Review: The Dark Knight Rises

I’ll begin with a confession. I think Christopher Nolan is tops. He’s the bee’s knees.

From Memento to Inception and all three of the Batman films, he can do no wrong in my eyes.

So take that little grain of salt while reading my thoughts on “The Dark Knight Rises,” which I half expected to be a dud after reading several reviews (even positive ones) before seeing it Friday.

It’s a film that doesn’t quite hit the iconic status of its predecessor, thanks to the lack of a show-stealing performance (Heath Ledger’s Joker) and a slight exit from the “reality” both “The Dark Knight” and “Batman Begins” were steeped in.

“Rises” feels much different than the first two in that it feels like a comic book movie, complete with villains who insist on letting the hero survive so he can suffer more (the lesson here is just kill him … it’s never a good idea otherwise, as was pointed out in Austin Powers). The fights are little more ridiculous (the Wall Street scene where Bane at the Bat clash). And there’s a nuclear bomb … always a good comic book foe.

These amount to my few gripes. The rest of the nearly three-hour ride is thrilling. A motorcycle chase through Gotham is the best chase I’ve seen on film in recent memory. Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman is the best take on the character I’ve seen, and I loved her role throughout. Bane is no Joker, but we’re working from source material here, and he’s a great take on the comic Bane (billion times better than Schumacher’s Bane origin story). And Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s John Blake character is vital to the plot … a character I was scared would be forced into the script, yet one that is surprisingly likable.

A friend of mine wrote about a problem he had with the general plot, which began with the end of “Dark Knight.” In it, Batman kills Harvey Dent, who’d of course become Two Face and raised hell after Rachel Dawes’ death. Batman tells Commissioner Gordon to blame him for Two Face’s murders and to blame him for Dent’s death.

Telling the world that Dent became a villain would crush Gotham, was the idea. This is what sends Batman into exile for eight years. “Rises” begins with the notion that in those eight years, organized crime has been thwarted because of the Dent Act, passed in honor of the “white knight,” an act that I assume makes it easier to prosecute the baddies.

My friend says, “Why not just say the Joker did it?” Doing that still hides the truth about Harvey Dent. It still makes “Harvey Dent Day” a lie. Doing that makes Batman needed … something Bruce Wayne no longer wants. The second movie drove home the point Wayne doesn’t want to be Batman if there’s someone like Dent to carry the torch. Even a dead Dent with a clean legacy can manage that.

And does.

So I bought that plotline, and I enjoyed the way it led to Catwoman’s arrival, and Wayne’s eventual interest in donning the suit again.

I won’t get into the political overtones. Some say the strong words against the upper class represent Christopher Nolan’s left-leaning views, while others insist that because a billionaire is still the hero (and the villain is promoting socialism and anarchy), it must be right-leaning.
Nolan used rich vs. poor because it made for a better story. Why not use class warfare in a movie where the hero is the richest guy in Gotham? Where one of the villains only targets the super wealthy … almost more for revenge than the actual goods she nabs?

It made for a great story. I didn’t feel like right or left wing anything was being shoved down my throat.

As for the ending, I’m not going to spoil anything. I will say only that one of the twists I saw coming a mile away, another twist I was mildly surprised by, another twist I was completely surprised by … and the actual end was both emotional and, for a huge fan of not only Nolan’s Batman films but Batman in general, rewarding.

Simply put. I liked it. Loved it.

It’s not the genre-changing film “The Dark Knight” was … and heck, even that one had its flaws (the bombs-on-the-barge scene and overall ending was a bit much). But “Rises” lived up to the hype and the anticipation.

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