Sunday, August 19, 2012

Movie Review: "The Dark Knight Rises"


I waited out the crowds and allayed my slightly-niggling fears following the Aurora movie theater massacre and saw The Dark Knight Rises. Once again, Christopher Nolan, whose Inception was my favorite film of 2010 and whose Memento was one of my top 50 movies of the last decade, has demonstrated his genius once again, creating a film of epic proportions.

Following the events at the close of 2008's The Dark Knight, in which Batman took responsibility for the death of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), the police of Gotham City have immortalized Dent and used his death to crack down on crime and imprison thousands of offenders. While the police force and the mayor hope to find Batman and hold him responsible for Dent's murder, only Police Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) knows the truth.

Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is holed up in his mansion, languishing from his injuries and mourning the murder of his girlfriend. His company is in a financial shambles, and all his ever-faithful servant, Alfred (the spectacular Michael Caine), wants is for Bruce to move on with his life and leave the Batman business behind. As if.

When Wayne is robbed by mischievous cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway, who steals nearly every scene she's in as well), he realizes there is trouble ahead, led by violently evil Bane (Tom Hardy). Bane and his not-so-merry band of marauders have enlisted Selina and others in a scheme to strip the privileged of Gotham City of all of their money and possessions, turning the tables on who are the haves and have-nots. Egged on by earnest policeman John Blake (a steadfastly marvelous Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who gets better and better with every film role) and much to Alfred's chagrin, he turns Wayne Enterprises over to the charming Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) and Batman returns to save Gotham City.

Ah, if it were only so easy.

This is a film that tackles big issues—privilege versus wanting, wishing for a clean slate to erase your mistakes, loyalty, revenge, sustainability, overcoming grief, and telling the truth—even as it ratchets up the action and the violence.

Although I'm not a fan of movies which threaten New York City (err, sorry, Gotham City) with destruction, the film truly crackles and pops with confrontations galore. As Bane pits citizen versus citizen, authority versus authority, as he works to carry out his ultimate plan, the results are chilling, emotionally provoking, even surprising. And I'll admit it, during crucial fight scenes, I found myself scanning the entrances to the theater, just to be sure no one unexpected entered. (Shudder.)

At times the movie tells more than shows, and it wants to be both a think piece and an action film, but to me, it never felt like I had been watching for nearly three hours. The acting was truly top-notch—Bale is at his taciturn best; Hardy is sneering, sadistic, and scary, although sometimes unintelligible as the criminal with the voice of Darth Vader; Hathaway is playful, flirty, and flinty; Caine is magnificent; and Oldman is appropriately conflicted. (As an aside, I can't get over how old Matthew Modine looked in this movie; between him and C. Thomas Howell in the remake of Spider-Man, I'm having trouble watching my teen idols age.)

The Dark Knight Rises is a tremendously powerful and satisfying conclusion to the Batman trilogy. Christopher Nolan is to be applauded for bringing gravitas, humor, pathos, and action to this franchise. I only hope Hollywood can leave well enough alone this time and not choose to remake this series again in 5-10 years...

1 comment:

  1. Great review LHH. This film had me from start to finish and never let me go. It was the near-perfect thrill-ride I needed from this last part of the trilogy to be and only Christopher Nolan could deliver on that. I'm going to miss him directing another Batman film, but at least he can now go off and do some other crazy, original flicks.