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The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

December 19, 2016

Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Director: Christopher Nolan (Interstellar, Inception, The Dark Knight)

Bottom Line: It’s taken me nearly four years to come to terms with this film. Back in 2012, leading up to The Dark Knight Rises‘ release, my expectations were through the roof and unrealistic – and yet they weren’t. I had similar feelings about The Dark Knight and somehow Christopher Nolan managed to exceed my impossible expectations by making what is still what I consider to be the best superhero film ever – a film so good it changed how The Oscars approached the Best Picture category, increasing the number of films that could be nominated in the future.

But when I walked out of The Dark Knight Rises all I felt was a tremendous amount of disappointment. I was thrown by the fact the film took place eight years after The Dark Knight. It seemed like Batman was barely in the movie, which was fine in Batman Begins when Bruce Wayne is discovering his calling, but I wanted more Dark Knight in this. I suspected that Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were secretly cast as Talia Al’Ghul and Robin, respectively, long before the film’s release, so even though the Nolans do a good job of misdirecting, I wasn’t surprised in the least when the true identities were revealed. Finally, I hated the fact that Bruce Wayne becomes a shut in because his friend/love interest Rachel died. Let me get this straight: the man that pushes himself to the brink of human capabilities to protect his city from the kind of people that murdered his parents is going to disappear from society and whittle away in his mansion because his girlfriend died? For eight years?! During his peak crime-fighting years?! Uh, no. That’s not Batman. It’s such a departure from the character of Bruce Wayne that it’s difficult to shake.

But it’s been four years since The Dark Knight Rises came out and I’ve seen it a few times since then, including as recently as a week ago and well, it’s not so bad. In fact, it’s quite good. I mean there are some flaws – as previously noted – plus some intense magical rope healing (huh?), but I actually really enjoyed this last viewing of it. It  wraps up Christopher Nolan’s trilogy in great fashion, bringing the League Of Shadows back into the mix and allowing Bruce to move on with his life, while allowing The Batman to remain a symbol of hope in Gotham. I can live with the lack of Batman on screen in the film now too. It fits the story. Christopher Nolan has been more interested in making great films than in making a good superhero movie and he continues to approach his Dark Knight series in that fashion with this movie. It’s an incredibly bleak film, but the big theme is hope – first crushing it and then rising up from the abyss to overcome. Batman doesn’t need to be on screen because he’s retired when the film starts and then he’s beaten to a pulp in the middle of it – and that makes his ultimate return that much more powerful.

I absolutely loved Tom Hardy’s Bane. Heath Ledger’s Joker was always going to be impossible to match, but Bane is a GREAT villain in this film. There are some corny moments, like making Talia Al’Ghul a love interest, but Bane is mostly just awesome. I love the mask. I love the physique.  I love the way Hardy delivers his dialogue – and there’s plenty of great Bane quotes in the movie: “Peace time has cost you your strength. Victory has defeated you!” – “Do you feel in charge?” – “Oh, you think darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark; I was born in it.” And many more! He’s smart. He’s ruthless. He’s a physical beast. You believe an out of shape Batman would stand no chance and you wonder how Batman can match him, even when he’s back in peak form. I would have loved to see what Nolan did with The Riddler or even Hugo Strange, but I’m totally satisfied with how he handled Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.

Okay, so it wasn’t surprising that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is revealed to be “Robin,” plus the character isn’t Dick Grayson or any other familiar name that takes up the Robin mantle, but Gordon-Levitt’s Detective John Blake was a great addition to this story. When everyone else has given up on Batman, this orphan turned police officer knows his true identity and pushes Bruce back into action. Plus he gets to say some great lines like “We know what’s down there, sir: the police commissioner.” He may not be Dick Grayson and his parents weren’t murdered at the circus, but it’s clear that the Nolans understand the essence of the character.

I listened to Hans Zimmer’s score many times before I saw the movie, which is pretty weird actually. You can sort of paint a picture of how things are going to unfold by listening to the score in sequential order. I mean that’s how obsessed with this movie I was. I just couldn’t resist the temptation. So when I heard the music that was playing during the scene where Batman was flying the bomb out over the bay, you get the feeling that someone important is going to die. It was just a bizarre feeling watching the movie having heard all the music already and having an idea what was going to happen. I won’t ever do it again. With that said, I love the score. Zimmer does a fantastic job of adding adrenaline to the film, especially during Bane’s reign of terror.

A few weeks ago, The Dark Knight Rises was omitted from my top 10 of 2012 list, while films like 21 Jump Street and Skyfall were still ahead of it. Having revisited the movie and deciding I’m actually quite happy with it, it now ranks in my top six of the year. The film has solid acting from its ensemble cast (Bale’s Bat-voice excluded), a great villain, a top notch score, a bunch of dialogue I love, and it looks fantastic – plus it’s a very fitting end to the vision Nolan had for his Bat-franchise. It’s one of the best trilogies of all-time, right up there with The Lord Of The Rings and the original Star Wars movies. When you talk about the best superhero movies ever, Nolan’s Batman movies will always be some of the first ones mentioned, but really, this series has produced multiple great films – not just great for a superhero movie – but some of the best films ever made.

Replay Value: It has grown on me a ton and I can always watch Batman movies.
Sequel Potential: They wrapped this trilogy up just fine, but the Batman character has been revived for DC’s new cinematic universe.
Oscar Potential: The film was totally blanked for both Oscar and Golden Globe noms, which seems a bit unfair as some of the technical aspects and the score are deserving of consideration.

Grade: 7.5/10 (highly enjoyable/must see)

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