I ended up watching “The Dark Knight Rises” twice just to make sure of how I feel about this movie. I was not a Batman fan until Christopher Nolan took over the franchise and gave it a more human touch with “Batman Begins.” And then, “The Dark Knight” came along and really blew it out of proportion. Heath Ledger’s Joker is someone you can’t forget. If you want to build an awesome psychotic supervillain, Nolan’s Joker is something you have to learn.
With that said, TDKR created a lot of hypes when filmed in New York City. For years and years, I always believed Gotham City to be somewhere like Chicago where the place is cold and the crimes are real. New York City does not have that desperation and darkness that Gotham City has. It is just too cheerful. But as I said, it was filmed in the big bad NYC and there’s nothing we can do about it, except to try and do our best to match it to Gotham City.
As I watched the movie for the first time, I was somewhat excited. But that feeling waned right about half way throughout the movie. This is one long movie with a somewhat temperamental pacing. You don’t see a lot of peaks of excitement the way “The Dark Knight” did. It’s just rather flat and on and on and on with car chases, gun fires, and hand to hand combat. At some point, I wondered if Mr. Nolan took a page out of Michael Bay’s play book or something. The violent action scenes are flashy but not that creative, despite Batman had a new toy and all.
When I learned that Tom Hardy was cast as Bane, I was excited. I mean, in Batman Universe, Bane is the only one to break the Bat in half. Put him up and crunched him down on Bane’s knee like a twig, just like that. This guy is a legend within himself. Therefore, I was really looking forward to it. And Tom Hardy is a really good actor, too.
But just a few minutes with Bane, I was disappointed. While Tom Hardy did buff himself up a lot and he looked like an ox with a mask on, Nolan’s Bane is weird. He lacks the psychotic finesse that The Joker carried so brilliantly within himself. On top of that, Bane’s voice is strange. Had Nolan decided for Bane to go full-on asthmatic brassiness like Darth Vader, it could have worked. But Bane’s voice is not like that. Instead, it’s like a cross between a man’s voice and a woman’s voice sounding from a coffee cup with an English accent. Even The Penguin sounded scarier.
Bane in this movie is not a full-fledged villain. He has a back story but it does not really offer him a motive to do what he does. The same goes with Miranda Tate/Talia al Ghul. Of course, she wants revenge but her motivation is not that strong to begin with. She even sounds like a spoiled child in some parts. At some point, I started to believe Amanda Clark in “Revenge” is a better character to portrait this line of “I want to seek revenge for my father” motif. And as you may know, “Revenge” is this campy soap opera show on prime time at ABC!
With that said, the movie was not all bad. Catwoman/Selina Kyle is great, not just because Anne Hathaway was in great shape at all. In fact, her dialog is the best. It has finesse and fits her character perfectly. The one who managed to steal my tears is Alfred. Michael Caine gave a very sincere and heartbreaking performance in this one. And it would be a mistake not to mention Lucius Fox. The fantastic Mr. Fox has always been a joy to be from the beginning of this Batman trilogy.
But the biggest surprise is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance of John Blake. I was watching him and I felt like he was being himself instead of playing a character. If the villains are not so believable, John Blake makes up for that. The twist at the end is a nice touch. Will he be the next Batman? We don’t know.
Which leaves us the last character to talk about: Batman.
I wonder if Christopher Nolan reread “The Hero’s Journey” before he wrote TDKR because the whole thing does sound a lot like a typical hero’s journey without anything to jazz it up. Straight up hero attempted something, failed, got a mentor, tried, tried, tried again until succeeded, fought off villain and won. We should remember that Bruce Wayne came into this movie 8 years after the events in “The Dark Knight.” He lost his most beloved and he did not seem to bounce back. Physically, Bruce Wayne looks worn down in this movie but that does not reflect on his own mental struggle. Because of that, Batman feels too superficial to me. But if you take a look at the new James Bond, who also lost the love of his life, we can see how torn up Bond is and how much he wants to win. We don’t see that in Batman. It’s like the old Batman in “The Dark Knight” is gone. The only bright spot in this movie was when Bruce Wayne was in a pit and he tried to get out. But then, it’s like a variation of the hero’s journey.
In conclusion, “The Dark Knight Rises” is neither a bad or a good movie. It is somewhere in between with no so vicious villains and not so energetic Batman. In this trilogy, I have to say “The Dark Knight” is the best, “Batman Begins” comes second mainly because of Katie Holmes’ performance, and “The Dark Knight Rises” places dead last. With that said, it is still not a bad movie. You can do much worse with a sleuth of brainless action movies out there. But for it to be the last in Nolan’s Batman Universe, I wish it could have been better.