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Roundhouse Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Arguably the most anticipated movie of the year, The Dark Knight Rises is the epic conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s brilliant Dark Knight Trilogy, which hit an impossibly high note with The Dark Knight four years ago.  Did The Dark Knight Rises live up to the insanely high expectations?  The entire Everything Action crew gives you their answer to that question with another Roundhouse Review. (Reviews contain spoilers.)

Spider Man 3, X-Men: The Last Stand, Blade: Trinity, the third entry in big comic book franchises has usually not turned out that great but The Dark Knight Rises brilliantly closes out Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, even if it doesn’t quite reach the high bar set by The Dark Knight.

DKR is like an amazing Girl Talk track of Batman stories, mixing in the best bits of Knightfall, No Man’s Land and The Dark Knight Returns into an almost 3 hour epic that bring Batman to his knees and Gotham City as close to the brink as it has ever been, thanks to the arrival of the mercenary terrorist, Bane.  Tom Hardy is absolutely terrifying as the masked villain, even if it’s not entirely true to the comic character (there’s no mention of Venom and he is more Scottish than Mexican).  Heath Ledger’s Joker was an agent of chaos, doing whatever he felt like to try and prove that everyone can be as insane as him if pushed too far.  Bane is a force of dominance, basically becoming the warlord of Gotham and executing his plan his ruthless precision.  Anne Hathaway is also great as Selina Kyle and nails her attitude but she doesn’t really factor into the plot as much as you would think.  If she was not in the movie, not much would change plot wise and you don’t really get any of the classic “it’s complicated” relationship between Catwoman and Batman.  Surprisingly, the person who might have stolen the movie is Joseph Gordon Levitt as Officer Blake, who basically takes on the role of Batman while Bruce is locked away in a horrible pit of a prison after getting defeated in his first battle with Bane.  He works with Jim Gordon to gather resistance forces to take on Bane and investigates Bane’s master plan and the way they end it with his character makes you hope they will continue the franchise.  There are also some great revelations about a number of the supporting characters and the welcome return of some other characters.  The way the movie ties in and resolves plots and questions that originated all the way back in Batman Begins is one of it’s best features.

There are some fantastic action sequences, as always when you’re talking Christopher Nolan, but I’m wondering if any of them are going to be as memorable as the opening bank heist or semi truck chase from Dark Knight.  The opening sequence where Bane hijacks a plane is amazing and Batman’s new toy of “The Bat” helicopter(?) factors into some great chases.  One of Christopher Nolan’s weakest areas for action has been fighting, it was almost incomprehensible in Batman Begins and there was actually not that much hand to hand in The Dark Knight but The Dark Knight Rises features the best fighting in the trilogy.  The first Batman/Bane battle is incredibly brutal and Catwoman actually has some great fights as well.  I would definitely need to watch the movie again to fully appreciate how the action stacks up to the other two movies in the trilogy.

If you are a fan of The Dark Knight Trilogy, you will not be disappointed by The Dark Knight Rises as it ends the trilogy on a high note and brilliantly ties in and wraps up most everything from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.  The Dark Knight is still, in my opinion, the high point of the trilogy but The Dark Knight Rises is just slightly under it,  If you haven’t seen it, go out right now and watch it.

4.5 out of 5

Director Christopher Nolan likes to deal in layers. (Anyone who saw his multi-leveled “Inception” can attest.) His films can be summed up as being like a huge tangled mess of slipknots that, when pulled, undo themselves entirely.

Well, almost entirely. There are bound to be flaws, even in (gasp) “The Dark Knight”. But Nolan masks them well by moving his plot/plots at a breakneck speed. The amount of smoke-and-mirrors that Nolan has developed in these three Batman movies should be enough to even make Bale’s “Prestige” character jealous.

Sadly, I feel like it catches up to him in “The Dark Knight Rises”, the third and supposedly final Nolan “Batman” movie. Before we dive right into that, let me just say that the movie overall is incredible. The good definitely outweighs any bad here.

The movie first opens with the eight-year anniversary of the death of Harvey Dent. Following Dent’s death and Batman’s blame, Gotham is in “peace time”. Everything is seemingly in bliss. Bruce Wayne hasn’t even touched the cape and cowl since that night, and has preferred to change his lifestyle into one of a reclusive billionaire.

That isn’t for long. Through the actions of cat-burgler extraordinaire Selina Kyle, it’s revealed that some bad people want Wayne out of commission — not only in business, but life as well. And here we are introduce to Bane. Where the Joker fed off the pure mental side of things, Bane is both mentally and physically intimidating.

The two soon face off and Bane gives Batman the pummeling of the century. It’s here where Bane occupies Gotham with a time bomb, and Wayne is left halfway across the world in a hole trying to find a way out while confronting his past with the League of Shadows along the way.

This all sets up the movie’s final act: a race against time and Batman’s return to end the reign of Bane. Now at this point, I would’ve been well off with Batman kicking the crap out of Bane and saving the day, the end. But this is Nolan who are talking about, and he puts in a twist that 1) was denied over a year ago and 2) simply muddles things up even more.

Yes, I’m talking the reveal of Talia al’Ghul. Marion Cotillard vehemently denied her character Miranda Tate was Talia, but instead a new creation. So imagine the small groan I made when this obviously turned out to not be true.

But the more I thought about it the more I realized: this is classic Nolan. Yet another knot thrown in. Only this one didn’t fully disappear to me. Neither did Bane somehow never finding the Bat. Or the sort-of-tacky ending. And a few more small things that I’m sure I’ll realize later.

There’s no such thing as a perfect movie. But even with “The Dark Knight”, Nolan masked those mistakes well. (It also helped he had a phenomenal performance from Heath Ledger.) With “Rises”, it’s somewhat different. Blame it on the higher scrutiny since he raised the bar beyond with the second movie. The flaws in “Rises” are enough to sink it below “Dark Knight” status for me.

Like I said before, not to say it’s a bad movie. Far from it. However, Nolan has been known to cover his deficiencies well in the past. Overall “The Dark Knight” does “rise” to meet the challenge. It just could’ve been a tad higher.

(A high) 4 out of 5

The Dark Knight Rises is unquestionably the film that Batman fans and fans of quality filmmaking alike have been waiting for since the credits rolled at the end of The Dark Knight. Actually, many fans—myself included—have been waiting for this film since a sequel was green-lighted for Batman Begins. And if you want to get really technical, there’s a group of Batman enthusiasts—me again—who have been waiting for a trilogy, or any amount of Batman movies for that matter, that is self-contained and resolves an overarching storyline.

As a film, even outside of the context of its immediate predecessors in the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises is spectacular. As you already know, The Dark Knight Rises tells the story of a reclusive and broken-down Bruce Wayne, 8 years after the events of The Dark Knight, once again donning the cape and cowl to defend Gotham City, which, once again, needs saving. Ultimately, Batman faces his most brutal challenge to date in the form of the monstrous Bane and his army of mercenaries. In order to defend his city, the Dark Knight Detective must rise against this new and savage evil—even if it means losing everything in the process.

There are a lot of excellent nuances to The Dark Knight Rises. For one, it feels at times likes an earlier, non-Nolan Batman movie. Perhaps the best way to articulate this is by saying that if The Dark Knight at times felt like an outstanding crime/heist-thriller that happened to feature Batman as the lead detective on the case, then The Dark Knight Rises felt more like an older Batman movie in that Batman was the champion and ultimately, the savior of Gotham.

Even the action sequences—and there are plenty—feel more true to the essence of the Caped Crusader. The fight sequences are the best in the series—you can actually see the fighting in this movie—and there’s even an excellent sequence in which we get to see Selina Kyle set up some truly iconic, Arkham City style silent takedowns for the Dark Knight.

Overall, the scope and stakes of this movie were both certainly grand. They have to be for a sequel that could make or break an entire franchise. When people look back on the Nolan trilogy years from now, they’ll think immediately of the way it ended. The entire series shall be judged by the last entry in the series. For that reason, I have to stress my disappointment in the ending of this film. While I feel that it is a very satisfying ending to Nolan’s trilogy (that is, the Batman universe that begins and ends within these 3 films), it is so inherently un-Batman that it makes me wonder if Nolan ever truly understood the character of Batman in the first place.

I know that the statement seems harsh, and yes, it certainly demands further explanation, but the simple fact of the matter is that Bruce Wayne is the mask that Batman wears. Rachel tells Bruce this at the end of Batman Begins. This establishes that Bruce Wayne, in essence, does not exist. He is merely a disguise. Rachel’s death in The Dark Knight is the metaphorical (and literal) death of Bruce’s only chance at leading a normal life. That is, Rachel was the only shot Bruce ever had at overtaking the Batman persona. Batman is an inherently tragic character. For the ending of The Dark Knight Rises to be so neatly wrapped and upbeat ultimately undoes the vow that Bruce makes upon the graves of his parents (conveniently left out of the first film). For this reason, I feel that the ending to the film is like getting a 98/100 on a test, with the missing two points coming from forgetting to write your name.

Nolan’s Batman trilogy is certainly the closest we have come to having the perfect Batman interpretation on film, and The Dark Knight Rises, though 2nd to The Dark Knight, is 2nd only to The Dark Knight—and that’s a pretty damn good place to be.

5 out of 5

The conclusion to Gotham’s guardian finally arrives, and it doesn’t disappoint. To make it clear, I do enjoy this movie, but there are a few details that don’t make this the movie to end all Batman movies (Mask of the Phantasm). The cast and crew, the locations and the musical score support a somewhat Ocean’s Eleven like plot with everyone having hidden agendas, secret alliances, and characters just making their ten minutes movie appears (I’m talking to Mr. Caine! I hope you were off making a Harry Brown 2!).

In this arc, the evolution of Batman and Bruce Wayne reaches a new form as Bruce learns to be himself without a “mask”, a life beyond living a duo identity and faking appearances. This idea however, is quickly rushed to get Bale dressed up and get the average movie go-er what they want to see. I would have preferred to have Bruce Wayne go through more of an introspected phase where he really does doubt himself, but toy companies aren’t going to make “Depressed Bruce Wayne with Action Robe” figures.

The villain this time is Bane, a beast of a man and one hell of a motivational coach. Seriously, this is one guy I won’t mind spotting me at a gym, even if he dresses like a future space Plummer. Bane’s appearance in Gotham stirs Bruce to bring the Batman to protector the city once again.

Supporting Batman in his adventure is Ann Hathaway since no one actually calls her “Catwoman”. The former princess plays her role very well to Nolan’s universe and actually has significant importance to the movie, and has less cat puns that Batman Returns. Like Rocky 3, Batman becomes a broken man who has to overcome his fears and limitations to come back for the fight of his life.

The TDKR does suffer from the weird 3rd movie sequel problems: overlapping plots, underdeveloped character, and introductions that should had been established in previous movies. I am not staying adding new characters is a bad thing, but sometimes creating context for a character is not a last minute betraying situation. Following up the The Dark Knight was a difficult challenge, and I’d like to imagine this is the best Nolan and co could produce with the resources they had available and not because Christopher Nolan has grown weary of Batman. (Any dream job can become a nightmare). This isn’t the movie that supposes to redefine Batman, but constructs one of the best logical endings. A complete understanding of these movies probably takes years of film making courses, an encyclopedia knowledge of Batman (Earth-One, Earth-Two and After Crisis, know your stuff!) and the will to sit through 9 hours of Nolan Batman. But for those who have other non-awesome things to do, you will not be disappointed by the acting, the action and the intensity of the TDKR. You might even chant DESHI BASARA well after the movie ends.

5 out of 5

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