The Dark Knight Impresses

You knew this was coming. I reviewed The Avengers, and I reviewed The Amazing Spider-Man. Of course I’m going to review the remaining highly-anticipated comic book movie of the year.

The Dark Knight Rises is the end of Christopher Nolan’s turn at the Batmobile’s wheel. Not the end of Batman, of course – he earns far too much money for Time Warner for them to give him up, and there are already plans in the works for a Batman reboot – but the end of the incarnation of Batman we have come to know and love for the past seven years. This means that some things were inevitable with TDKR, and simply couldn’t be avoided.

  1. The film would be tinged with a hint of sadness, as audiences say farewell to Nolan’s beloved “gritty, ultra-realistic” Batman universe.
  2. Nolan would feel pressured to make this movie his “crowning achievement” and “crescendo”, and so he would go over-the-top with the drama, action, and explosions to try to best The Dark Knight.
  3. The main villain, Tom Hardy’s Bane, will have some huge shoes to fill considering just how big of a hole was left by Heath Ledger’s Joker.

That said, the film manages to take these facts with stride and build a really compelling, edge-of-your-seat film that people will talk about for a long time.

In terms of sheer quality and entertainment value, The Dark Knight Rises matches The Dark Knight;¬†the two films are equally awesome. However, don’t walk into the theaters expecting The Dark Knight. In spite of the (rather un-creative and lame) name, TDKR is a completely different movie, and it is good for completely different reasons. The Dark Knight was a great Batman movie, but TDKR is more like a great action movie that happens to include Batman in a few scenes. Indeed, this movie is far more like Batman Begins in that it focuses a lot more on Bruce Wayne and his motivations and personality.

Ultimately, though, it just isn’t fair to compare TDKR to any other Batman film, because it is a totally different animal. In effect, the film’s structure basically divides it into two parts, and neither really resembles anything Nolan has attempted before. The first half of the film plays out like a classic Batman comic book. So much so, in fact, that those who are intimately familiar with classic Batman lore will likely see the “major twist” that ends this first act coming from a mile away. Then, the second act turns into a dystopian future/guerrilla¬†resistance film. No, really.

See, this version of Bane takes on the mantle and appearance of a charismatic, populist, radical revolutionary who turns Gotham City into a pseudo-Communist city-state for his own nefarious ends, and it’s up to the overthrown authority figures – the police and the businessmen, plus Batman – to take back the city from Bane’s army of armed thugs. You can just feel Nolan’s conservative politics seeping through the celluloid, and doubtless the Occupy Wall Street movement will be rather offended. But, much like Avatar, the drama, action, and excitement help to soften the blow so that the film is still quite enjoyable for most of the audience, regardless of political persuasion.

If I had to point to one thing as the best part of this movie, it would be Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman.

Okay, I might be a little biased here.

Catwoman is a hard one to get right. She’s a thief with a conscience. She’s hot, knows it, and uses it to her advantage. She is sometimes Batman’s enemy, sometimes his ally and even sometimes his love interest. She is cunning, resourceful, and a great butt-kicker. And unlike most of the Batman rogues’ gallery, she is completely sane – she dresses the way she does and does what she does because it’s awesome.

Yet previous attempts to put her on the big screen were, shall we say, different.

Mr. Burton? We need to talk.

But Hathaway gets it spot-on. She provides one of the most compelling performances of the entire movie, and demonstrates how to make a comic-book character believable.

The Dark Knight Rises is definitely a great finale to the Nolan-verse Batman. It tidies everything up nicely and is never dull. The acting is great, the dialogue is great, the cinematography is just stunningly beautiful, and the final sequence will be long-remembered. A must-see 5 out of 5, for sure.

A sad note must be made before we leave. During the opening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, an armed gunman in black body armor killed 12 and wounded 58. University of Colorado graduate student James Holmes has been arrested for the shooting. The investigation into the incident is ongoing. Cat Flag’s heart and prayers are with the victims and their families.