Dark Knight Rises Review: Disappointingly Awesome?

In an effort to infuse more pop culture-ness to my site, I’ll be (naturally) bringing some more pop culture to my site! So here is my take on the Dark Knight Rises:

NOTE: Although I can’t truly define what a “spoiler” is, I don’t believe there are any spoilers in this quasi review. 

I’m not a comic book enthusiast, one of those Comic Con fans who gets up in arms over what actor plays what character or a director’s decision to “not be true” to years of comic history and plot structure. Nevertheless, I was more excited about the Dark Knight Rises than any other new movie release in my lifetime.

With Heath Ledger’s Joker, Christian Bale’s tortured performance of Batman/Bruce Wayne, and a brilliant storyline that was as unpredictable as any Hollywood film in years, the Dark Knight became one of my all time favorite movies. So the follow up and/or conclusion to the trilogy had my attention from the very first trailer.

For months, I’ve been counting down the days until July 20th: for the first time ever, I even bought tickets online weeks in advance and talked about it ad naseum to friends, family, and especially my wife. I was just so eager to see how Batman would return to action and (at the same time) see what director Christopher Nolan had in store not only to top a film loaded with so much drama and intrigue, but to cap the story in a worthy manner.

Now, I have a very simple litmus test for a movie’s value: if I can go the duration of the film without having to get up and go to the bathroom or get something to eat the movie was a success. That may seem strange, but it works, at least for me. If the story is strong, I don’t get bored and I am engaged. Comedy or drama, it’s my first-blush criteria for a film’s strength.

Well, I’m sad to say that for the Dark Knight Rises, I got up (this is not an exaggeration) to go to the bathroom four times in the first hour and a half. I was so excited and expected so much that in a way the movie was destined to fail. I wouldn’t say I was “bored” during the first 90 minutes or so: but I wasn’t committed. That’s probably less an indictment of the film and more an indictment on more on my expectations.

Still, early parts of the film really let me down. The (muffled) lines uttered by the main villain Bane were very difficult to hear and process: I thought the film’s creators learned their lesson with the last two films, both of which led to complaints about Batman’s voice modulation issues.

On a similar note, at times, I thought the cinematography (a word I don’t use, ever) was obsessed with showing off Anne Hathaway’s ass in tight leather pants: not that such images are bad, just not entirely Batman-like visuals.

More importantly, the story itself was exceptionally slow and complex in the first hour.

Coincidently, I didn’t feel like the story truly centered on the title character in these early moments. There wasn’t enough Batman in this grandest of Batman movies.

So yes, my attention was not caroled in hour one-plus.

That changed somewhere in the middle of the film, much to my delight.

Again, I’m trying not to spoil the film for those who haven’t seen it, so I don’t want to detail what exactly took place in the second half of the movie. But there was plenty of Batman in the second half and it produced a wonderful conclusion to the story.

But what pulled the film out of the ashes were a few of the complementary performances. Tom Hardy’s Bane (voice notwithstanding) was excellent: he wasn’t quite as compelling or thought-provoking as Ledger’s Joker, but in a way he proved to be a much more apt arch-enemy for Batman. Their showdowns were epic.

And both Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman (again, in somewhat truncated roles) were tremendous.

But, and I hope this isn’t lost in the shuffle of the Dark Knight Rises supercast, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal of Gotham cop John Blake was absolutely phenomenal, nearly as powerful and magnetic as Bale’s Batman/Bruce Wayne….nearly. (On a side note, I know it will never happen, but Bale deserves an Oscar: he brings the character alive in a way that no other actor ever has.)

All of those efforts make the final 20 minutes of the film a true masterpiece. By sheer genius, Nolan intersected all the storylines of both this film and the two that preceded it together, yielding the perfect end to a near perfect trilogy.

And with that ending, the film completely negated a relatively slow start, so much so that not only did I stay in my seat for the denouement, but I turned around and went back to the theater later that day to see it again.

 

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