
We already know Bale’s quiet intensity and Gary Oldman’s Prufrockian Commissioner Gordon were perfect for Nolan’s portrayal of anti-heroes, but an amazing cast of new characters breathed life into the film that third installments in series rarely possess.
The film’s real stars were Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Many people were worried Hathaway would detract from the film’s grittiness and reality. However, she proved to be the perfect Catwoman – sultry and bad, but ultimately misunderstood. Gordon-Levitt shone as the optimistic young Gotham City police officer, John Blake, who also plays a pivotal role in Bruce Wayne’s donning the suit again.
No film is perfect, though, and there were certainly some missteps by Nolan. For instance, Bane’s voice sounded like a carny speaking into a tinny microphone. Hardy, who is certainly on track to become one of our generation’s best actors, worked very hard to bulk up for his role in this film. But his efforts were for naught, as heavy clothing and a mask covered most of his body, leaving him with nothing more than a pair of intense eyes and a comic voice. In addition, one character’s death scene was overly dramatic – almost laughable – and it’s unfathomable Nolan allowed it to make it into an otherwise serious film.
Those problems were negligible, however, and Nolan provided a final film in the trilogy that will be talked about, good or bad, for years to come. Will the clear references to America’s financial crisis be as consequential 10 or 20 years from now? Probably not, but Nolan will absolutely be remembered for his ability to tell a story that both challenges and entertains viewers.