The Dark Knight Rises

“The Dark Knight Rises” is the concluding chapter to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, the movie series that resurrected the moribund Batman franchise. Having given us the excellent “Batman Begins” and the legendary “The Dark Knight Rises”, the bar was set high for the grand finale, so one can hardly blame Nolan for wanting to give us something grandiose and epic for the final chapter.

And to a large extent, he succeeds. There’s plenty of Batman angst here, a sprawling cast of characters, a worthy adversary, and the city is certainly in peril. Yet the movie is so serious it’s smothering, there’s a dearth of action, and the “epicness” occasionally crosses the line into bloat.

There’s a very well made movie here, but I didn’t enjoy it half as much as I had hoped to.

“The Dark Knight Rises” picks up 8 years after the events of “The Dark Knight”. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has been in retirement from being Batman since the night that Harvey Dent died. Thankfully, Gotham has been safe and secure since then, barely needing his services. In the wake of Dent’s apparently tragic death, the city passed the “Harvey Dent Act”, an act of legislation that somehow facilitates prosecution and which has led to the incarceration of thousands of Gotham City criminals. Wayne himself has been living as a recluse, earning a Howard Huges-esque reputation for himself. He’s never seen in public any more, and Wayne Enterprises has begun to flounder.

When Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) is attacked, Wayne gets word of a new menace to Gotham. He breaks out the body armor, pays his first visit to Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman) in years and begins his search for the mysterious Bane (Tom Hardy). What he finds is a man raising an army to finish the mission of Ra’s Al Ghul… destroying Gotham. What he also finds is that he’s finally met his match… Bane is a man he cannot best physically. As Wayne is forced to recuperate from his unsuccessful confrontation with Bane, the terrorist conquers the city, cutting it off from the outside world and holding it captive with the threat of an atomic device.

While Bane is certainly Batman’s match, there’s one person he’s no match for, and that’s Heath Ledger’s Joker. With his face hidden behind the breathing mask, and his borderline goofy voice, Bane is simply not a captivating villain. Great heroic movies depend as much on the villain as they do the hero, and here we’re given a poorly motivated gym rat in a gas mask. By the movie’s end there are some reveals that illuminate the character to a greater depth, but for the most part, we have little idea why Bane is doing what he’s doing, and we get no sense of an acting performance because Hardy’s face is completely obscured by the breathing apparatus.

Faring much better is Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle aka Catwoman. She’s feminine, felonious and formidable without being comically feline. Unfortunately her character and her relationship with Bruce Wayne (which would have made for a great centerpiece story) get more than a little lost in the mix.

Because there is an enormous mix going on here. Not only does Batman face Bane and Catwoman, but Comissioner Gordon has a story-line, as does Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character. Alfred and Lucious are both given ample screentime, of course, and deservedly so, but there’s also got to be time for the Wayne Enterprises board, Marion Cotillard’s character, Bruce Wayne’s attempt to build a fusion device for clean, renewable energy, Cillian Murphy’s reappearance as Jonathan Crane, Nestor Carbonel, Matthew Modine, there’s trapped cops, orphaned kids, etc etc… this movie sprawls and not in a good way. Clocking in at almost three hours, there are numerous subplots and story strands I would happily see edited out. And not simply for brevity’s sake, either. There are a number of things here that just aren’t that great. While “The Dark Knight” was long, too, it still felt tight. Everything in it felt important. That certainly isn’t the case here.

At the end of the day, I would have been more ok with it, had the action supported the movie better. There’s no 18 Wheeler flip here, there’s no jump from a Hong Kong skyscraper. There is a very memorable fistfight between Bane and Batman, and “The Bat” (the name for the flying Batmobile) is cool, but there’s just not enough within the endless runtime, and it’s just not memorable enough for me. Factor in clichés like chasing down a ticking bomb and out-maneuvering heat seeking missiles, and you have a lot of letdown in terms of the action sequences here.

The production values are still as high as they get. There are a couple of really fun “reveal” moments that I wont spoil here, too. The acting is still top-notch, it seemed they filled every role with a talented actor. Also, of course, by this point in the series, you care about these characters very much. There were some very touching moments between Alfred and Bruce, for example. And finally, if you’re a fan of super hero movies, it’s always great to watch the characters you know and love in live-action up on the big screen. So, there’s still a lot of quality elements within. Yet I can’t get around the fact that I  spend a lot of the runtime mildly bored, and would have liked to have seen this movie spend its considerable resources in a much, much better way.

B+, but that’s a very disappointing grade considering the pedigree.


108 thoughts on “The Dark Knight Rises

  1. I’m excited to see it tonight but I’ve learned to not get my hopes too high. The long runtime really worries me and I have always doubted that this could be better than TDK.

    Great review and thanks for leaving the spoilers out!

  2. Seems like an honest review Fogs. Thanks for that man. To be honest, I expected some disappointment from this. There’s no way it could live up to the hype.

    • Ahhhhhh it could have… I mean, Nolan is talented enough to pull it off. But I think he succumbed to a lot of the third chapter traps. Bigger = better (it does not) More Villains = bigger threat (Gawd, please) etc

      As always, your mileage may vary. I’ll be interested to know what you think when you’ve seen it.

      • It makes you wonder if there are any third chapters that really deliver. It was once a common saying that sequels were never as good as the original. I think there are enough movies (from the superhero front even: X-Men: United, Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight, and some would argue Superman 2 and Batman Returns) to disprove that theory. It’s the third movie that seems to stumble a little.

      • I’m a great admirer of Nolan and if anyone could have then you could maybe see him pulling it off but your right, the third movie trap tends to snag a lot of people.
        In of the firm belief though, that this is going to be a year of ‘could have’s. Prometheus stumbled and the trailer for Django Unchained didn’t impress. I really hope I’m wrong though but so far, I ain’t impressed.

      • Django looked pretty good at Comic-Con. Looked very “Tarantino cool”. So, I hope youre wrong there, for sure!

        Prometheus definitely stumbled though, and I think this one did too.

        Avengers overacheived though… so….

  3. Considering what happened in Colorado today, this movie will be very historic but not in a good way. Expect to see massive backlash! Already Paris cancelled it’s premiere and lots more to follow I’m sure. How incredibly tragic it all is!

    • I don’t want to diminish anything about the tragic news that came out of Colorado today, but I feel that potential backlash towards the film is unwarranted and the film becomes an easy scapegoat for more pressing issues surrounding the situation.

      When I heard the news I was horrified, and being from Tucson, AZ I was transported back about 18 months ago when the shootings happened in my neck of the woods. Nothing as simple as a movie can be blamed for the horrendous actions taken by a sick person, who took advantage of those people who were coming to a theater to enjoy a night out.

      I wish all the best to the families who were hurt by this tragedy, but please do not this as an opportunity to attack media. Many more positive things can be changed to make sure this never happens again.

    • The sheer awfulness of this whole thing is overwhelming. I keep thinking how many midnight showings me and my friends have sat through, and how we were talking about how we were bummed we couldn’t go to this one on a work night, and how all of those people were just like us. It’s been roiling around in my stomach all day. and then I look at the news about the gunman and read he was a graduate student studying neuroscience, so obviously he isn’t a moron, and I just cant understand and it makes me sick all over again.

      And now I’ve talked it over with my buds and we’ve canceled our plans to go see it tomorrow, so I feel like in a way, we’re surrendering to the evil, but fuck! I just cant see going and sitting in the theater.

      This really sucks.

      My heart goes out to all the victims and their families, and especially the survivors, some of whom will be living with pain probably for the rest of their lives.

      • I’m with you, man. I haven’t been out with a group to see a movie since “Prometheus,” and I was itching to go out with my friends on this one. We were so totally excited, not necessarily for the movie itself, but for an “event” movie that our group — people with different interests — could agree on attending. (“Prometheus” didn’t turn out to be that movie, but “Avengers” did end up being a huge crowd pleaser.)

        So to have something like this happen, knowing that the crowd was full of people as excited as I was … it’s depressing. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims.

      • Andrew, I feel the same way. This whole thing sucks. I know when I go to catch this flick, I won’t be enjoying it as much as I should just because of what happened in Colorado.

      • I heard about the Colorado incident right as I was in the theatre for this to start.

        Obviously, there’s nothing but sorrow and sympathy for the families involved.

        But insanity can happen anywhere, it sucks to attach it to this movie or to the movies in general. I wouldnt let it create an association… S. Stephens said it well above, you can’t blame the movie… it’s just not that simple.

        In terms of backlash, instances like this are not only going to rob people of their lives, I bet they start robbing us of our freedoms, as well. I wonder now if theatres are going to start boosting security measures…

      • Dark Knight Rises will be tainted with guilt by association. Already they’re calling the murderer “the Colorado Batman killer”. Even though I don’t believe this movie or any movie is guilty of this atrocity, I can’t see how there won’t be ramifications in the movie industry.

      • I just want to say that I dont in any way blame the film. It’s not guilt by association for me, but there definitely is pain by association. And it makes me mad that a film which I am/was/am genuinely jazzed for, now will be saddled with overcoming the burden of this horror.

  4. Nice to see someone willing to call out the problems and not immediately love it unconditionally like most other people.

    • Thanks. Yeah, I had to… I couldnt get past some of the stuff here, you know? It just wasn’t that much fun… and that’s one of the things I want out of a superhero flick more than anything.

  5. Well thought out review. Want to see the pic, but will wait a while in view of the tragedy in Colorado. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families.

  6. Good review Fog, I usually count myself on the more discerning sides of movie criticism but I fully admit that even as I noticed flaws throughout the film I found myself not really caring about them as I walked out of the theater. I completely understand many of the criticisms people have with the film (the main street vs. Wall street feels uncharacteristically ripped form the headlines for a Nolan film, plus I can understand how many might take issue with the fact that this almost occasionally feels like a Bond movie with Batman in it) but after having lowered my expectations having seen some initial middling reviews, I truly believe that DKR is as close as I could’ve hoped for Nolan to meet the typhoon of hype surrounding the film.

    • Well, I dont know. I think he could have done better. I think there were some easy things he could have avoided here. Overall I guess I couldnt put the flaws aside. That’s a huge thing for me, too. I’m often willing to forgive a movie its flaws if it gets me caught up in it. This one… didnt so much.

      Might just be me, but I have seen a lot of less than enthused reviews out there.

  7. This film kicked so much ass from start to finish that I honestly couldn’t say anything at all throughout the whole flick. When it was over, I got up, cheered, wiped some tears away from my eyes, went on home, and thought about what I saw. And what I saw was just something great and almost perfect for me. Great review Fogs. I’m really going to miss Bale and Nolan working with Batman, but at least they left us a great trilogy.

    • I didnt see it that way Dan. I thought it took a while to get in gear and had some really slow stretches.

      I’m all for Superhero movies that want to tell a story and build character and whatnot, but I didnt think the story being told here was that great… not to languish on it for so long. The pacing of the movie – to me – was awful.

      It was still pretty good, but I’m not blown away by it by any means

  8. Great review. I didn’t think TDK was awesome or legendary – Ledger was, the rest of it was fun but that was it for me. The only reason I saw this film so many times is because of the Joker. I’m pretty sure I’ll like this less than you did, shame they didn’t give much depth to Bane he was one of the coolest antagonists in the comics.

  9. Personally, I found the Bane character to be quite interesting! Albeit, he wasn’t nearly as interesting as he has been in some of DC’s better work with the character, I don’t think a supernaturally charged genius / superhuman would really fit that well into the Nolanverse. Changes had to be made to the character, and I think the changes they did make — (SPOILERS) — to essentially turn Bane into a subservient goon, not unlike every one of his followers (END SPOILERS) — was a sort of interesting character dynamic.

    • I had no attachment to the Bane from the comics, so whatever changes they made or didn’t make don’t really carry weight with me one way or the other.

      I just know that in the movie, you can’t see his face, so he has no expression, his voice is downright goofy, and what character detail you get on him? You get way too late.

      I wasn’t a fan… Except for the first fist fight he and Bats had. That was cool.

      • (In the movie) He’s supposed to be an enigma. Like Batman, the majority of his power is derived from what Gotham believes him to be, not what he actually is. The citizens of Gotham let Bane take control of their city because they believe him capable of destroying it, in the same way they let Batman watch over their city because they believe him capable of protecting it. Both Bane and Batman are regular human beings capable of instilling opposite core emotions into the citizens of Gotham, hope, and hopelessness. Batman give Gotham’s citzens hope, and it’s criminal’s a sense of hopelessness. Bane does the opposite. I think that’s a pretty compelling relationship.

  10. I agree that with the mask, Bane just seems kind of plain, and non-comicbook people don’t even know who he is anyway. I wonder if this movie would have been better if more focus was put on Catwoman, the more famous Bat-villain.

  11. “Bane is simply not a captivating villain.” ?? He was so dark, sinister, and malicious. Each time we heard him, saw him, etc…the question was “What evil will he do next?” “Whose neck will he snap?” “Who will he order around before killing them?” “Will he bust up Batman?” etc.

    There was, however, a lot of stuff going on. It took a while to develop, but once the train started going, it didn’t stop.

    I was overall pleased with what Nolan did. It’s not as great as The Dark Knight…but it’s a different movie with a different tone/story. and I really liked what they did keeping a few guesses for the fans but still making it fun for all.

    • LOL. Those weren’t my questions with Bane. I think there needs to be a great performance to make a great villain. Hoenstly… name me a villain that DOESNT kill their henchmen, cmon, that’s not impressive.

      I didn’t like Bane mainly because I couldnt see his face at all, thus no acting came across. And what we got instead wasn’t enough to step up to the plate and take the place of good acting.

      There were a few twists and turns – I think you’re alluding to – that I did like, those were cool. Overall, I still liked the movie, but I think its got some major issues, and I definitely dont think its half as good as The Dark Knight. 😦

  12. Really enjoyed reading your thoughts. I was a bit surprised. I was expecting a rave review. I’m a bit concerned that you gave Amazing Spider-Man an A and this a B+. Who are you?!

    All seriousness. Good review. Honest. I think there’s a lot of fanboys out there raving about the film just because.

    But .. personally, I loved the film. It’s not perfect and it has a lot to cram in, but I think this is a better film than The Dark Knight. Which I think is a little over-praised.

    It’s the emotional punch that this film packs that I really enjoyed. It bloody hurt! Everyone’s falling apart. Including Batman.

    I quite liked Bane. Sure you’ve got the mask and he looks like a guy who’s just spent way too long at the gym, but he was interesting. People were following him like he was a god. They were willing to lay down their life at just an utter of a few words. Tom Hardy did a good job with what he was given.

    In short. I loved it. Looking forward to seeing it again.

    • Spider-Man should have been an A-, I wish I could take a mulligan. Then they wouldnt seem so far apart. But I enjoyed tAS much more than this. This was too long, too dour and too caught up in its own importance to leave much room for fun.

      Enetertainment Weekly had Spidey higher too. 😀

      Glad you loved it – wished I could have. It’s just way too flawed, and I wasn’t enjoying myself enough to overlook them

      • I loved the dour. I loved the drama. Maybe I was just in need of a really heavy film. It’s the kind of film that’s really sticking with me too. Like Batman Begins did and The Dark Knight.

        Entertainment Weekly? I never trust them!

  13. Great review! B+ is still a good score. Is this a case of the hype overshadowing the movie? The expectation is so high on this film, even the slightest flaw could derail the enjoyment. Sounds like the drama of the movie overpowered the cool fight scenes, the big spectacle, the gadgets, etc… Maybe the mood of the movie affects the audience psyche? Touches too close to home for some. Maybe? Don’t know when I’ll get to see this.

    • “Sounds like the drama of the movie overpowered the cool fight scenes, the big spectacle, the gadgets, etc… ”

      Exactly. There was a ton of drama, for sure. And the fight scenes were few and far between. 😦

      It’s till a “should see” for sure… I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts when you do see it.

  14. Wow, every blogger and their dog as a Batman post up right now! And I can’t read any of them because I’m not seeing it till next Saturday! SO sorry man, can’t read your review yet, but I will next week!

  15. I think a B+ is a fair grade. I wound up giving it five stars, but it was with the acknowledgement that it was getting a boost for how well it concluded the trilogy, and wasn’t getting the full five entirely on how well it stood by itself. The flaws you point out are definite issues with the film (though I didn’t really notice the length of the film.)

    • Glad you can see the validity of what I was saying, that’s cool. I couldn’t get past how long it was though, definitely dragged for me.

      Definitely seem to be holding the minority position, but feeling strong about it on this one 🙂

  16. You were particularly harsh with your review here Fogs. While my percentage might not equal a B+ I thought it was more entertaining than you made it out to be in your review. It might’ve been bloated, but I don’t think I’d ever go as far as bored.

    • Gotta call it like I saw it. It was so concerned by being “Epic” it forgot to entertain. Too much angst and Batman related “heaviness” and not enough action. Barely any fun written in at all.

      Didn’t have to be that way…

      Glad you enjoyed it more, though, Max. I wish I had.

  17. I did end up enjoying it a lot more than you did Fogs, but I can understand your gripes. I’d like to see this again on DVD/Blu so I can enable subtitles in some parts.

    It had a couple cool “aha” moments which took me off guard. And Caine’s well, he’s Michael Freakin’ Caine. He owns it.

    • Yeah, Michael Caine was great. He was such a valuable addition to this series. Totally elevated the material right from the very first movie.

      I was a step or two ahead of most of the “Aha” moments, but that doesnt mean I didnt still like them. They were enjoyable surprises for the most part, but I’m not sure they justified all the set up that went in to them, still. Some major cut downs were needed around this flick somewheres…

  18. I find it odd when I read someone say, “It’s not as good as The Dark Knight” because not only is The Dark Knight Rises not as good as The Dark Knight, but it’s also not as good as Batman Begins, or Tim Burton’s Batman, hell I enjoy Batman Returns and the Adam West Batman film more than The Dark Knight Rises. It isn’t horrible, but it is heavily, HEAVILY flawed and while I’m not exactly happy you were disappointed, I’m glad I’m not the only one.

    Great review dude.

  19. I greatly appreciate your honesty Fogs! I am making this the last on screen comic I am going to see for a while and so with your review and current events I am giving it a 2 week cooling off period and while I fully doubted its ability to rise to or eclipse The Dark Knight, to find out it didnt takes some of pressure off and hopefully as some have reflected, this is a better film in the way it ties up ends from Batman Begins and so I may try to view it with those glasses on. Job well done sir!

    • Thanks Ric, yeah I think that right sized expectations will help, and keep in mind that a lot of people are singing the praises of it.

      To me, there were a lot of flaws, a lot of shortcomings, but it’s obviously still going to wind up being a movie at a level that you don’t get too often. So even though it disappointed me, and I have a lot of criticisms, it’s still pretty decent and you stand a good chance of enjoying it more than I did.

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