Hey gang, Valkor here. Anytime a film enters into the threequel territory, it’s usually met with much fanfare but ends up disappointing. Return of the Jedi, Back to the Future III, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 (actually two pretty much sucked as well) are just a few examples. To say there’s a curse on any film that enters into the threes, its usually on the money. Enter Christopher Nolan, who has been building up his Batman saga towards this climatic conclusion with “The Dark Knight Rises”. After “The Dark Knight, this was the film that was highly anticipated; now that it’s been unleashed unto the masses and I’ve gotten my chance to view it, I can honestly say “this is the best film in the trilogy”. Is it perfect? No, but it’s definitely entertaining as all fuck. (Major Spoilers ahead)
Eight years have passed since the events of The Dark Knight – Gotham has passed Harvey Dent’s law that ensures that the criminal scum stay behind bars with no parole, so the streets are pretty much crime free. The city itself has undergone some changes, looking more polished than when we last left it. And what about Gotham’s number one son, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale)? He’s hung up his cape and cowl and gone into seclusion. Why? If you recall, Batman is now a wanted criminal for the death of Harvey Dent and rather than spoil Dent’s image (he became Two-Face and killed a lot of people), a plan was concocted that placed Batman as the villain and Dent as the hero. But several events have unfolded that has caused Wayne to come out of seclusion and re-don his cape and cowl, such as the appearance of Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), who poses as a maid to get into the now fully rebuilt Wayne Manor to steal Bruce’s fingerprints. Plus a new threat has emerged into Gotham – Bane (Tom Hardy) and he looks to not only break the man that is Bruce Wayne but he also wants to break the bat as well. In what will be the most diabolical plan to ever face Gotham, Bane looks to finish what Ra’s Al Ghul started and that’s tear the city apart. Bane has proven to not only be as smart, if not smarter than the Joker, but he’s definitely stronger – a powerhouse of muscle and mass capable of not only matching Bruce Wane mentally by also matching him blow for blow – and yes he does eventually break the Bat and tosses him into the prison from whence he originated. After this, he brings chaos to Gotham, amassing its citizens and putting them in charge against Gotham’s elite. Thankfully the Dark Knight doesn’t stay grounded for long as he gathers his strength, repairs what’s been broken, and returns to be the hero that Gotham needs right now. But can he ultimately put an end to Bane’s dominance and save Gotham once and for all? And will this third outing truly be the end of The Dark Knight?
Friend and foe alike dominate the world of Gotham that Christopher Nolan has shaped into his own universe (the Nolanverse as it is known). There’s Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), who is now separated from his wife and children; injured earlier on in the film, he too must rise from his pain and help bring together the Gotham that Bane has broken. Next is Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a simple cop who not only pieces together the true identity of Batman, but also impresses Gordon enough to rise up in the ranks as “detective”. Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), she’s never actually called “Catwoman” in the film, but we all know who she is. She takes the role to new heights, being neither a hero nor villain; she only looks out for number one – herself. Finally there’s Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), who not only sits on the board of directors at Wayne Enterprises, but he’s also Wayne’s go to guy for all those wonderful toys. Most notably “The Bat”, which is an aerial assault vehicle, built in similar fashion to the Tumbler.
The film’s runtime clocks in at 2hrs and 40+ minutes; yes TDKR is one film where you don’t wanna get caught having to run to the restroom after slurping down a 40oz soda (16 if you live in NYC, thank you Mayor Bloomberg). There’s also an expected and not so expected cameos as well as a host of other twists and surprises that present themselves in the film. But we’ll talk about that and more as we enter the TOV Breakdown.
The Dark Knight Rises is Christopher Nolan’s crowning achievement and the best batman film since “The Dark Knight”. TDKR, in my eyes, beats out TDK only slightly and with good reason – the story is very well thought, highly suspenseful, gripping, compelling, and accomplishes exactly what Nolan set out to do and that’s take the film full circle back to the beginning – key events, flashbacks, and character cameos help reach this goal. By mid film I was starting to get slightly upset by the fact that the words of Thomas Wayne “why do we fall, Bruce?” hadn’t made an appearance. But my mind was put at ease when I heard those words and yes, I smiled a little. Besides the story, the acting is also rock solid; Christian Bale has already won me over as The Dark Knight since the beginning and in TDKR, he continues to strive, staying true to the character. He did slip a few times in the beginning with his accent (I wasn’t hatin; I actually thought it was funny), but he maintained the spirit of the characters he portrays to a T. But acting kudos definitely has to be given to Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, who puts on an amazing performance. I didn’t think anyone could ever top Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, but Hathaway not only brings the sexy, she also gives us a Catwoman that’s playful and conniving, staying truer to the comic book roots than Pfeiffer’s over the top performance in Batman Returns (again I ain’t hatin). Joseph Gordon-Levitt, what can I say, the dude killed it! Before the film, I thought his role would only be a minor one. To my surprise, his Blake character became an integral part of the story. Great job! But I can’t leave out Tom Hardy’s Bane; I’ve stated amongst my circle of friends that Bane, stripped away from his venom, would be the perfect follow up from the Joker. Let’s forget about the overpowered, juiced up Bane in the comics or the really goofy and disappointing Schumacher version, let’s look at Bane who appeared in the "Vengeance of Bane" comics, which told of his origins and life after Knightfall; Bane is supposed to be smart, calculating, as well as a muscle-bound behemoth and it looks as though Nolan has tapped into that aspect of the character, bringing him to life on the big screen. I wasn’t feeling the mask at first, but it worked out well and made sense to the story. I thought Hardy performed well and made for one menacing villain. Great job! To round out this section we have the action, which was full of hits and misses, with more hits than anything else. The fight scenes were well choreographed and nicely edited, the vehicle scenes were OK. I was expecting more flare with “The Bat”, but it was fun. I didn’t watch this film on an IMAX screen, so maybe those aerial scenes played out better on a much larger scale. In the end I had such a great time with The Dark Knight Rises and I can’t wait to see it again!
TDKR isn’t perfect, there were definitely some missteps that had me shaking my head, going in no specific order; First up Alfred (Michael Caine) quitting on Bruce Wayne. Alfred is such an integral aspect of the Batman mythos that to take him out would be sacrilege! So in TDKR he’s trying to convince Wayne to quit before he dies, but didn’t he also try to convince him in “The Dark Knight” to stay on as Batman? Next is Jim Gordon being hospitalized throughout the first half of the film – I didn’t care for it at all. I know this opens things up for Blake to get his shine, but I’d rather see Gordon out and about, getting shit done than laid out on his back. I would have also liked it if he was a little less whiny. Next, the vehicle chases didn’t have the same impact as they did in the previous films, with the Tumbler chase from "Batman Begins" still being one of the best car chases to ever grace the big screen. Next is Talia Al Ghul (Marion Cotillard) – nice introduction of the character… very nice indeed, and I want to commend Marion for being steadfast when she was questioned numerously on whether she would play the character or not and she said “no”. Great job! But I don’t feel the character should have died at the end. Talia is another key character in the Batman mythology. Bruce was the only man Ra’s would ever allow to be with his daughter and as I recall, that aspect is also mentioned in the novelization of “Batman Begins”. Why kill her off? I have no clue. But she should have been kept alive. Finally there’s one ending (and this film has multiple) that I didn’t particularly care for; When Alfred is in Florence, Italy settling down with his drink, he sees Bruce and Selina across the way and he simply gets up and walks away. Now this hurt me a lot because Alfred and Bruce are all the family these two have and to have them part ways just like that… very upsetting.
I didn’t want “The Dark Knight Rises” to be better than “The Dark Knight”; I didn’t even go into this film expecting it. I merely wanted Nolan and company to finish what they started and put out an amazing and entertaining piece of film. And that is what they have achieved and then some. I had such a great time with TDKR and I hope everyone gets the chance to see and enjoy this film. TDKR is compelling, entertaining, and the perfect ending to a great trilogy. I’m gonna miss Nolan’s Batman, but I’m also curious as to what’s in store for the future of the Caped Crusader, when it comes to his film counterpart. So, out of TOV 5 stars, I’m giving “The Dark Knight Returns” 4.5 and it’s been Valkor Viewed, TOV Approved!