PG Cooper: The Dark Knight Rises Review

Posted: July 20, 2012 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Release date: July 20th, 2012

Running time: 2 hours and 45 minutes

Written by: David S. Goyer, Christopher Nolan, and Jonathan Nolan

Based on: The character Batman, created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, and Anne Hathaway

I don’t think I’ve ever had a theater experience quite like the first time I saw The Dark Knight back in the summer of 2008. I remember sitting in the theater being completely blown away by the film, and having a big stupid grin plastered on my face throughout. Even during some emotional and sad moments, I still remember smiling in admiration throughout. Of course, I was a very different person then. I was barely a teenager, just going into high school, and I wasn’t really much of a film buff. I was however, a big Batman fan. Now, I’ve just recently graduated high school and am definitely a film fan first and a Batman fan second. Despite this, I’ve never stopped loving Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, which satisfied the film fan in me and the Batman fan in me. So, like several others, I greatly anticipated Nolan’s final chapter in the saga, The Dark Knight Rises. The moment the Warner Bros. logo appeared, I felt the big stupid grin from 2008 creep back on my face. I was ready for another great Batman film.

The story picks up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight. After taking blame for the murder of Harvey Dent, Batman (Christian Bale) has retired from crime fighting, while his alter-ego Bruce Wayne has become a reclusive hermit. The death of Harvey Dent has inspired the citizens of Gotham and the city, while not without crime, is much safer than before. Though nothing good lasts forever, as new forces come bringing crime to Gotham. The first is master thief Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), and the other is the mercenary Bane (Tom Hardy), who plans to lead an army and take over Gotham. These factors prompt Bruce Wayne to come out of retirement and become Batman again, much to the dismay of his faithful butler Alfred (Michael Caine).

The big question on everyone’s lips is if The Dark Knight Rises is on the level of the previous entries in Nolan’s Batman trilogy. The sad answer is no, in fact it doesn’t even come close. I wish I could say the reason is because I simply had unreasonable expectations, but that isn’t the case here. The Dark Knight Rises is plagued with problems and annoyances which are unfortunately too big to overlook. One of the biggest problems is easily the pacing. The first half of the film throws things at the audience at a rapid rate but never gives the audience the time to absorb what they’re watching. Compounding to the problem is the fact that there are way too many characters and subplots, many of which should have been tweaked or cut during the script-writing process. With so many unnecessary elements taking up screen time, it’s hard to get truly invested. Admittedly, the pace does improve in the film’s second half in that it doesn’t feel nearly as rushed, but there are still too many characters and stories. The film is so convoluted that a lot of the more dramatic and emotional moments fall flat.

I feel a large part of the problem is that Nolan and co-likely felt like they needed to top The Dark Knight by making the sequel bigger and more epic. But in trying so hard to be epic, The Dark Knight Rises falls flat on its face. The film falls into the trap of blowing its wad too early by having a lot of big action scenes in the first act. First of all, these early action scenes feel completely unearned, but more importantly having so many extravagant set pieces early on numbed me to the action throughout the rest of the film. Are the action scenes well done on a technical level? Of course they are, but they rarely grabbed me on an emotional level. Despite all the spectacle on display during the climax, I actually find the climax to the relatively low-key Batman Begins fare more grand because I was more emotionally invested.

This attempt at being big and epic is also very apparent when one looks at Bane’s master plan. I don’t want to give away too many details, so I will just say it involves Bane running Gotham City temporarily. To me, this feels completely ridiculous and out of place within the more realistic world Nolan has created, and things get harder to swallow as the movie goes on. Also, while The Dark Knight Rises is not a formulaic film, I did find it shockingly predictable, particularly in its third act twist and a few moments during the film’s dénouement. Granted, some story elements work, such as Bruce’s incarceration, and certain parts of the film are pretty enjoyable, but on the whole the script did not deliver which is all the more disappointing considering it’s the same writers who penned Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

One of the themes running through The Dark Knight Rises is the gap between the upper class and the lower class. This is a fairly interesting theme, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. My basic problem is there’s no subtly to this theme. Instead of having a class struggle be an underlying element to the film, Nolan frequently takes opportunities to beat the audience over the head with it. Characters frequently talk about class struggle and economics in ways that don’t feel very organic. There’s even a scene where a random extra talks about how his money isn’t in the stock exchange and that he keeps it under the mattress. At times I felt like yelling to the film, “I get it! Piss off already!” Compare this to The Dark Knight, which is in many ways about the War on Terror. While it’s very apparent The Dark Knight can be viewed as a metaphor for the War on Terror, the film doesn’t shove that down your throat the same way The Dark Knight Rises does.

A lot of the actors return from the previous films, with varying degrees of success. Christian Bale is back as Batman of course, and he gives another great performance. I’ve heard a lot of people say this is the best Batman performance Bale has ever given, but I don’t really see that. Don’t get me wrong, Bale does a great job here, but I don’t think he surpasses his work in Batman Begins or The Dark Knight. Michael Caine gives a moving performance as Alfred, but I take serious issue with the way his character was handled. Another disappointment is Commissioner Gordon. I’ve loved Gary Oldman as Gordon from the beginning and I’ve felt his character to be an equal to Batman in many ways. Yet here, he’s given very little to do. Liam Neeson also makes a brief cameo, reprising his role of Ra’s al Ghul in a scene that is kind of unnecessary. Worst of all though is Cillian Murphy returning as Jonathan Crane briefly. I loved Cillian Murphy in Batman Begins, but his performance in The Dark Knight Rises is off and the whole thing felt very forced.

There are a lot of new additions to the cast too, most of which we’re in Inception. Of course there’s the villain Bane, played by Tom Hardy. I feel a lot of mixed things for this villain. He was intimidating and not only did he feel physically superior to Batman, but an intellectual match as well. I like the design of the character and I like Hardy’s body movement. I did not like how the character’s motives are never entirely clear and by the end of the film he felt like he was reduced to being a puppet. I know a lot of people had trouble understanding Bane’s voice. I didn’t have that problem, but I do feel that Bane’s voice sounded goofy at times. Some lines are downright laughable and it really takes away from the menace of the character. Two other characters I don’t like are industrialist Miranda Tate (Marion Cottilard) and police officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). I like both these actors, but these characters didn’t do it for me. I don’t want to give away too much, so I will just say Tate is handled very poorly and I really didn’t like John Blake. Also, the acting from a lot of the minor supporting characters is really bad. I don’t want to spend too much time talking about characters barely in the film, but I was shocked by how poor some of the bit parts were.

On the flipside, I really enjoyed Anne Hathaway’s take on Selina Kyle. I feel there should have been a lot more development to her and Batman/Bruce’s relationship, but Hathaway’s performance was quite good. Hathaway manages to be sexy and seductive, but also have a bit of a mean streak and I could feel there were deeper layers to the character. I also felt her and Bale had a lot of chemistry and I wish the movie spent a lot more time with them. How does she compare to Michelle Pfieffer’s Catwoman from Batman Returns? Well, the two are played completely different so comparing them almost seems pointless, but I will say I think both make a great Selina Kyle/Catwoman, albeit for different reasons. Bottom line, Hathaway’s performance is easily one of the highlights of the film.

I suppose I should talk about the ending. I’m not going to give away any details at all, but if you’re worried of having something potentially spoiled for you, skip to the next paragraph. I did not like the ending at all; in fact it would be fair to say that I hated it. These include two extremely predictable moments which were groan inducing, a nod to the fans which angered me to know end, and two elements that feel so out of place in Batman and his world that it hurts. Another problem is that one of the few things I liked about the ending (at least in theory) is not developed enough to be truly believable.

I realize that this review has a very negative slant right now, which makes sense given that I feel more negative about this then I do positive, but there are things about The Dark Knight Rises I do really like. As mentioned, Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway give great performances and the two have a lot of chemistry together. The production values are also quite high, film has appropriately dark cinematography, Hans Zimmer’s score is excellent. There are some solid action scenes, particularly the first meeting between Batman and Bane, which is incredible. Finally, there’s a line spoken by Batman to Gordon near the end which is so powerful I almost choked up. The point I’m getting at is that there are great things about the film.

To call The Dark Knight Rises a disappointment would be the understatement of the year. While there are good, even great things about the film, the fact is that it’s nowhere near the level of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Even when not compared to Nolan’s previous films, The Dark Knight Rises flounders. At the end of the day, I’m going to view The Dark Knight Rises similar to how I view Alien 3 or Terminator 3 in that I pretend they never happened within the series’ continuity. Instead, I’ll just pretend that the ending to The Dark Knight is the real ending to the series. Why? Because sometimes the truth isn’t good enough, sometimes people deserve more, sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded.

Rating: C

  1. htschuyler says:

    Amen brother.

  2. Wow, I’m really surprised you disliked the ending. I was tearing up and shaking uncontrollably. I absolutely loved it. I do agree that there are quite a few flaws in it. One is particular really distracted me from the movie. Interesting review, my friend!


  3. JJ Silf says:

    It’s depressing how accurate this review is.

  4. r361n4 says:

    I’m definitely surprised that you were this disappointed by the movie, as a huge fan of the earlier installments I actually felt that it served as more than a suitable conclusion to what is arguably my favorite series of movies of all time.

    I did notice some of the gripes you had with the film (I completely agree that the themes of main street vs Wall street felt uncharacteristically ripped-from-the-headlines for a Nolan film) but overall none of those gripes really diminished the sheer power that his movie had over me. Aside from the recurring Robin Hood-esque themes I didn’t really feel like I was hit over the head with anything, but as I noted in my review this definitely feels more like a James Bond-ish Batman movie than the sweeping crime saga of The Dark Knight, so I can see how that is rubbing a lot of people the wrong way.

    In any case I have mixed feelings about the ending, it confuses me that Nolan made it so clear that this was his last go at the franchise yet still left it feeling open enough at the end to keep the audience begging for more. While I admit that I will never stop wanting to see another Nolan Batman, the thought of the series going into the hands of any other director almost feels bad enough to merit closing the door on additional sequels entirely.

  5. reel411 says:

    that’s too bad you found it so disappointing. i totally disagree on most your points. hathaway wasn’t a good catwoman, and bale was incredible here as was oldman and caine. a very inspiring and tidy ending , while it may not be as inspired as the previous movie. but i loved how the themes of this movie were executed. the action scenes are grander but not overdone to me.

  6. Ipodman says:

    I think I like it more than you… althought I don’t think Hathaway is really a highlight of the film. In fact I think she got overshadowed by Bane and even Blake

  7. CMrok93 says:

    Good review PG. This was just about as near-perfect of a thrill-ride I could have gotten because I was hooked on this story and everything else, from start to finish. Shame to see Nolan gone from the series that he’s made so famous once again but maybe this will allow him to pull-off some more original masterpieces like The Prestige and Inception.

  8. Agreed across the board. I still think it’s a better movie than most, so I wont let my disappointment get in the way of giving it a decent enough grade…. but the flick has serious, serious flaws.

    You summed up the problems with Bane quite nicely. I would add that the mask obscures any acting involved though. Which makes it difficult to “get into” that villain. It is what it is.

    I got your back on this one for sure PG.

  9. Nicely written review, as always, but I do have to admit I disagree with you on this one. I loved the ending, thought it was perfect, and I really enjoyed the movie as a whole. But like you said, “different strokes.” ;)

  10. […] it makes them want to cry (if you haven’t read my review, I strongly recommend it, click here. Despite the fact that the Christopher Nolan trilogy has only officially ended recently, Warner […]

  11. BrikHaus says:

    Nice review. Although I can’t imagine what you are hinting at when you say how much you hated the ending. It seemed like the perfect ending to Nolan’s trilogy. Also, I think on a rewatch you will find that the action scenes are spread out more evenly in the movie than you remember. Lastly, I think including Scarecrow in all three movies was kind of a cool thing for the fans.

    Here’s my full take:

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