The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 8.7/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 9/10

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012) - Christopher Nolan

"[Batman] is the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he's not our hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector…. a dark knight."

As the Caped Crusader "races up a ramp into blinding light," the credits of The Dark Knight begin to roll, and we all thought to ourselves: How is director Christopher Nolan going to come up with a conclusion as satisfying as this? On a first note, the title of this concluding film is enough to intrigue and make us wonder, just by adding one word: Rises.

The Dark Knight Rises begins eight years after the Joker incident, when Bruce Wayne aka Batman (Christian Bale) vanished into the night. During his absence, Gotham City went into a state of peace, thanks to the anti-crime Dent Act, executed in honor of the passing of Harvey Dent. But after Wayne meets the mysterious Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), things begin to change. The stakes are quickly raised by the emergence of Bane (Tom Hardy), a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham forces Bruce back out of his hiding.

The film begins rather slowly, but at an understandable and forgiving pace. Similar to all other action thrillers, it efficiently builds up its intensity until its final climax. Within ten minutes, we are introduced to at least four new characters. At this point, critics have described the plot as "murky." Though it may present so many new faces as so little time, the narrative eventually catches up with their personalities and their motivations. Some of these new characters include Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a millionaire who attempts to do business with Wayne, and Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a young heroic cop.

One of the main strengths that drives The Dark Knight Rises is characterization. Blake stands as the new symbolic character of this piece, for he represents all the ideals Batman and Gordon (Gary Oldman) used to have before the Joker tore it all down in the predecessor. As a "rookie hot-head" of a cop, Blake is well portrayed by Gordon-Levitt, though I can argue that he bears too much of a resemblance to his previous Nolan character, Arthur from Inception. Nevertheless, his persistence and hope for the rising of Gotham from ashes powers the film's narrative that there is still good that will brawl with evil.

Michael Caine throughout his career has been nominated for the Oscar six times, winning two of them. Furthermore, he was knighted twelve years ago by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his contribution to cinema. Today, he has been highly respected as one of the most experienced actors, similar to Jack Nicholson or Robert de Niro. As for the Batman trilogy, Caine was always there as the loyal butler Alfred, delivering memorable lines that prove the writing skills in the movie screenplays. But it is not until this film where we can finally see his Oscar-worthy talents within Alfred. Caine here represents the second element that propels the film forward: raw emotion. In my experience in watching movies, emotional deliveries are the most compelling when delivered by two types of people. The first type is young people, kids in their 10s or below, a type that renowned director Steven Spielberg uses often. The second type is elder people, seniors in their 70s or above, a type that Scorsese used with Ben Kingsley in Hugo. Stronger than it was before in Batman Begins, the chemistry between Bruce and Alfred in The Dark Knight Rises is as riveting as ever, thanks to emotionally charged dialogue and lengthened screen time between the two actors. To the Academy, bring out another nomination for Sir Michael Caine.

As for the two new characters pitted against Batman, they have their own backbone. The first time I heard that Anne Hathaway was going to portray the Catwoman, I said two things to myself. One: Why is Catwoman going to be in this movie? And two: Why pick Hathaway to play that character? After viewing, I can proudly say that if you are questioning the actress just like I was, you can confidently put those worries aside. Her performance may not be Oscar-worthy, but she brings the message and idea along productively. Her chemistry with Bale on screen somehow works, not physically but mentally. With the help of the screenplay once again, the personalities link easily, as if they are just puzzle pieces waiting to be put together. For once, I have shown my respect for the Bat as well as the Cat.

Finally, for the great antagonist of the film: Bane. Conceptually, Bane is exceptionally designed. The mask itself is menacing, conforming perfectly to Hardy's face as well as having an appearance similar to a skull. With an army jacket and a coat that bears a resemblance to the French, Bane stands as a revolutionary tyrant, a muscular dictator with dominating authority.

The Dark Knight Rises is almost not a superhero film. Like Ebert's words, "This is a dark and heavy film; it tests the weight a superhero movie can bear." In a way, it is more of a war film. Surprisingly, it presents itself to the audience with some sort of a political agenda that calls for patriotism and anti-terrorism. The film plays with larger scale elements, both physically and theoretically. In simple words, the third film gets the bigger toys. With a more military-like flavor to its substance, The Dark Knight Rises might just earn itself a Best Picture nomination for its address to Americanism. Just hope to the cast and crew that the Oscar trophy comes in black.

The majority of Christian Bale's screen time is Bruce Wayne, and the Caped Crusader himself only appears briefly once in a while before the climactic battle. Relying on the cast and dialogue, the movie is also more of a drama. Many critics call the first half of The Dark Knight Rises "long and bloated," which I may describe as a little too harsh. I was, however, not fully sure what was going on. Regardless, the film's narrative is tolerable, for it waits in the darkness like a bat until the second half. That is where your jaws will finally drop, before Bane breaks them.

Ever since its announcement, Rises was hyped due to the critical and financial success of its predecessor,The Dark Knight. Thus, it inevitably comes down to the important question: Is The Dark Knight Rises better than The Dark Knight? Despite it being a great movie on its own, Rises has no chance, and this is me without hesitating.

One of the reasons why Rises fails to rise above is the storyline. The Dark Knight's plot is far more crafted, showing proof that it took much more time to develop. It has brisk pacing. It has intelligence, and above all, it has depth. On a side note, the opening scene of Rises has no comparison to the opening of its predecessor. Unlike RisesThe Dark Knight explores the philosophical aspects of human nature, a far more captivating and thought-provoking feature. Speaking of human nature, that very principle discussed by the film is what motivates The Dark Knight's villain, The Joker, to do what he does. 

From Ledger's words, the Joker is a "psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy" who desires to upset social order through crime, to prove that deep down, everyone is as ugly as he is. Not that Bane is a bad villain, but it is difficult to render what his true motivations are. Furthermore, to quote Ebert once again: The mask, despite its sinister design, "robs [Bane] of personality." To fear Bane is to fear his physical strength and towering posture. But to fear the Joker is to fear…. Can you finish that sentence? Even I cannot. That is the true horror of a villain, where we are psychologically disturbed, unable to predict what he will do next. In an all-out "Clash of the Villains," the Joker wins over Bane effortlessly. Just take the Joker's laugh and you are the victor.

As a message to all the Dark Knight lovers who are hyped over Rises, listen to Mark Keizer: "Lower your expectations a drop, otherwise you are being unfair to the movie. No matter how dense it gets, it is still clean storytelling that refuses to buckle under its self-imposed moral burdens. The production is of the highest order." The Dark Knight Rises should still be seen as a movie alone, and as a movie alone, it is one of the big summer films of this year. As the concluding film of the Batman trilogy, Rises does complete justice with great direction, acting, political agenda, and a cinematic scale of being grand and intriguing. It is a satisfying conclusion, a straightforward one. However, if The Dark Knight Rises is compared to its predecessor, it will fall short and not rise up to the exceedingly high standards.

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