The Dark Knight Rises picks up eight years after the end of The Dark Knight. Does that mean you need to watch The Dark Knight to understand what's going on here? Well, it doesn't hurt and it gives you an excuse to see Heath Ledger's Joker again, but it's not necessary; it does help the beginning make more sense, though. Gotham City, once a hellhole of crime and corruption, has now become a safe city, thanks to legislation passed after TDK. Batman, once a staple in the city's grimy streets, has not been seen since and remains a suspect in a murder he did not commit. But, other than that, things are just fine. Instead of spending his evenings with thugs trying to kill him, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has opted to go the Howard Hughes route, avoiding human contact in his mansion and feeling sorry for himself.
|He'd put the suit on, but he doesn't want to devalue it by removing the original packaging|
Meanwhile, a series of seemingly unconnected crimes and shady business activities prove to be the work of a single mastermind: Bane (Tom Hardy). Bane claims to be the heir of Ra's Al Ghul (Liam Neeson) and the leader of the League of Shadows. What does that mean to folks that haven't seen or don't remember Batman Begins? Bane wants to destroy Gotham City and the dude has, like, ninjas on his side. Or random street thugs. Whatever. Oh, and this time, it's personal --- Batman (more or less) killed Ra's, so Bane is gunning for the Bat. But first, Bane wants Batman to suffer. All the advantages Batman has had in the past --- his brains, his brawn, his skill, and his money --- are negated as Bane either removes them from the equation or one-ups Bats. AND Bane holds the entire city hostage with a fusion bomb.
|AND Bane insists on leading when they dance|
The recognizable cast in The Dark Knight Rises swells from past entries, but I generally liked the focus on the core plot and not the characters. Once again, Christian Bale is Batman/Bruce Wayne. I think Bale did another great job embodying the odd personality of Bruce Wayne; he conveys the mix of privilege and riches with determination and psychosis quite well. I've never been crazy about his "Batman Voice," but I generally like his portrayal of the Bat. Anne Hathaway has a sizable supporting role as Selina Kyle (NOT Catwoman) and she was far better than I had expected. It's not that I doubted Hathaway's acting skills, but I didn't buy into her costume in the promotional footage.
vocoder --- and you would be correct --- but I enjoyed the dialogue I understood (roughly 60%) enough to not mind the bits I missed, kind of like my attitude toward Brad Pitt's accent in Snatch.
|Sadly, Bane never says "Man talk, baby" in his Robo-Connery voice|
However, the acting in a superhero movie is really secondary to the spectacle. As much as I enjoyed Tom Hardy here --- and I did, quite a lot --- this is a Big Movie, made for IMAX, and it shows. The largely practical effects in The Dark Knight Rises were excellent. The opening scene with the plane being destroyed and the shots of the bridges being blown were my personal favorite visual moments (aside from Bane tossing aside the broken Batman mask), and that ignores the vastly improved Bat-cycle and Bat-plane scenes.
|Where do you park that thing?|
|"I'm not internationally know, but I'm known to rock the microphone"|
Director Christopher Nolan did a great job bringing this trilogy to a close. It ties in with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, but has an identity of its own. The camerawork is good, the big scenes feel huuuge, and this epic sequel managed to hold onto that epic feeling throughout. As a comic nerd, I appreciated the choices made with a lot of the characters and I was impressed with how many classic Batman ideas were included in this story without it feeling disjointed or suffering from the (lower case "b") bane of superhero sequels: too many villains. More than anything else, Nolan crafted a tale that is as realistic as a Batman movie can be and actually concludes logical character arcs. Is this as good as the excellent (but flawed) The Dark Knight? Maybe not quite, but it's damn close.
Here's the biggest problem with the film, though: there isn't a lot of Batman in this Batman movie. This is a great story about Bruce Wayne, the man inside the suit, but it is not the quintessential Batman movie. That's fine by me and was obviously a conscious choice by the filmmakers, but it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. Yes, Bruce Wayne overcomes personal and physical obstacles in his quest for victory, but there are not nearly as many moments here where the Batman seems truly bad-ass. You can also make a valid argument that time was an enemy in this film, specifically its liberal use. The time gap between TDK and TDKR is fine, for the most part, but it raises some interesting questions. For starters, just how low was Alfred willing to see Wayne sink before telling him about that letter? The best detective in the city, Gordon, never tried to identify Batman? Even a rookie could (and did) figure that out --- just look for the guy who can afford all those wonderful toys.
|"This Batmobile piece reads 'Property of Wayne Enterprises.' Hmm..."|
|A: he has a mohawk ponytail underneath the center strap|
So, no, it's not perfect. Hell, it's not even that fun to watch; it is 2:44 of gritty angst. It is, however, a fantastic end to a trilogy. It could have been better if we saw Batman outsmart Bane instead of just punching him in the face, but the scope was so epic that I didn't mind
And if you really just can't get past Bale's "Batman Voice," enjoy this clip from Attack of the Show. I think it captures the ridiculousness of The Voice rather well.