'The Dark Knight Rises' Review by Steve Oatney —
Well, I started writing this review yesterday, before the tragedy in Aurora Colorado happened early this morning. I’ve been finding it ever so difficult to Finish writing my review of a film that is now tainted with the real-life spilled blood of the victims of the horrific event. Again, my heart and thoughts go to those directly, and indirectly affected by the shootings.
Having said that, I still feel it is necessary to review what I consider to be one of the best films of the year, and one of the best superhero films, to date, so here we go…
Two hours and forty-four minutes passed without a thought. TDKR is a long film, but does not feel excessive, save the last few minutes that could have been edited, or perhaps removed. Not to spoil, but the epilogue vignettes are somewhat unnecessary, though I didn’t dislike them as much as my film critic friends apparently did, in our post-film discussions.
Let’s do some comparisons, how does that sound? Let’s start by comparing the character Bane in TDKR and Batman & Robin. While I would have liked to have seen more of Tom Hardy’s full-face, as acting with a mask covering one’s face presents serious difficulties, I have to say his Bane was MUCH more realistic and believable than Joel Schumacher’s in 1997. The difference is that Christopher Nolan did not follow, in any way, what Tim Burton, nor Schumacher did with their respective story telling of the Bruce Wayne legend which began in comic books, so many decades ago. Less of a cartoon, and more of a modern-day warrior psychopath, makes Tom Hardy’s Bane a fearsome and formidable foe for the Bat. For those who know the comic book storyline, the character may deviate in some ways, but some of his his actions stay ever true to canon.
For those who may not know, there have been A LOT of Catwomen on the big, and small, screens. Live-action actresses Eartha Kitt, and Julie Newmar played the cat-burglar on television, and Lee Meriwether, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Halle Berry brought her to the big-screen. In my opinion, Pfeiffer is the only comparison to make against Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman, as the other actresses were either working within the limited campy versions of the character, or were not given powerful enough stories with which to work. While I loved Pfeiffer’s Cat, I have to say that Hathaway’s updated character not only works well, but surprised me, pleasantly, that she could pull it off without it coming off overdone and overacted.
OK, how about we briefly compare Nolan’s three Bat films, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises. While TDK has firmly planted itself as one of the best superhero films of all time, Batman Begins was no slouch of a film in the sci-fi category. TDKR is a Nolan film, in the vein of both of his prior Bat-films, but it stands alone as its own entity. It is a whole new hero’s journey (much like Batman Begins), but with a healthy dose of darkness (like TDK).
What about our returning actors, you ask? Well, first off, Michael Caine as Alfred needs some recognition here, as he is given more than one good slice of dialogue which he delivered with practiced accuracy and seasoned talent. Morgan Freeman (one of my all-time favorite actors) is given some significant screen-time, but his character isn’t as integral and interesting this go-round. Christian Bale passed the Bruce Wayne test, and was again believable in that character, but Nolan didn’t seem to demand anything new from his portrayal, other than starting him off as out-of-shape and ill. Gary Oldman (another all-time favorite) reprised Jim Gordon with a good helping of being a key player in the film, which was well appreciated.
One last bit on actors [spoiler-less]. The new faces of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, and Matthew Modine really upped the ante for quality actors and their characters had developing depth which were perfect additions to the film’s story arc.
Two last things. 1) Will those in the Occupy Wall Street movement be pleased with this film? My guess is no. Direct comparisons can be made between the film’s criminal element, and the OWS, painting them in a less than flattering light. 2) Was The Dark Knight Rises BETTER than The Avengers? How dare you ask me that? That is like asking me to choose between DC and Marvel comics. However, I must say that while I’ll watch The Avengers more often, over and over, once I own it on Blu-Ray… I might have trouble calling it “better” than Rises.
I was chatting with some film friends, and here’s what I had to say, recently…
Christopher Nolan (Director of The Dark Knight Rises) has quite a powerful list of direction titles, especially considering how SHORT that list is! By the way, he’s working on the story for the Batman reboot, already, to hit theaters in 2015. Heh!
Tom Hardy & Joseph Gordon-Levitt… yet, perhaps somewhat unknowns to the masses, and certainly not A-list actors in the past, but I will say that they were not unknowns to some of us. Star Trek: Nemesis, Layer Cake, and Rock n’ Rolla introduced us to Hardy, and it was 3rd Rock from the Sun that introduced Gordon-Levitt to us, but admittedly, I didn’t much care for him until (500) Days of Summer.