“The Dark Knight Rises” – Review by Delon Villanueva

The Dark Knight Rises Review

by Delon Villanueva

Okay, let’s be real. This is going to be a tough one to review. I’ve given myself more than two days since the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises to put together my thoughts, and boy, was it hard. Since I fear that my theater experience influenced my viewing (I was awake for twenty-one hours that day, due to work and watching the marathon), I will write another article on revisiting the movie. I plan to see it again, in IMAX this time, but this may not happen until a few weeks from now. I wanted to let you guys know how I felt about this movie as soon as possible, since this was my most anticipated film of the year (as for probably everyone else), so I might as well tell you guys my first reaction. No spoilers, no worries, I’ll discuss those after my second viewing. This is my review of The Dark Knight Rises.

In the final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, it has been eight years since the terrorist attacks of the Joker and the death of Harvey Dent. We find out that Bruce Wayne, played by Christian Bale, has retired the old mask and cape, but his dark days are not over. A greater power has arrived in Gotham, and his name is Bane, played by Tom Hardy. With his team of mercenaries, Bane takes over the city, and Bruce suddenly realizes that Batman now has an opponent much stronger than himself. As always, we are introduced to some new characters, including Selina Kyle, played by Anne Hathaway, a cat burglar (they never refer to her as Catwoman) who helps Bruce don the suit once again. There’s also Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake, a police officer who strays away from being cynical by believing that there’s still good in the world and that Batman would rise once again.

The performances are amazing, as expected, but nothing really on the level of Heath Ledger as the Joker. Tom Hardy is still great as Bane, as he puts a lot of brains in this brawny character. He’s a menacing and terrifying match to Batman, increasing the stakes of every action sequence. So, why is he not as good as the Joker? I’ll address that in a moment. Back to the acting, Anne Hathaway is also really good in her role, as she adds some great comic relief to the film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a stellar job in playing a role that starts out small, but becomes much bigger than we expect. The character of John Blake puts the audience in his shoes, with him being the most relatable person. He’s a Batman fan like all of us, and just wants good to triumph evil, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt succeeds in portraying that. This is also Christian Bale’s best performance as Bruce Wayne / Batman, where we see him grow the most, especially during the many difficult times in this film. The best performance in this movie, though, is Michael Caine as Alfred. Alfred has always been the heart of the Batman movies, and when we see that heart break, it’s depressing to watch. Michael Caine expresses a lot of emotional pain for Bruce in this movie, as he worries that he might have failed to protect him. It’s a beautifully disheartening performance.

Christopher Nolan is still at the top of his game, even though his pacing this time around isn’t as good as it usually is. The movie clocks in at almost three hours, and although the last hour has probably one of the best finales you will ever see in a movie, it takes a while to get there. The first act is very slow, due to its introduction of its many characters. In fact, we don’t get to see a lot of Batman in the beginning, up until one action sequence alluding to Occupy Wall Street. After that, the Batman disappears once again, and it becomes an emotional and physical journey for Bruce Wayne. I don’t have too much of a problem with that, but with such a long running time, you would hope to see more Batman, and yet we get less. Also, some of the smaller characters take a while to develop, and they take up too much of Bruce Wayne / Batman’s screen time. One example is Miranda Tate, played by Marion Cotillard. Tate is a Wayne Enterprises board member that helps Bruce come out of his isolation from society, and eventually becomes a love interest. Although characters drop mentions of her throughout the beginning, we don’t see her until almost an hour into the movie. Being another character whose role grows a lot throughout the film, she should have been introduced immediately.

Another issue I had with the movie is going to have me comparing to The Dark Knight, but with good purpose. The Dark Knight mostly revolved around the themes of chaos and how the Joker broke Batman mentally. In The Dark Knight Rises, the theme this time is pain and Bane is more of a physical threat. To be a follow-up to the Joker, I feel that you need to be more than just that. Although Bane did a much better job in spreading anarchy than the Joker, I didn’t think he could do really anything other than physically break Batman. Bane needed to have much more depth to him, like being able to completely change Bruce Wayne, much like the Joker did. Although Bruce takes a lot of time with self-recovery in this movie, I never saw it as if Bane really changed him, other than make him physically stronger. Another thing is that I thought the Joker would be a better villain in this movie, and Bane would fit in the second instead. It makes me wonder how much involvement the Joker would have had in this movie if Heath Ledger had not passed away. The Joker and Bane could compliment each other as a team, but I don’t see Bane being able to work on his own and cause more pain to Batman than the Joker. At least, not how he is portrayed here.

Aside from those problems, Christopher Nolan still showcases a lot of filmmaking talent, as always. Although the pacing isn’t as tight as most Nolan movies and has a slightly weaker message than The Dark Knight’s, this movie achieves way more than most do. This is still is a story about a fallen hero who must rise, and The Dark Knight Rises is triumphant in achieving that. With all three movies together, Nolan has painted an iconic picture, and if you look past the flaws, this is clearly a fantastic film franchise. The Dark Knight Rises is a welcomed entry into the series, and ends it with a bang. It’s not a masterpiece like The Dark Knight, but that movie isn’t something easy to repeat, even for Christopher Nolan. I wholeheartedly appreciate what he has given us, as he has officially made cinematic history. Thank you, Christopher Nolan.

RATING: N/A…for now. If I had to give it a score, it would be a strong 8 or light 9, but I’ll have an official score after my second viewing. Also, I’m going to avoid comparisons to The Avengers. Although both are superhero movies, their tones and goals are extremely different. I can compare it to The Amazing Spider-Man, though, and The Dark Knight Rises totally surpasses that.

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