Thursday, August 9, 2012

Movie Review: "The Dark Knight Rises"

Well, here's that "Special Edition" post I said I would have for you last time: my review of  The Dark Knight Rises. See, I always keep my word. It may be delayed a little bit, but I keep it.

Photo Credit: Bros.

Finally we’ve come to an end of another Batman saga of movies. Supposedly. The movie does play in such a way that sets up the possibility of a fourth film. But even if no fourth film comes along, The Dark Knight Rises still does a great job of concluding director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.  

Dark Knight Rises carries on well its consistent realism of the previous two movies. Two elements it does this best with is the plot and characterization. Bruce Wayne has been hiding out since his friend’s, District Attorney Harvey Dent’s, death eight years ago which is the time lapse in setting since the events of the previous film.  Feeling guilty about Dent’s death, Wayne has abandoned both his role as socialite and Batman. But after Alfred, his butler since childhood, encourages him to return to his role of CEO of Wayne Enterprise and as Gotham’s philanthropist, Bruce Wayne soon feels the need to turn back to his role of city protector too. And so once again he takes up the Dark Knight’s “armour”.

What provokes him to do the latter? Two criminals are causing havoc on Gotham at a level that has not been so high since the Joker’s threat in the previous movie: Cat Woman (in this movie, known by her real name of Salina Kyle, and just as the “Cat” in Gotham news headlines), and, worse yet, Bane--a monstrous super powered muscle man and leader of a literal underground terrorist organization. Anne Hathaway plays Cat Woman/Kyle good and with believability but her character is secondary to Bane’s, despite the fact she has been the longer time Batman villain and the more popular one at that. Therefore Bane is the real threat to Gotham even though the Cat Woman assists him and even manipulates him and his gang of terrorists at one point.

Cat Woman’s gang? It only consists of one girl: a teenage delinquent who is Kyle’s mentee in crime, who does not overplay her role. To have done so may have added too much humour and/or campiness to the movie and after what happened with Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin in 1997, we definitely would not want that to happen now would we? As in the comic books, Kyle is both a cat burglar/jewel thief as well as Batman’s infatuated admirer/enemy in one. But Bane, along with his terrorists, is the real threat to Gotham. He steals a nuclear device made supposedly for environmental protection but has it turned into a bomb setting it to literally blow the whole city to rubble.

Because Kyle’s villainous role is secondary to Bane’s, her character is no where as well developed as his. We hear that her excuse for crime is poverty but her background story stops there. Her costume matches the realism of the movies: a black body suit and a pair of goggles that merely suggests a pair of feline ears and so is much more inconspicuous than her costume in the comic books. But such suggestiveness is useful in that it reminds us we are watching a movie based on a comic book superhero.

Bane’s character, played by Tom Hardy, is much more developed than Kyle’s. As evil and destructive as he is, we can feel some sympathy for him since his excuse for crime is much more complex. He was born and raised most of his childhood in one of the world’s worst dungeons located in the Middle East. It is this experience that drives his evil ambitions.

A small exception to Bane’s character is that, in spite of the overall movie’s realism, it gets a little typical in its villainy and so may seem to some a little out of place with the trilogy. This is particularly due to the way Hardy performs the role, as great as his acting is. Many fans of the trilogy would probably find this a problem and perhaps that’s why other critics say this film didn’t do as good as expected. But being a big fan of the four colour comic book, I personally don’t see it as a flaw and so feel it adds to the comic book flavor without detracting in any major way from the realism of Nolan’s style.

As with the first two films, Dark Knight Rises goes deeply into Bruce Wayne’s/Batman’s character. In doing so it further develops his character. Wayne’s true character shows up more after he is captured by Bane and forced to suffer a fate similar to the one that led Bane to his present state. This is a test of endurance that Wayne/Batman must not only get through to save himself but to save all of Gotham as well whose citizens Bane has brainwashed with a false promise of liberation from social injustice.  This endurance shows Wayne’s/Batman’s self sacrificial values for humanity. Christian Bale carries out these characteristics in his role as the Dark Knight just as great, if not better than, in the previous two films.

The characterization moves the story along good enough and the plot holds together well. Part of this is due to the well utilized themes of falling and rising/redemption. Not only does Batman continuously fall and rise in his turmoil but so does Gotham even if more gradually, in both its social and even physical structures. The action also moves the story along well and so doesn’t obscure narrative elements, yet is enough to keep the audience intrigued and definitely from falling asleep.  Like the first two installments of the series, the special effects are also done good and so make Batman’s world believable. Also, the suspense and irony are sufficiently balanced from beginning to end.

It’s actually irony that sets up the movie at the end for the possibility of a fourth film. In this irony is a reference to another Batman character that I won’t give away here, even though such reference may only be symbolic. Because of the manner of the film’s suggestion of the possibility of another sequel, a fourth film would take too different of an approach on the Batman character (somewhat like the comic book has done at times), and so hopefully Nolan will go on with his decision not to do anymore Batman movies. It would be better to see someone else’s cinematic interpretation of the Dark Knight starting from scratch.

Because The Dark Knight Rises holds out so well like Nolan’s two other Batman films, and because it is set up as a conclusion to the trilogy, adding another installment that will do just as good would be very hard, nearly impossible if not. Although it does suggest the possibility of such an installment, this shouldn’t contradict the movie’s conclusiveness of the trilogy. Comic book super heroes’ stories, like those of all great mythic heroes, often are open ended to some extent since they are episodic.  

Until next time (our regular time slot and same blogman channel) . . .

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