The Dark Knight Rises Review (Courtney’s Take)

At long last, the much anticipated conclusion of the Dark Knight Trilogy has made its way to the big screen, much to the delight of the clamoring fans of the series. A certain hit, this film seems to have all the makings of a summer blockbuster – action, romance, a great story, and a flashy new villain. Still, I can’t help but think that something was missing from the typically flawless finish that typically accompanies a Christopher Nolan product.

Personally, I was most curious to discover how Nolan would put the series to rest, and my high hopes for the great storytelling that was present in the two prior films were deflated with the feeling that there was a definitive lack of substance and a lack of character depth, in comparison to The Dark Knight Rises predecessors.

We return to Gotham eight years after the death of Harvey Dent. Though the public is blind to the fact that Dent turned criminal in his last days, and that Batman was not his killer but truly Gotham’s savior, Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) still struggles with the lie that was told to the people of Gotham. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has not only put away the bat suit and all things Batman, but has also become a figure of public speculation, as his reclusive tendencies fuel the city’s rumor mill. He only ventures out into society once again after a run-in with the mysterious and beautiful cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). This run-in leads to a maddening whirlwind of odd happenings, terroristic encounters, and possibly the destruction of Gotham City – and Batman.

The plot is dense, and you will get lost in it (that is, unless you were smart and watched the first two movies again for preparedness’ sake). For the first twenty minutes or so, I was having a really hard time stepping back into the world of the story, and maybe it was partially because I was thrown over the fact that the movie picks up eight years after the death of Harvey Dent. Even after I got over my initial confusion due to the plot, I continued to be confused every time the villainous masked-man Bane (Tom Hardy) uttered a sound from behind his incredibly frightening mask. Part of this could be attributed to the fact that I am hard of hearing (in all seriousness), and maybe it’s the fact that I couldn’t read his lips to match the sound to the visual, but I have a hard time believing that there is no one else who finds this to be the case. I think I caught about 10% of what Bane said throughout the entire movie, and that definitely took away from my understanding of his purpose in the movie, as well as his revolutionary intent.

I know there has been a lot of hype surrounding the character of Bane; to be perfectly honest, I don’t really get it. Admittedly, since I could not understand most of his lines, my full comprehension of his character is rather blurred; however, the impact of his character was somewhat hindered by the reveal that is made at the end of the movie. Still, the final villain of the Dark Knight has the mark of a truly great movie villain – and by that I mean that even though he is the bad guy, there is a ring of truth to his efforts, and though his intentions and actions cause havoc, ruin, and chaos, there is something about him that causes people to choose to follow him, trust him, and die for him. He has this distinct likeability, an unassuming charisma that makes you hate to see him fail; and while I can’t say that Hardy’s Bane had quite the amount of success as Heath Ledger’s Joker in this instance, it is nearly on par with such a captivating performance.

Something that brings a definitive lightness to an otherwise dark film is the unexpectedly witty banter that is shared between Bruce Wayne/Batman and Selina Kyle/Catwoman. Bale and Hathaway manage to share surprisingly decent chemistry, though the spotty appearance of Selina Kyle really seemed to do a disservice to the film, in that she brought a freshness to the screen that was desperately needed at times. The Catwoman of this film was classy, sly, formidable, and more subtly demure than the previous attempts at the character. While I know many initially knocked Hathaway’s costume, I personally found it to be a nod to the evolution of the Catwoman character – one grounded in athleticism, intellect, and agility, rather than an over sexualized ideal of the feminine.

At this point, I don’t know that I can say that I loved this movie. I don’t even know that I can say that I enjoyed this movie. What I do know is that I am perplexed by this movie. I am sure people will walk out of this movie raving about how great it was, and at this point, I’m going to have to disagree with them. I know I’m going to get some flak on that, and I’m definitely in the minority. What’s even more disappointing is that I can’t put my finger on why I didn’t love this movie. Still, I’m willing to give it another try, and follow up with a more definitive reason as to why this movie missed the mark in my book.

Overall, I have some strong suggestions for anyone who plans on seeing The Dark Knight Rises this weekend:
1. Watch Batman Begins – I missed so much, and spent a lot of unnecessary time connecting the dots at the beginning of this movie because I forgot so much of what happened in the first movie. Characters from the first movie are used heavily in The Dark Knight Rises, and it would serve anyone well to prepare themselves for the best chance at fully enjoying (maybe?) this movie.
2. Lower Your Expectations – It’s been my experience that movies that are overly hyped are often letdowns. Bring your expectation down a little, and you are more likely to be surprised and delighted, rather than let down.
3. Find a Theater with Good Audio – While I understand that my problem of not being able to understand Bane is partly my own issue, I can’t help but feel like the theater’s audio sucked, which may have attributed to the worsening of my experience. This is not the time to go to an underpar multiplex. Get thee to an establishment that has high-quality audio. If you had no issues understanding Bane, yay for you! If you were like me, I’d love to know, because I’m thinking I can’t possibly be the only one who was having a hard time grasping what he was saying.

All in all, I would say that you should see this movie. In no way am I saying this movie is not worth seeing. I will most likely be going again (after seeing Batman Begins), just because I feel the need to give it another chance. I don’t know that my initial feelings will be overturned, but I’m willing to give it a shot.

The Dark Knight Rises – 8/10

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