Friday, 20 July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises Movie Review

Does it live up to the hype?? Read on to find out.

I went to see The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR) having just heard how Rotten Tomatoes, for the first time in their existence, had to block user comments given the number of abusive and threatening messages they had received following a few negative TDKR reviews.  Such is sometimes the mindset of Nolan and Batman fans.  For them the failure of this movie was not an option.  Now that the movie has finally been released, they’ll be happy to know that it wasn’t.

I’m not a DC fan nor a Batman fan.  Anyone who knows me will know that.  I never liked the way DC would give wacky names to cities.  The often neo-gothic Gotham or the constantly stuck in the 1940s Metropolis, it made the locations unrelatable to even if it was obvious that the cities were intended to be New York etc.  Then came the characters themselves.  Every kid loves Superman, I was the same.  Bet getting older he now comes across as a little too extreme, as if the DC guys sat down and said “hey, let’s make a character that can do everything, he can fly, has super speed and strength, ice breath, laser eyes, everything!!”

Then we have Batman.  A rich guy with no powers but lots of inner turmoil who eventually goes out on a quest for justice in a fancy suit.  If you were in that situation wouldn’t you rather go down the Iron Man route?

I haven’t really been a fan of any of the Batman films so far either, whether you go back to the Tim Burton / Keaton movies (though I still think Keaton makes for a great Bruce Wayne) or whether you're referring to the more recent Nolan movies.

Batman Begins seemed like a huge contradiction.  Faced with having to kill a pig stealing farmer to complete his initiation into The League of Shadows, Wayne declined and then seemingly proceeded to kill the people who had been taking care of him and training him for seven years or so and then destroyed their temple.  Also his fighting style was so limited by the Bat-suit almost as if he couldn't move his arms above the elbow or turn his head – something they try to address in The Dark Knight, which I also, unfortunately, did not enjoy.  It was long, draggy, dark and all round pretty depressing.  Batman would lose everything, his name, his woman, his place.  He was literally, for lack of a better word, a loser.

So it pleases me a great deal that I actually really enjoyed Dark Knight Rises.  Perhaps because I went in with ultra low expectations, but more likely because it was actually a very good film.

The story takes place eight years after the death of Two Face / Harvey Dent.  To maintain Harvey’s good name and the hope of the people of Gotham City, Batman took the fall for Harvey’s death all those years ago.  As a result, Batman hasn’t been in active service for quite some time and is no longer remembered as a hero but as a murderer.  Only Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Alfred the butler (Michael Caine) know the truth while Wayne has become a recluse in his mansion.

Bane is introduced to us early on as a feared mercenary in an elaborate in-flight airplane hijack escape.  There were no issues hearing his voice as some had feared from initial screenings of the movie.  In fact, I loved Bane’s voice and playful tone as he enunciates every syllable clearly in every word.  Despite being a brute it is clear from the outset that he is also a mind to be reckoned with.  Tom Hardy was indeed excellent as Bane, as a nemesis and as a follow on from the Johnny Depp-esque Mad Hatter style Joker of the last movie.

Wayne’s interest in the outside world is re-ignited thanks in part to Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle / Catwoman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Detective John Blake.  It is obvious to Wayne that the apparent jewel heist in his mansion was in fact a cover to steal something much more important.

With the subsequent events that take place Batman has no choice but to return to the streets of Gotham in search of Bane.  Well, he finds Bane and interesting things happen, forcing Wayne to rediscover himself and what it means to be Batman.

All this takes quite some time, during which Gotham has fallen under the control of extreme terrorist Bane.  There is no other way to describe it.  Bane is a terrorist, an extremist the likes of which no one in reality, thankfully, has ever seen.  The tension builds and the desperation is palpable.  This is when the movie is at its most exciting.  We see the resistance trying to plan and mount some kind of comeback, usually unsuccessfully, such is the watchful eye of Bane.  These moments are driven by strong performances from Gordon-Levitt and Oldman.  It actually feels like Batman is out of action for ages but that never makes the movie less enjoyable, the story is driven along regardless.

When we reach the finale we get what we want, a superhero movie.  Batman comes to the rescue.  It doesn’t become camp or cheesy as some reviews have suggested.  We still fear for Batman as his mortality is never in doubt and, as such, it’s nail-gripping edge of your seat stuff right to the end.

I really enjoyed this movie, much more than I thought I would.  It’s not perfect and in retrospect it seems like there was actually very little Batman in this film, but this only served to make his moments more effective and the finale that much more rousing.  Performances all round were good though it was never really explained why a jewel thief could suddenly do everything that she does at the end of this.

This is a very good film which I can easily recommend.  This is saying a lot coming from guy who doesn’t like Batman or the previous two Nolan movies.

Is it the best movie ever? No!  Is it better than Avengers?? Also no!  But should you check it out?  Definitely!

Rating 4/5


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