Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – A Collection of Thoughts

Christopher Nolan’s epic Batman trilogy comes to an end. And as we all know its one of the biggest films of 2012, with that in mind I decided not to do an individual review for The Dark Knight Rises. I decided to ask others instead to post their thoughts to create a mega DKR review post!

Now they are all virtually spoiler free but I am warning you all just in case.

“You think this can last? There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.”

It has been eight years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act. But everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane. – ROTTEN TOMATOES

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Over the course of the past year I have watched one, I repeat one, The Dark Knight Rises trailer because I wanted to know as little as possible before watching the movie. I turned off podcasts, stop reading articles, changed TV channels the moment anyone was talking about the movie because I didn’t want to know any potential spoilers.

Was this year-long exercise worth it? Oh HELL YES!

The Dark Knight Rises is easily one of my favourite films of the year because it delivered on every level – as an end to the Christopher Nolan franchise, as an action movie, and as a multilayered character study of good vs evil.

I knew I was totally blown away by the movie because the moment it ended I started planning when I could head to the cinema again and watch it for the second time! This very rarely happens. Ever. I could tell I was hooked because I spent the majority of the film with my mouth open – stunned at what I was watching on-screen.

I think that the best way for me to describe The Dark Knight Rises without giving away anything is that it’s honestly a film with many layers. You could sit there as a comic book fan and pick out all the scenes that were inspired by the many years of Batman mythos. You could sit there as a fan of action movies and feel the brutality of the fight scenes so much so that you’d think that you were right there in the mêlée!

Christopher Nolan restored legitimacy to Batman with his franchise and once again made people respect the cape and cowl. I believe that the cinema-going public and comic book fans alike owe a debt of gratitude to Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s vision because what we have now is THE Batman Franchise. The Dark Knight Rises has one of the strongest casts yet in the franchise and they all bring their A Game. Just writing these few lines makes me want to go back and watch it again…actually I think I might. – Russell Clark (@Russell_LDN)

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Following 2008’s critical and commercial smash, the superfluously popular The Dark Knight, London-born auteur-in-waiting Christopher Nolan let his mammoth ego spin wildly out of control. Exhibit A, Nolan’s follow-up feature-length production, the vastly overrated, drunk on its own ambitions, vanity project Inception. The inherent flaws of that movie run deep (like have you ever wondered why only Prince Leo’s inner-neurosis manifests itself as a train yet no one else’s seems to factor, and what about Marion Co… look never mind, I’ll be here all week) and I am genuinely sad to report (read as: thrilled, feeling validated) that the epic climax to Nolan’s reborn Batman trilogy continues-on from the trend of that movie’s failings by exhibiting all the qualities of a bad film.

[PS y’all if this assertion should elicit any I would like to state that I do indeed welcome death threats. Exhibitions of fan boy angst manifesting themselves as ugly and violent attacks from keyboard warriors amuse me. I’m like the Richard Dawkins (http://youtu.be/-ZuowNcuGsc ) of film criticism.]

Why did I hate it you ask? First things first then, TDKR (second only to Quantum of Solace in a top 10 list of worst film titles of all time) is a supremely confused movie. For example its predecessor was one of the more nuanced and interesting examinations of post-9/11 America in pop culture but TDKR has its politics all messed up. The script’s insistence that Batman must prevail over the communist-leaning baddies is hyper-conservative nonsense. It’s a movie that doesn’t believe in the concept of social reform. Structurally as well the film is all over the place, exhibiting a supreme lack of narrative focus especially in the opening hour. The seemingly perpetual introduction of archetypes (Nolan rarely deals in characters) is also distracting as almost none of them are given time to develop personalities on-screen. Sure you can argue that this is a subversive comic book adaptation, promoting intense portent and ominousness over fundamental silliness (as was the norm pre-Nolan) but TDKR is a tonally muddled entity at its core; simultaneously po-faced and ridiculous; surely I can’t be the only one who found Liam Neeson’s cameo to be one of the worst things ever?

There are positives here for sure including a breathtaking prologue involving Bane’s siege on an in-flight CIA jet and Selina Kyle (never referred to as Catwoman because you know Nolan’s cool like dat) is badass and played with superlative finesse by the imitable Ann Hathaway. In fact the performance’s all round are universally solid but it has often been a trick of Nolan’s to hide his flaws with supremely talented casts and with this film it is more blatant (and arguably necessary)  than ever before.

So TDKR then is as bad as Bane’s frequently lol-worthy voice and distorted motives suggests. The emotional hollowness deprives the film of its merits and ensures it is well and truly crushed under the weight of its own, admittedly commendable, ambitions. The excessively bloated near-three hour runtime also left me feeling like Christian Bale after a day on set with an insubordinate director of photography. Christopher Nolan, I am your reckoning. – Gareth Simms (@Gareth_Simms)

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As your stereotypical girly girl who watches trash TV, weepy films and reads such books as ’50 shades of Grey’, I went into The Dark Knight rises with only expectations of hopefully seeing Tom Hardy’s pecs and getting excited over Batman’s dark and mysterious costume. However, never has a film title been so apt, as The Dark Knight rises and rises and reaches a wallop of an ending.

Now, I have seen The Dark Knight (and thought it was utterly brilliant) and I am familiar with other films with a similar theme (Spider-Man, X-Men and even Kick-Ass), but when watching TDKR, I knew that (as a trilogy) it was in a league of its own. First of all, the acting is so believable I found myself completely absorbed the whole way through, even dismissing my desperate need to go to the toilet and passing on my boyfriend’s offer of any condiments. Tom Hardy is more than pecs in this movie, he is guns, guts and guile. Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman were all their usual brilliant selves. For me, two performances stood out. Joseph Gordon-Levitt who plays Police officer Blake, was not only cute but seeing his character develop through the movie with a few unexpected turns was magical to see. Having only recognised him from ‘3rd Rock of the Sun’, I will definitely be looking at his past blockbuster efforts that I have clearly missed. Lastly, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman was a sultry surprise. Used to seeing her in gush fests such as ‘One Day’, she was undeniably feisty and I loved seeing her being the mystifying woman for once.

The storyline of the film is also something to be admired, with plenty of twists (which I love) and tons of character storylines sprawling like a family tree. As you join the ride of the coming of Gotham city, you find yourself gulping at the thought of its demise. The ending was also unexpected for me (although my boyfriend said he saw it coming), it was a hopeful way to end such a dark film.
Last but certainly not least, Christopher Nolan’s directing was the icing and the cherry and the sprinkles on the cake. After seeing The Dark Knight, I didn’t think the 3rd instalment of the trilogy would follow suit. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The film was epic, dramatic with plenty of action and heart. Its mood was dim but the characters lighted up the screen with promise that the long 164 minute film would be worth it.

One of the few downsides of the film I would comment on is the obvious loss of the last instalment of the trilogy through The Joker played so astoundingly by the late Heath Ledger. Although all ‘badies’ in The Dark Knight rises are well executed, they don’t hold a torch compared to the insanity and fear felt by The Joker. But in some way I am glad that Nolan didn’t try to fill this void, as maybe he knew it couldn’t be done which is a sincere tribute to Ledger and his acting. So, although there were no makeovers, no forefront romanticism and hardly any abs in sight, this girly girl still left the cinema thoroughly impressed, highly entertained and with lots to talk about. – Kimberley Hoashoo

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I will be honest and admit that when I first saw Batman Begins in 2005 I would not have anticipated that Nolan’s vision would lead to The Dark Knight Rises, a film which will dominate top 10 lists and 2012 film retrospectives towards the end of this year.

TDKR is thrilling, intelligent and entertaining. A solid script co-written by the director with his brother Jonathan Nolan gives the film a solid base to build upon. Wally Pfister exceptional cinematography is both stylish and stunning, and Nathan Crowley’s and Kevin Kavanaugh’s production design is detailed and creative.

Nolan is at heart an actor’s director and for TDKR he brings together an exceptional cast. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is lucky enough to gain the most fulfilling and well written role and really makes the most of it; surely after this Hollywood will be falling over themselves to give him roles in next years blockbusters. I remember when Anne Hathaway was cast as Catwoman the news was met with a mix of surprise and snobbery, but trust in Nolan and he shall deliver. Hathaway’s Selina Kyle is a highlight of the film; menacing, seductive and funny, she works her scenes well.

I am really not a big fan of Christian Bale’s work but here he comes close to matching his performance in The Prestige (for my money his best role yet) and gives Wayne a nice emotional depth to match his progression across the film. Michael Cain is solid as always (although he does suffer from a criminally miss-judged swansong scene mid-way in the film) and Morgan Freeman does that Morgan Freeman thing again, which is always great.

After a cracking opening scene (when is Nolan going to finally going to direct a Bond film?) and a tonally confused and slow proceeding 45 minutes Nolan lets rip and much like its name shake lets the film rise to its epic conclusion, and probably the best ending of 2012. – Will Pond (@Will_Pond)

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As like the rest of us back in 2008 who fell in love with The Dark Knight, the realization soon came that upon repeat viewing, the plot was clunky, with a third act that didn’t Resonate with anyone and it wasn’t necessarily a Batman film, it was a great crime flick with one of the greatest villains ever to be seen on-screen.

Now, 4 years later we get The Dark Knight Rises, one of the best superhero films ever made and one of the best conclusions ever to be witnessed. Now before I can care to elaborate on such bold claims, a few things should be cleared up: The Dark Knight Rises is also not perfect, it relies on clichéd plotting at times and the ending itself has one clunky reveal which the story could’ve done without.

Now, why is it a great film and the best in the Nolan Batman series? We’ve been following Nolan’s Batman series since 2005 and this last entry is by far the most emotional and grandiose in the series. Even those who were unaware of the comic book story or disliked the original Batman films have grown to love Bale’s portrayal of the caped crusader as well as commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), Alfred (Michael Caine) and Fox (Morgan Freeman). So to give each of these characters that fitting story to work with and a film that never holds back when it comes to scale and emotional punches is exactly what Batman stands up for, justice.

Including all that works with it, the villain that poses as the greatest threat to Batman/Bruce Wayne and Gotham this time around is Bane (Tom Hardy) an adversary with a physical advantage and smarts to boot. His plans for Gotham make The Joker look minuscule…physically and metaphorically. Despite not being as intriguing as The Joker, he still proves to be an intimidating and ultimately great villain.

A lot more could be said about The Dark Knight Rises and how successful a conclusion it is but when all’s said and done, it’s a Batman film, a real Batman film, the one we’ve been waiting for. It’s exciting, confronting, emotional and above all, satisfying. A cinematic treat that we needed and deserved. This is how a superhero film should be made and if you have doubts of this, unlike the Dark Knight, it holds up even better that second and third viewing. – Chris Elena (@Christoph_Elena)

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I’m going to wrap up with a summary of my thoughts. In my opinion Nolan has satisfied me with his last instalment of Batman. I’m not saying The Dark Knight Rises is perfect technically but it’s the film I wanted to see none the less. It never reaches the outrun brilliance of The Dark Knight but it combines elements of that and Batman Begins.

The sheer scale of it leaves you in awe with the combination of the story, the visual presence of Wally Pfister’s cinematography or Hans Zimmer’s thudding and best score out of the trilogy. Catwoman was stealing more than her fair share of scenes, Tom Hardy was suitably menacing where as Joseph Gordon-Levitt had a much more rewarding role that anticipated.

Not only is Christopher Nolan’s three Batman films are so far the best superhero trilogy films but they will go down as one of the best film trilogies full stop. It now saddens me that after seven years it has come to an end. Now I know how Star Wars fans felt when Return of the Jedi came out. I just feel sorry for the next director who tackles the Cape Crusader. – Luke Grima (@LGrima)

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