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Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

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Dark Knight Rises posterI had to see The Dark Knight Rises twice before I knew exactly how I felt about it. Leaving the theatre after the first viewing, I felt thoroughly let down. After my second screening I found myself still retaining some of the same disappointment; however, I was able to look at the film more objectively, and come to some mixed conclusions. So, as a huge fan of Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga, I can finally say this: the entire trilogy is an incredible achievement, but Rises is absolutely the weakest entry in the series.

Part of the problem here is the level of expectation I had going into this final chapter. The first two chapters, Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008), were incredible films, packed with a level of depth not previously seen in any comic-book adaptation. My desire for this third movie to match its predecessors in quality is a tall order in and of itself, but part of me had been hyped to believe Rises would be the best in the series.

And it’s true – Rises is a decent film that, sadly, finds itself falling into a trap of convention. In this film Batman will be put in an “inescapable” prison and work to defuse a ticking bomb. It’s all the same typical crap we’ve seen in dozens of other films, and these overused clichés fail to create the tension that Christopher Nolan was likely hoping for.

At times everything looks so bleak – so extremely hopeless – that it becomes borderline silly. It was hard for me to buy into Bane’s (very) elaborate terrorist plot, largely because I just couldn’t accept it as being possible in the real world. Both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight walked the fine line of reality and total fiction; however, the films were able to keep the action on screen grounded enough to make the plots believable.

In The Dark Knight Rises Bane hijacks a nuclear bomb, blows up bridges to isolate the city of Gotham, and holds the United States hostage. It’s like a wet dream for War on Terror fearmongers, and it’s just too ridiculous to take seriously.

While the audience is well aware that Bane plans on blowing up the entire city, he still spends a lot of time pretending to lead a revolution in the name of the people of Gotham. Yes, Bane is so evil that he likes to give people hope before destroying them – at least that’s what he explains to Batman.

Nolan moves in the direction of social commentary here, but never quite achieves his goal. There is some mention of extra police powers, but we see no real indication that Gotham has become a police state. We also have no idea how the economy of Gotham is doing, how happy citizens are with their government – nothing.

It makes Bane’s “revolution” angle all the less believable. Would you have hope that a guy hijacking a city with a nuke is actually on your side?

There are aspects of the plot I really like, particularly how Rises ties the three Batman films together so perfectly. Bane is a student of the League of Shadows, the secret organization lead by Ra’s al Ghul (as seen in Batman Begins), which gives a nice twist to the story that I didn’t expect.

Rises ScreenshotBane is brought to life due to a solid performance by Tom Hardy. In my opinion, Bane is one of the most ridiculous villains from the Batman comics. Luckily the hulking, masked mercenary in Rises shares very little with his comic book predecessor; Hardy’s Bane is dark, twisted, and very interesting. He may not be the Joker, but he certainly works.

The other newcomer to Nolan’s Batman world, Selina Kyle (Catwoman), is another very pleasant addition and, in my opinion, Anne Hathaway playing the role is a near-perfect match. Hathaway sells the action, con-artistry, and romance with a level of sophistication and sex appeal that was completely unexpected.

I only wish that Catwoman had a larger role in the overall story. Selina Kyle has a lot of depth and background that the movie explores, but only to a limited degree.

I hate to keep trashing the story in Rises because, all things considered, it isn’t that bad. There are elements of the narrative that work really well, and I was absolutely blown away by the ending. This is Christopher Nolan we’re talking about – he doesn’t make a bad film. The Dark Knight Rises is loaded with memorable scenes, and everything in this film looks absolutely fantastic.

Still, this isn’t the conclusion to Batman I had hoped for. The Dark Knight Rises is a good movie, a decent finish to the trilogy, but a huge disappointment nonetheless. The Nolan Batman trilogy will earn its place in the halls of film history; however, I can’t help thinking that this last chapter could have been a whole lot better.

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About Chad Michael Van Alstin

Chad is an award-winning libertarian opinion columnist. He's done with that now. Having earned himself a B.A. in Mass Communication, Chad now spends most of his time as a wage laborer, killing the pain by consuming as many video games and movies as possible. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadVanAlstin
  • Anonymous

    I completely agree with this article. Although I wasn’t completely suprised, i had my doubts that it wouldn’t be any good based on the previews. DKR was lacked so much of the complexity that was is Dark Knight. No I’m not a die hard batman fan, but I know a great movie when I see one. DKR was not

  • Jacob

    Haha what reviews are you reading? I would love to read comments that arent overly negative cuz that would make me one happy person!!! I dont usually voice my opinions but i have seen so much negative activity with this movie that i had no choice but to step in!! And yea people love to b negative and those same people act like the avengers is better than TDKR and all i can say is HAHAHA!!!

  • Karl

    I honestly don’t think this review or any ones comments are overly negative. Pointing out that it is not perfect doesn’t mean it is not worth seeing. That is the problem with absolute positions, it is either the best or worst. There is no doubt that lots of people have gone to see it and there will still be more in the coming weeks. But that doesn’t mean everyone who sees it will think its the best movie ever made. Its good, but not the best in my opinion.

  • Jacob

    And yes transformers 1,2 & 3 were all #1 in the box office. What’s ur point?

  • Jacob

    What im saying is all the negative remarks about the film arent keeping people out of the theater!!! And i think total recall is considered a blockbuster film…..but thats just my opinion!!!

  • Just because a movie is #1 is not an indication that it’s a great movie. Wasn’t “Transformers 2” number one at the box office?

  • Karl

    Yes it is #1, 3 weeks in a row at the end of summer and with no more blockbusters coming out. I am not saying that it is not doing well and making boat loads of money but there is nothing out there to compete against it. And even if it hangs on to #1 for weeks to come, it really doesn’t change that it is not the best of the Batman movies, I think both Begins and Dark Knight are better. But that still puts it way better than other batman movies before the reboot. To me Batman Begins is the best reboot I have ever seen and actually recovered a character that I had almost given up on. Dark Knight Rises works as a way to bring the story to an end, but not blown away by it.

  • Jacob

    Glad to see that no negative remarks about TDKR have been posted since my last post. Maybe i put a little sense into ur heads. Its the number #1 movie in theaters for three straight weeks……so even through all your criticism THE DARK KNIGHT RISES!!!!

  • Thanks, Other Chad.

  • Hey – I thought this was a well-balanced review. You backed up your mixed feelings well, and even saw the movie twice to look at it more objectively. Fanboys drive me nuts, some of these comments here are pretty over the top. I agree with many of your criticisms here, with an emphasis on what you said about Nolan relying on well-worn conventions (the basic plot wasn’t that far removed from Begins, to be honest). That said, like you, I still think Rises has a lot of good elements.

  • shancage

    i am a very big fan of this movie.yes,it is true that tdk is the best among all parts but tdkr has an individual taste and you have to understand its condition.bane is one of the scariest villain i’ve ever seen.his personality is more frightening than the joker but if you compare bane and joker than i ‘ll give my vote to joker certainly……………………..

  • shancage

    it was exellent……….

  • Jacob

    The only thing bloated is all the people that only have negative things to say about this movie!!! What does batman have to do? Carry a magic wand around or turn into a wolf to get some respect? First people talk about banes voice so they re-dub it so we can understand him better!! After that now they r talking about his mask and how ugly it looks!! O i forgot a villain is supposed to b glamorous!!! Watch the movie and watch a master do his work!

  • kobi

    dkr is the best of the trilogy but nolan was trying too hard to maintain his current reputation with his previous movies resulting to a bloated film.

  • Blind Fan

    DKR was so amazing I plucked out my eyes after watching it because there will never be anything worth seeing again. Seriously a movie can be good without it having to be the best thing ever made, and it is OK to point out the problems, or short comings. If you think it was the best movie great, go see it over and over again. However, to be blind and not willing to look at it shortcomings and discuss them reveal that you are a fan of the concept of Dark Knight but not of the actual film.

  • Jacob

    O and avengers sucked!!! It was like i was watching transformers part 4!!!

  • Jacob

    If ur a “batman fan” and u didn’t like this movie compared to the last two installments, then im sorry to say that ur not a batman fan!!! Clearly what Christopher Nolan was doing was finishing the story of bruce wayne and he did that very well!!! And as for the discrimination against the villain bane……what better way to finish a trilogy than to put a villain against Batman that he could never beat. …perfect villain to use!!!! I have seen the movie 3 times already and have stood up clapping everytime! Chris nolan is a genius and i applaud his work. And for the people that say ” omg there r so many plot holes ahh”!!! What movie have u seen that doesnt have plot holes huh? Tell me!!! Stop finding any little thing wrong with a film and turning into something major. It was a great film with action, twists in the storyline, catwoman:), explosions, best fight scenes ive ever seen, and of course the best superhero ever…..THE DARK KNIGHT!!!!

  • Freddy

    My friend, I invite you to read this article.

    Nothing is wrong in considered another points of view.

  • Yash

    The Avengers was more entertaining….!!!!

  • Yash

    Sorry I forgot to add that I saw ‘The Dark Knight’ 4 times in a movie hall and numerous times on the DVD which I bought immediately on its release, but the same won’t be true with this installment, Sorry Mr. Nolan.

  • Yash

    I don’t understand why the Batman Fans are attacking the Movie critics and reviewers so harshly. I am a die hard fan of Batman too since childhood and have taken a lot of inspiration from him but at the same time I believe that we should not be as Blind as a Bat to see what Chris Nolan has made.
    I fully agree to the reviewer here and I believe that Chris fell for his own trap in Batman-3, the trap that was laid unknowingly by him in The Dark Knight.
    In the comics Ra’s Al Ghul refers to Batman as the Detective for his abilities to investigate and deduce which were nicely shown in 1st two films but completely missing in 3rd one. Similarly all the Hi-Fi gadgets shown in 1st 2 movies are missing here except the Bat-copter which kinda looked funny.
    I was certainly disappointed by Nolan who delivered such fantastic films like the inception and batman series earlier and believe me I saw Batman-3 without any prejudice or pre-expectations.

  • Bane

    Even I thought the film was amazing, your punishment must be more severe!!!!

  • Nikerules

    hey bob atleast we did not mix up our puntuation

  • Bob.

    All of you that have commented are quite simply fools. With spelling issues. This film is good but is also full of foot long plot holes and poor cut of points. Poorest part of the trilogy.

  • Bob atlanta

    Hey man, how can you say batman sucks!? The first movie was full of spiritual pseudo intellectual bs by the dude from star wars. That sucked! The new movies going to rock!

  • dj

    dkr was my favourite.no way was batman begins better

  • saathvik

    Itz fantasy film and a feel good film,and yeah superhero films are lyk dreams…so if u say they dnt seem real..u r not a superhero movie and u dnt need to write such crappy reviews jus for the sake of writing!!

  • Nikerules

    if you write reviews on movies that are so heavily influenced by your prior judgement on previous installments and your hopes and aspirations by what has already been rather than reviewing something individually. It is a conclusion to a trilogy no doubt but it is also an individual film. I think your review was good if it had assessed the trilogy but as a review to Dark knight rises it could have been a whole lot better and is frankly a dissapointment