Lets start off with a bit of history. I’ve been following Christopher Nolan’s film career for the past 10 years and have watched him progress as each movie he releases have become bigger and better with budget, characters and the most important, storytelling. Fate as it would seem that he would take over the Batman franchise from Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Wrestler) back in 2004 and reboot it in a way that every comic movie would consider as the starting point and soon to follow.
The announcement of TDKR (The Dark Knight Rises) back in early 2011 was inevitable. There was no way Nolan was going to leave the franchise with just two movies. A complete trilogy not only would please the fans, but also the studio. This film wasn’t going to be made, it HAD to be made. I had been following the production reports for the past 2 years. Everything from where they were filming to who was eventually cast. The actors that he has re-used time and time again is simply amazing as you would not even notice that TDKR is basically a mash-up of ‘Inception’ and the latter. And in the months leading up to July 2012, with multiple teaser spots, official trailers and marketing posters, the story itself on how Batman would save Gotham City once again remained a mystery.
By preparing myself, I had watch “Batman Begins” the night before once again to refresh my memory and was fortunate enough to watch “The Dark Knight” on the big screen just hours before the premiere of TDKR. In doing this, the storyline made much more sense to me. As any fan would do, I overhyped it for myself, and I had been disappointed in the past with the results eg. The Avengers, Amazing Spiderman But this film has something they didn’t. This film has Nolan.
******For this review, I apologise in advance as to review it properly, I have to divulge in the many story points of the film which may spoil it for some******
THIS IS NOT YOUR ORDINARY COMIC BOOK MOVIE…
As I was walking out of the cinema, I began to wonder, this was not your typical movie that involves a comic-book hero. This was something different. Nolan had given us a story that not only defeats the hero mid-way through but basically destroys nearly all hope. Almost every scene, whether it involved John Blake planning an escape to the trapped police officers or Commissioner Gordan tracking the nuclear bomb, we are given a slight chance that they could save themselves without the help of Batman. And once our hopes are raised to almost that point of satisfaction, we get brought back to Earth. Only then, with our final breath, do we wish that Batman would just come and beat the crap out of everyone.
There’s a moment in this film that shocked me. And to me was the turning point of the whole film. People would say it was when Bane broke Batman’s back because seriously, it seemed there was no coming back from that. To me, it was the moment the CIA special forces got caught and killed. Bane suffocates the Captain and tells his men to ‘…hang them so the world could see”. Even though it was on screen for literally 4 seconds, I cannot stop picturing the image of the 3 men hanging off that bridge. I mean, the city is in total control of Bane. It’s already in terrible conditions. But what does Nolan do to make sure that we don’t forget just how bad the city can get and what these mercenaries will do to anyone that tries to fight against them? He gives us a shocking moment that amplifies the horror to the point of no return.
Apart from the scenario of Batman being thrown into a ‘war’ movie like “Black Hawk Down”, the film itself has some positive moments. And by that I mean nearly every scene that involves Catwoman, with or without the Catwoman suit on. Catwoman and Batama’s banter, even as Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne had more chemistry than Gwen Stacey and Peter Parker. Even as they’re fighting, you can obviously tell this couple is DTF.
I COULDN’T HELP BUT NOTICE YOUR PAIN… IT RUNS DEEP… SHARE IT WITH ME
As stated by Nolan, each Batman film has a theme.
Batman Begins = Fear.
The Dark Knight = Chaos.
The Dark Knight Rises = Pain.
Even though we are focused on Bruce Wayne/Batman, the theme of pain flows through every one of the main characters. Some more than others. The pain of Alfred having to watch Bruce almost kill himself for something he believed. The pain of Talia having to endure living in Gotham City for 8 years while masterminding a scheme to destroy it. Bruce Wayne comes into this movie full of pain. It’s been 8 years since he lost Rachel, nobody knows he saved the city from a crazy psychopath and he just took the rap for Harvey Dent’s crimes. And you wonder why this guy even bothers anymore. This moment of pain doubles when he finds out that Alfred had been hiding the secret “letter” that Rachel had written to him back in TDK. I don’t care if you’re Batman or not, finding out that your love of your life didn’t want you anymore is enough to kill you. And only hours before Bane broke his back. Maybe it was a broken heart that let him down.
Nolan has also mentioned the word “Consequence” in many interviews leading up to the movie. As to my knowledge, I actually thought that this was the theme. And it actually suits it more than “Pain”. With Bruce, you don’t need Alfred to tell you that you should give up the bat-suit and concentrate on being the man beneath the mask or have Catwoman tell you that you’re trying to save a city that hates you. He paid the price and he had to deal with it. In a way, I see “Consequence” and “Pain” almost neck and neck. To compliment the other, one must feel the other. For example, he lost Rachel, the love of his life, so he must deal with the pain and by dealing with that he put the suit back and tried to defeat Bane. And failed.
HOPE IS SOMETHING WE CANNOT SEE
I talk about the themes of TDKR but I believe there’s another theme. Hope. The characters mention this a lot. Especially from the Gordan and Blake. Hope is something that we all believe in and something we can’t live without. Blake had hoped Bruce would put the mask back on and help him, Alfred hopes that Bruce would return to normal and stop the crime-fighting and Batman was Gotham’s only hope to save their city. Even though they turned their backs to him. Let’s focus on that for a second. In TDKR, Gotham City is basically your average city (which closely resembles New York City) but with a terrorist and a masked vigilante. Take away your Batman and you’re basically got no hope of ever being rescued. I mean the army can’t even get into the city. What hope does Gotham have left? It almost feels like that Batman was the ‘second coming’ and the ‘saviour’ to us all.
I WILL BE YOUR FATHER FIGURE… PUT YOUR TINY HAND IN MINE
There’s a lot of references to the “Father” element in TDKR. It’s actually something in all of us that we deal with everyday. A ‘father figure’ can determine the actions of a particular character and change our way of thinking. There’s 3 elements of this ‘father’ mentality.
1) Listen to your father and all will be restored. I mean the whole film would basically not even exist if it wasn’t for Talia trying to finish off her dad’s final plan of destruction.
2) A ‘father’ can protect you and lead you to paradise. Bane is considered not only a leader but a ‘father figure’ to the mercenaries.
3) And then there’s Alfred. He’s like you’re average dad that tells you not to smoke even though he smokes. Or to not get a tattoo even though he’s got like 2 or 3 hidden somewhere. But in this case, he’s your dad telling to stop fighting crime and save the city like a normal person. And what do we all do when our dads tell us NOT to do something, we do the complete opposite.
Like every film out there, not everything is perfect. Even this film has its flaws.
1) TIME – Time seems to be a factor that is all over the place in this film. For example, Gotham City was taken over for 85 days before Gordon and Blake made the rounds. And then it was nearly 2 months later when Batman made it back to Gotham. Even after 5 months and locked underground, I’m sure the first thing Gotham police officers would do is shave. And also, 5 months of being locked down in a city run by mercenaries, the traumatic effects of this situation doesn’t really seem to faze anyone. Even the US government didn’t seem to be trying their best.
Also, how did Bruce get from the pit to Gotham within days?
2) IDENTITY – It seems that some people know who Batman is and some don’t and some just plain forget. The speech from John Blake to Bruce Wayne may have tried to tug at the emotional strings of a character but it just seems to be a faster way to move the story along. If you really think about it, did John Blake really need to know who Bruce Wayne/Batman was? Because it wasn’t necessary information for him to begin with other than also being a police officer. Also, how the hell did Bane know who Batman was?
3) ENDING – As soon as the credits rolled, I thought to myself. Fuck! That was literally unbelievable. It was the ending that we all hoped for and the ending we all got. Or was it. To me, this is your typical Hollywood ending. A satisfying ending. Something that would please the audience and therefore leave many questions open ended it but won’t be questioned for a while. This satisfying ending was actually done 12 years ago in “Good Will Hunting”. Check it out and see it if you can. If Nolan really wanted to end it, the auto-pilot would not have been fixed. My actual heart-attack moment was when I thought Bane pulled the trigger.
4) IMAX – Watching this film in IMAX was both interesting and a headache at the same time. After Transformers 2, I knew that there might be a problem by watching a film combining both 70mm and 35mm. But since TDKR was filmed with IMAX cameras and the footage doubled to 50 minutes since TDR, I decided to give it a go. And I wish I hadn’t. The problem with watching in IMAX is basically the switching between the two types of film. Which can be tricky in editing and therefore quite annoying. In fact, many parts of the film in IMAX was the shot of the nightlife Gotham City or a Lamborghini driving away into the distance. Establishing shots are important to a narrative structure but to film the shot in IMAX, clearly wasn’t my cup of tea.
5) UNEXPLAINED PLOT POINTS – So Bane has decided to announce to the world that Harvey was the actual person behind the murders of TDK and therefore, the prisoners must be freed. So what happens now. Does anyone even care anymore? Also, does a prison pit even have guards anymore? And with a city that is crazy on law enforcement, you would think Alfred would do background checks on catering staff.
6 ) Doesn’t anyone in Gotham City notice that Bruce Wayne and Batman disappeared… at the same time???
These points are just small factors. The biggest issue I have… is Talia. As pointed out by the Dirty Dex crew, I was informed that Bane is a genius. A smart intellect and an expert strategist. Whenyou find out that Talia is the mastermind behind everything, this shatters this theory and therefore makes Bane look like a mere henchman. A frontman for the real evil leader Talia. You could say that he could’ve had some part in the process but how are we to know. The twist was definitely shocking but it just made everyone else feel like a pawn to Talia. Which I wasn’t very happy with. It made Bane look like a helpless romantic with muscles. A man who would do anything for the woman he loves. Also, if you get a chance and re-watch TDKR, you’ll start to wonder just how evil and devious this chick can be. She’d been planning this scheme for 8 years already. She used Daggart to influence his way to the head of the company, she slept with Bruce TWICE when he was at his most vulnerable and she knew she would gain Bruce’s trust afterwards. Very manipulative. Very evil.
YOU SEE ONLY ONE END TO YOUR JOURNEY
My overall rating for this film changed after each viewing. As of today (25/7) I have seen it 3 times. And as of now I give it 9.0 / 10. The exact same rating as ‘The Dark Knight’ from 4 years ago. You may question this and say that the Joker was a better villain in TDK and therefore better but I believe that story is the be all and end all. And TDKR is up with the rest of them.
P.S I don’t care what people say. The character ‘Robin’ was NOT present in this film. To me, it is just a coincidence that his name is Robin John Blake. It does leave an open-ended question of whether or not a ‘Robin’ film will happen, but according to Nolan, not in his lifetime
– When the broker gets his shoe shined and we pan to a woman walking into the stock exchange, the woman is Talia.
– Actor Josh Pence portrayed a young Rah’s Al-Gul. the same actor who played the twins in “The Social Network”
– Bane’s coat took two years to make.