Saturday, July 21, 2012

Review: "The Dark Knight Rises"

Tom Hardy as Bane and Christian Bale as Batman
I read exactly one other review of Christopher Nolan's final Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, and while it was surprisingly spoiler free (as I will do my best to be), it was basically a full-on rave. The bad news is that The Dark Knight Rises is not better than The Dark Knight. The good news is that it is at least as good.

Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Gotham City is celebrating 'Harvey Dent Day' and the Dent Act which basically allowed the GPD to lock up every organized criminal in Gotham, making the city relatively safe for all it's citizens. Of course, this is eating away at Police Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), who knows the truth: Dent (Aaron Eckhart) was insane and Batman took the fall for his crime spree. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse, his body so damaged that he has to walk with a cane. At a party celebrating Dent on the Wayne estate, cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) disguises herself as a maid and manages to steal not only Bruce's mother's pearls, but his finger prints, which she then sells to men working for the nefarious mercenary, Bane (Tom Hardy) in exchange for a program that will supposedly erase her record and allow her to start fresh. Meanwhile, Green Earth maven Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) has been trying to meet with Wayne about his long-mothballed nuclear fission reactor, which she believes will save the planet. Officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has sussed that Wayne is Batman and implores him to return to take back the city from Bane. Much to the dismay of trusty Alfred (Michael Caine), Wayne once again takes up the cape and the cowl, to save the city he loves. To give away more would spoil too much, so I'll leave the complicated plot there.

There is much to admire in Nolan's third and final outing with The Batman, including a story line that ties all three films together; characters (both new and old) who are full of surprises and probably some the franchise's best performances. Hardy (who spends 99% of the movie with his face covered by a mask) is a massive, hulking villain who isn't always understandable but who manages to convey evil through his eyes quite well. Bane, a disciple and successor to Ra's Al Ghul (Liam Neesom in a hallucinatory cameo), plans to finish what his master started and destroy Gotham completely. Hathaway, in one of the best performances I've seen her give, plays a different Catwoman than we've seen before. Rocking a catsuit complete with razor-heeled boots and a mask whose visor flips up to become ears, Hathaway's Selina Kyle is a repentant criminal who wants to get out and move on with her life, but just isn't able to do so. She shows great range here, playing everything from tough-as-nails to scared-as-hell with a seeming effortlessness that both surprised and delighted me. But probably the best performance belongs to Gordon-Levitt as Blake. Strong and smart, his Blake is a man whose admiration for everything for which Batman stands drives him to be a better person and this performance is the one that most people will talk about when they think of the future mega-star's first great role. The rest of the cast is fine and the audience we saw it with were thrilled to see Cillian Murphy return once again in a cameo as Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow. And I was pleased to see both Matthew Modine as Police Chief Foley and Nestor Carbonell as Gotham's gorgeous Mayor.

The script, by Nolan and his brother Jonathan is smart, often funny and filled with plot-twists that literally had at least one of my companions (okay, it was Q) gasp and often made the audience cheer and applaud in delight, especially near the end. The action sequences and FX are nothing short of spectacular and Nolan manages to make several cities (including Pittsburgh and Newark) look like one. Hans Zimmer's soaring score is just about perfect while Lindy Hemming's often elegant costumes are both practical and effective. The film's two hour and thirty-four minute running time flew by and I was actually sorry to see it end. Nolan has once again delivered Uncle P a most excellent bi-annual birthday present. **** (Four Out of Four Stars).  The Dark Knight Rises is rated PG-13 for "intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language." Personally, I do NOT recommend this film for children under 10. 

Finally, just a note about movie courtesy. Put your damned cell phones away! If you can't live without looking at your effing phone for a couple of hours, stay the hell home! D became concerned when I voiced my dismay to a nearby patron, who looked at her phone at least once every five minutes. That light in the corner of my eye was extremely distracting and exceptionally rude, and I just couldn't keep quiet about it a minute longer. The young lady did oblige, thought not with out sighing heavily. Seriously, I didn't pay $12.00 to be distracted by your phone display, a-hole!

Since I posted the latest trailer last night, here's a parody trailer I found amusing:

Oh, and we saw the teaser for Zack Snyder's Superman movie, Man of Steel:

Snyder's last movie was awful, but Nolan is producing, so who knows what we'll get. I still have issues with new costume design.

More, anon.

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