The Dark Knight Rises

Literally, at one point.
"The Legend Ends"

Before I even start talking about the actual movie, I feel the need to mention that just finding the poster image shown to the left required me to sift through a truly staggering number of fan-made posters, ranging from the sort of silly to the truly bizarre. Doing a little searching revealed that speculation about the cast and villains for this movie apparently really spiralled out of control, and spawned in return a variety of weird poster images, one of which I'm pretty sure had John Malkovich as Batman. But enough about how people on the internet are crazy, and on to the actual movie!

If I couldn't review movies with Morgan Freeman or Bruce Willis
in them, would there be anything left for me?
To bring my impressions to you about this movie actually took several attempts. I tried to sneak into an early matinee on Friday, but that was a total bust, all sold out, nothing to see here move along. My second attempt was met with the polar opposite, a theater almost devoid of people on a Saturday afternoon. Lucky me. The verdict is in and Dark Knight Rises has already grossed over 170 million already, no surprise given it is a sequel to a movie that did over a billion dollars, released into theaters starved for new movies. A lot of people asked themselves, me, and the internet if it was going to be better than The Dark Knight. You can look to the grossing of that movie to answer the question. The Dark Knight Rises was pretty much going to be a disappointment for anyone who expected bigger and better. Might it still top Dark Knight? Sure it could, but I'm betting it won't. Was it better Than the Dark Knight? No I'd say definitely not. It was still plenty good, and I enjoyed watching it, but it was a less clean, less precise, less focused package. My normal disclaimer super applies here: I'm going to spoil stuff, so if you haven't seen the movie yet, don't read on. Go see it, it's worth it, then come back.

Shaving off recluse beard is a good step towards recovery.
The Dark Knight Rises picks up a solid eight years after the events of The Dark Knight. Bruce Wayne is now a shut-in who owns a failing company, and Gotham City is all but devoid of crime. This changes rapidly when Bane blows into town, and people start blowing up and dying in droves. After some false starts, Bruce Wayne swings back into action as the Bat Man, and here we encounter the first, and for me largest catching point in the plot. it isn't a deal breaker, but it did really bug the hell out of me. Joseph Gordon-Levitt. His character, Blake, is very important in the plot of this movie. Despite that, I felt like he was really just forced in. I'm not sure if they got a discount on the 3rd actor who was also in Inception or something, or if they just felt he'd bring the swooning ladies into the theater (which he does no doubt), but his character is introduced in a way I felt was flimsy, and while I'm on the subject, could they have possibly come up with a lamer reason for him to know Bruce Wayne is Batman? The plot magically needs him to, so he does. "oh one time I saw you at my orphanage, and you looked sad like orphan sad like me, so that means your Batman." Wow that's really well thought out movie guys, you're like writing geniuses! Commissioner Gordon is all surprised at the end when he realizes Batman is Bruce Wayne, but not BlakeRobin. This was for me the biggest leap of faith the movie asked me to make, and I was frankly pretty dubious about it. His performance was solid and his character was likable enough, he just felt like he was there not for any real reason other than that the plot wanted him there.

They put her in a male prison to give her more opportunities
to beat guys up.
He still scares the bejeezes out of me though.
I liked the addition of Selina Kyle a lot more. I was a little surprised, because I had reservations about Anne Hathaway being able to pull off moral grey but she did so quite well. She has a purpose in the movie that mostly has to do with her own personal agenda, and the movie even finds time for her to grow as a character. She is flawed, and morally ambiguous, yet still sympathetic in many ways. Also she drops one-liners and beats dudes up really bad, which is amusing in its own right. Again I felt her being the ultimate love interest of Bruce Wayne seemed slap dash, but as that more or less occurred at the conclusion of the film it wasn't a glaring fault that I was staring at for most of the movie. I have more mixed feelings about Bane. As a villain I really liked him, and I feel like Tom Hardy portrayed him brilliantly. He is both psychologically and physically menacing, and that is the compelling aspect of Bane as a character. What really upset me at the end of the movie was that he was only working as the servant of another villain. Ra's Al Ghul's daughter Talia, who only shows her true colors at the very end of the movie. This for me really diluted the entire villain setup, suddenly reducing what I found a very menacing villain, and replacing him with an inferior one.

There he goes again. Motherfucker can't STOP rising.
The movie is conscious of what it's up against. It feels like it tries to be bigger in every way than The Dark Knight, and I think ultimately that was to its detriment. It still ends up being a very entertaining and enjoyable film, but there is a fair amount of excess and grandstanding that led to weaker overall story structure. For a movie about Batman, you actually spend very little time in the overall movie actually watching Batman do things. A sizable portion of the movie doesn't even involve Bruce Wayne doing things at all. I understand that they're trying to tell a big story, but I'd rather they told a slightly smaller story that was just about Batman. They divert Batman from the plot for a long time for what felt again like a forced way to work in a scene where he actually, literally rises. On that matter I found myself several times wondering if the Christopher Nolan has a concept of non-literal occurrences. Selina Kyle says a storm is coming to Bruce Wayne, and then there is literally a huge permanent snowstorm for the duration of the siege. She is after a program that will give her a clean slate. It is called....Clean Slate. Come on guys at least act like you're trying.

Oh man now he's rising above ground level traffic!
There were a few other instances of stuff that made me wonder if any thought was put into anything but spectacle (most notably a scene where the army of cops in Gotham charge in the wide open with their guns at mercenaries armed with assault weapons and tanks) but the point is made. If it wasn't trying so hard to be BIG it would have been a better movie. As it is, I still think it was a pretty good movie, but there were aspects that strained credulity, even when considering that it is a movie about a comic book character who dresses in a bat suit. As to the legend ending, well... I have a tough time entirely believing that either. They definitely left the door open if they want to pick things up again, and I wonder how long they can let this franchise lay unmolested before the call of the money is just too strong for them. They labored feverishly to set up Gordon-Levitt as the successor to the Bat Man, so I can't see them letting that ultimately go to waste, but who knows. In the end, while it might not have been The Dark Knight, I don't think it's reasonable to expect that anything would be, and that DKR was a fun and effective end to this cycle of Batman.

Next week I start off with another Bruce Willis movie as promised, before again trying to pull myself at least momentarily away from his filmography.

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