PG Cooper: The Dark Knight Rises Revisited

Posted: February 16, 2013 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews


The Dark Knight Rises is one of the most divisive films of 2012 with people falling all over the place with how they feel. I was very disappointed with the film when I first saw it last summer, a fact which I’ve not been quiet about. I didn’t think the film was horrible, but I certainly didn’t think it was good either. I always knew I would give the film a second viewing eventually, of which I’ve now done. Much to my surprise, I enjoyed the film significantly more than the first time. Though still far from perfect, the film’s strengths came through a lot more and a large amount of initial issues were lessened or eliminated altogether. I thought I’d discuss how and wow some of my points of view have changed. Those who have not seen The Dark Knight Rises look away; massive SPOILERS.

Two of my biggest problems with The Dark Knight Rises were Alfred leaving Bruce and Bruce hanging off the cowl at the end of the film. These bothered me because the decisions oppose my view of the characters. In my opinion, Alfred would never leave Bruce and Bruce would never walk away from being Batman until he physically could no longer do it. So it bothered me seeing these characters act in a way that so massively contradicts how I view them. Now, I’ve accepted the differences. I don’t necessarily “like” the choices made, but I don’t hold them against the film either. The thing is, it always bothers me when people complain about changes to the source material and use them to knock a film. Like fans of Stephen King who think Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining sucks because it’s different from the book. The film is its own property and as far as I’m concerned should be allowed to make some changes. And yet there I was complaining about The Dark Knight Rises being different from previous incarnations. It isn’t fair of me to confine the film to what I deem acceptable actions for the characters, especially when I argue that filmmakers are allowed to take liberties. All that so say that I no longer take issue with Alfred leaving or Batman hanging up the cowl. It isn’t my interpretation of the characters, but that’s okay. Besides, I already have my ultimate version of Batman (Batman: The Animated Series) so I don’t need every other adaptation of the character to match those standards.

I also remember being really let down by the action scenes at the time. I admired the technical elements of the scenes, but I did not feel invested in them. I feel much better about them now. I think at the time, my disappointment with the film overshadowed how well executed the action scenes are. Watching them again, these are some very strong action sequences. The opening plane set-piece, the war for Gotham, the end chase for the bomb, and the two fights between Batman and Bane are all amazing scenes and extraordinary well-done. The scenes of Batman and Catwoman fighting together and Batman’s first reappearance are a lot of fun too. I’ve also come to really enjoy the more epic and fantastical elements of the story. I thought the film strayed too far from the (relatively) more realistic Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Maybe it does, but on its own it works. In fact I like that Nolan decided to cut loose and have more fun with the action and story in his final Batman film. The images of a city under siege had a much more profound effect on me this time around.

Two new characters in The Dark Knight Rises are John Blake and Miranda Tate (who is really Talia al Ghul), played by Joseph-Gordon Levitt and Marion Cottilard, respectively. I did not like these characters on first viewing but I’ve warmed to them a lot. I found Blake a much more likable and noble character than before and Levitt’s performance is very good. Cottilard’s Talia I liked a lot more too. Despite her limited time as Talia, Cottilard brings the characters pain and sense of vengeance to the screen very well. I still have some issues with these characters in writing (which I’ll get into later) but I like them a lot more now.

Finally, there’s Bane. I initially felt very mixed about Bane. I thought his voice was comedic and distracting and that he was reduced to being a henchman by the end. Watching The Dark Knight Rises again, I loved Bane. I thought he was an awesome and very scary villain and that Tom Hardy’s performance is great. The voice didn’t bother me at all either. Maybe I’ve just become accustom to it at this point. I also don’t see him serving Talia as a character a flaw, but as a strength. It gives Bane more depth and I like the idea of a violent and sadistic character having an emotional core. I also respect how Bane had to follow The Dark Knight’s Joker, who is one of the absolute best villains put on film. While Bane doesn’t reach Joker’s heights, he feels his own character who is so different he need not be constantly compared to Ledger’s work.

I do still have a lot of issues with the film. The first act is still convoluted and messy. The Dagget character and subplot could have been handled much better for example. I still think the fact that Batman essentially has to “rise” twice slightly diminishes the power of the arc. I think the magic knee brace is lame. I don’t think John Blake is ready to be Batman yet. The Talia twist is undercut by the fact that she dies ten minutes later and by her and Bruce’s relationship being so small with everything else going on. As great as the chemistry is between Batman and Catwoman, the idea of them running off together as lovers still seems underdeveloped. The Matthew Modine character added nothing. But even with that, all the elements I enjoyed the first time are still great. Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway give great performances, the music is excellent, the production design first rate, and the cinematography striking. It makes the film a mixed bag but one where the good far outweighs the bad. I still think the film is vastly inferior to Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and while it may not be the Batman film I wanted, but it’s still a damn good one in spite of some big flaws.

Rating: B+

  1. Mr Rumsey says:

    Interesting post, I’ve heard that many people’s opinion improved when they re-watched this a second time, but I’m sad to say that mine didn’t. Not that I hated it, but it isn’t great.

    I agree about the action, I also think that it’s handled much better than in the previous film.

    As much as I love Hardy I still don’t rate Bane all that much. Plus the voice still distracts me I’m afraid :(

  2. Ipodman says:

    Funny, I actually enjoyed the movie LESS after watching it a second time, but it’s still an excellent movie nonetheless. My fav of the trilogy is still batman begins, I think begins has the most “complete” and satisfying story

  3. Chris says:

    Indecisive weiner!!!!! The film still sucks and no amount of viewings is going to change it.

  4. BrikHaus says:

    Hey, PG, glad you are coming around! After a few more watches, maybe you’ll realize how tremendously awesome this movie is. ;)

  5. ianthecool says:

    I’m glad you revisited this and are okay with the Alfred and Batman quitting thing. Because over the whole arc of the film, them doing what they did actually makes a lot of sense, and the character motivations are there. The last two films dealt with Wayne coming to the realization that he needed to let go of batman. Alfred tried to push him towards that, but he still needed to realize it on his own.

    I found on a rewatch that the pacing is the films biggest problem. Its simply too long, and it feels too long.

  6. moviebuff801 says:

    Glad that you’ve finally come around, PG, and that you’re able to recognize the arcs of both Bruce and Alfred as both necessary to the story and natural progressions for them, given what was established in the first two films.

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