100 movies: The Dark Knight Rises

Every year I set myself a target, usually of about 100, of films to watch. These are new films. Not new, new films. But films that are new to me. Any time I’ve seen a new one, I post a bit of a brain dump of my thoughts on the film here. Enjoy!

WARNING: This is a spoiler warning! I was going to attempt writing up my thoughts on The Dark Knight Rises without plot points about the film. But that’s proved somewhat impossible. So, if you’ve not seen the film but will be at some point and don’t want to be spoiled, go look at some of my photos. Oh and also, in case you didn’t already guess. This one is going to be a long one. I can’t make myself succinct about this film!

The Dark Knight Rises The Dark Knight Rises (20/07/12)

Eight years on, a new terrorist leader, Bane, overwhelms Gotham’s finest, and the Dark Knight resurfaces to protect a city that has branded him an enemy.

Before I begin with sorting out my thoughts on The Dark Knight Rises, let’s go back to the beginning with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. See, in the run up to the release of The Dark Knight Rises I did what any sane person would do and did a rewatch of both. Sane or weirdly obsessive. I’ll let you decide. Anyway. Before this rewatch I was certain that The Dark Knight was the better film. It was beautifully dark. Serious. Unforgiving. It was everything a comic book film had never been.

As you might be able to guess. After the rewatch, I changed my mind. I’m not saying that The Dark Knight is a bad film or in any way a poor sequel to Batman Begins, but I just want to argue that it is actually a better all round film. Batman Begins sets up the universe. Gives us Gotham. Its heroes and villains. Sets the tone. It’s well structured. Has a fantastic score. It begins with a purpose and by the end, you’ve got it. The Dark Knight I found a little messy on my rewatch. I think the film is overshadowed by the epic performance given by Heath Ledger. It’s all anyway sees or talks about when it comes to that film. There is more to it than that, but it’s all anyone can really take note of. The Dark Knight also ends about 3 times before the actual ending.

So there you have it. Now you know where my mindset is in terms of the trilogy, let’s get into my thoughts on The Dark Knight Rises.

The Dark Knight Rises, eh? He certainly does. For eight long years not only has Batman been away, but so has Bruce Wayne. He’s been unable to move on since he lost Rachel. Because as far as he knew, the only life he had for himself after Batman was with Rachel. She as much as told him. So he was led to believe.

Bruce Wayne’s not the only one with a bit of inner turmoil going on. Commissioner Gordon hasn’t had a great time since the events of The Dark Knight. His wife left with the children and he’s been dealing with the fact that he’s been having to live a lie about the events of the night that Harvey Dent died. It’s eating him up.

In short. Things are grim.

Boy are they grim. There just doesn’t feel like there’s any hope in the beginning of the film. Sure, Gotham’s all peaceable. But at what price has the peace come? Vilifying the only hero Gotham ever had? Of course. Only, there’s a big bad on his way to Gotham in the shape of a rather large Bane. Seriously, he’s huge! Bruce Wayne is soon lured out of hiding by Selina Kyle and we’ve got ourselves a Batman film. Hooray!

The opening scene is nothing short of spectacle. It is amazing to see this stunt play out. To know that Christopher Nolan actually hung stunt guys outside of a plane and shot this for reals is astounding! Though, I don’t expect anything less from him. The rest of the film looks amazing. Thanks to long time partner in crime, Wally Pfister. The action scenes look a lot better too. There’s a bit more fluidity to them, compared to the frenetic nature of them in Begins.

What does The Dark Knight Rises have that Begins and The Dark Knight don’t? An epic amount of emotion. I mean, it hit me in the face at every change it got. From seeing Alfred tearfully say goodbye to Bruce Wayne, because he can’t see him killing himself as Batman. Commissioner Gordon’s aborted speech on Harvey Dent day. Then again, Commissioner Gordon laying in hospital regretting all he’s done in the last eight years. Or has not done. Seeing Bruce Wayne in that hell hole of a prison, fighting to not only get back his physical fitness, but mental. And then there’s the ending. No wonder I felt exhausted by the end of the film!

Every single one of the players were excellent. Christian Bale is Batman. He’s Bruce Wayne. My favourite scenes of his were his stint in the prison. Those tore me up inside. Bale played them wonderfully. I was actually happy that there seemed to be more of Batman without the whole Bat-get-up. It was about Bruce and him finding himself again. But not in the hippy way people did way back when.

Michael Caine’s Alfred is definitely the heart of the film. And boy did Michael Caine make me cry. Gary Oldman had the same effect on me. I loved Gordon’s transition to an utterly broken man in the beginning to someone who finds his fight again and remembers what it’s all about. Is it me, or does he makes a similar journey that Bruce Wayne makes? I was sad there wasn’t more Morgan Freeman. But then, there’s so much going on, it’d be hard to warrant more of his Godly-ness.

Of the new people, I was most surprised with Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle. I was so ready to hate Catwoman. After all, I wasn’t too impressed with what I’d seen in trailers. She just didn’t fit into the world in my eyes. I was so very wrong. And glad that I was. This Catwoman is not like any other incarnation. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was excellent. I could be biased here, but Blake was a solid character. After all, there couldn’t not be anyone else in Gotham who still felt the need to question goings on. Maybe his role was a bit like that of Ariadne in Inception – he was the audience’s POV. The little reveal about his character’s real name at the end? Well, I personally didn’t think that was needed. It was pretty much implied all the way through. But hey, one minor irk.

Tom Hardy’s Bane was suitably terrifying. Such an eloquent speaking thug! He’s been the only one to, not only be a match, but supersede Batman physically. Their first bout was impressive. I never thought Batman had a chance. That’s never happened before. Like what was said. Bane had a belief. That belief helped strengthen his physical side. He was unbeatable. Batman, at that time, had his gadgets and things. But he was a hollow man.

But you know what was so great about that first round of fisticuffs? The lack of score. What annoys me a lot in films is this unnecessary need for a score to underline every scene. I’m looking at you Amazing Spider-Man. In that first fight, there was no score. It was just the two of them pummelling each other. It didn’t need it. But when scenes did call for the score, there it was in its epic glory. While I still think Batman Begins’ score is my favourite. Rises is second in line. I loved the chanting of ‘rise’. The theme from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were still there. But this score had an identity of its own. Possibly my favourite score of the year so far. Though… I haven’t really been impressed by anything so far!

So the film itself? Yes, I can agree with the general sentiment. It’s not a perfect film. I was never after a perfect film. It is however a perfectly epic conclusion to the trilogy. Yes, there are complaints about its length. But despite nearly hitting the 3 hour mark, it never once felt that long to me. The pacing was perfect. There was an awful lot to cram in. And yet, they managed it. The film ended and I wasn’t wondering about any points. Everything was tied up nicely. Sure there are some things left hanging. But they’re not left hanging in that way that you need to know. You can make your own mind up about it.

I made a casual note when Miranda Tate’s character was introduced that she had a line that was very like something Ra’s Al Ghul would say. And lo and behold she was Talia! Nicely done. It made more sense than it just being about Bane and his wanton violence and chaos.

Ok, going to try to wrap things up now. In the trilogy, where does this stand for me? If I had to choose, I might just put this after Batman Begin. My second favourite in the trilogy. It was a whole lot more satisfying than The Dark Knight was for me. But really, all these films are more or less equal for me.

And the other question that’s going to be on a lot of people’s minds. How does this compare with The Avengers? The other big comic book movie release of the year. I remember sitting in the cinema as the credits rolled for The Dark Knight Rises. As I sat there this question popped up. We all decided that you can’t compare them. They’re such entirely different types of films. If someone asked me right now to choose which one was better, I wouldn’t be able to do it.

So, as you can guess, I love this film. It’s a fitting conclusion. It’s not perfect. You would be foolish to have wanted perfection. And yes, I’m going to see if I can go and see this for a second time some time soon…
Rating: 5/5

Read on to see all the films watched this year…

58 Films so far this year

  1. The Tourist 1/5 (02/01/12)
  2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 5/5 (03/01/12)
  3. World’s Greatest Dad 2/5 (14/01/12)
  4. Haywire 3/5 (19/01/12)
  5. Dead Snow 3/5 (20/01/12)
  6. The Artist 5/5 (21/01/12)
  7. Priest 2/5 (05/02/12)
  8. The Muppets 5/5 (15/02/12)
  9. Faster 4/5 (19/02/12)
  10. Chronicle 4/5 (22/02/12)
  11. Safe House 4/5 (24/02/12)
  12. Reservoir Dogs 4/5 (25/02/12)
  13. This Means War 4/5 (02/03/12)
  14. The Royal Tenenbaums 3/5 (03/03/12)
  15. Reign of Fire 3/5 (04/03/12)
  16. Dear John 2/5 (04/03/12)
  17. Road to Perdition 5/5 (05/03/12)
  18. The Three Musketeers 3/5 (06/03/12)
  19. The Eagle 2/5 (10/03/12)
  20. Everybody’s Fine 2/5 (14/03/12)
  21. Frankenstein 4/5 (15/03/12)
  22. Love and Other Drugs 2/5 (15/03/12)
  23. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger 2/5 (17/03/12)
  24. The Big Lebowski 5/5 (18/03/12)
  25. The Hunger Games 3/5 (23/03/12)
  26. Headhunters 4/5 (07/04/12)
  27. Super 1/5 (07/04/12)
  28. The Cabin in the Woods 5/5 (13/04/12)
  29. Watchmen 4/5 (14/04/12)
  30. The Hurt Locker 3/5 (21/04/12)
  31. Avengers Assemble 5/5 (26/04/12)
  32. 22 Bullets 2/5 (28/04/12)
  33. Bad Teacher 1/5 (29/04/12)
  34. Red Riding Hood 1/5 (04/05/12)
  35. A Perfect Getaway 4/5 (05/05/12)
  36. Ca$h 1/5 (13/05/12)
  37. Kung Fu Panda 2 3/5 (14/05/12)
  38. Everything Must Go 2/5 (24/05/12)
  39. New York, I Love You 2/5 (25/05/12)
  40. Beginners 4/5 (26/05/12)
  41. Prometheus 4/5 (03/06/12)
  42. The Tree of Life 2/5 (04/06/12)
  43. The Lovely Bones 3/5 (05/06/12)
  44. Snow White and the Huntsman 3/5 (06/06/12)
  45. The Devil’s Backbone 4/5 (07/06/12)
  46. Britain in a Day 5/5 (11/06/12)
  47. The French Connection 4/5 (15/06/12)
  48. Insomnia 3/5 (16/06/12)
  49. Rebel Without a Cause 4/5 (22/06/12)
  50. A Lonely Place to Die 3/5 (26/06/12)
  51. Killer Joe 3/5 (29/06/12)
  52. The Amazing Spider-Man 4/5 (03/07/12)
  53. Raising Arizona 4/5 (04/07/12)
  54. Horrible Bosses 4/5 (06/07/12)
  55. Broadcast News 3/5 (07/07/12)
  56. We Need to Talk About Kevin 4/5 (07/07/12)
  57. Miller’s Crossing 4/5 (18/07/12)
  58. The Dark Knight Rises 5/5 (20/07/12)

19 comments

  1. Great review Jaina. This is exactly what I wanted in the last installment in this perfect trilogy. Nolan had me watching the screen, from start to finish and never let me go. The near-perfect thrill-ride I wanted, and Nolan gave me that. Going to be a little sad not seeing him directing Batman movies anymore, but at least he can go off and do some incredibly original flicks like Inception of The Prestige.

    • Could not agree with you more. I’m really looking forward to what Nolan does next, but like you, it’s going to be very sad not to see him being connected with another Batman film. He’s just done such an amazing job creating the universe.

      Can’t wait to see it again, and then have a trilogy run through when it’s out on blu-ray.

  2. Fantastic review! I haven’t seen the film yet but I really love the score, I think it is my fav out of all three. Great to read Hathaway didn’t disappoint.

    • I loved the score for Batman Begins, think this one comes in just after this. But it flows so well when listening to it and works excellently during the film.

      Hope you like the film when you finally see it. Though… I know you weren’t a big fan of Inception and I saw there was a lot of Inception in this one!

  3. I too am pleasantly surprised by Selina Kyle, she’s never referred to as Catwoman in the movie though she essentially is one.

    I’m not giving it a full rating though as I have some issues with it that I talk about in my upcoming review.

    • I think in one of the newspaper clippings she was referred to as a “cat burglar” but that was it. Nicely played. Also, her cat ears were her goggles! Again, nice touch.

      I had to give it a full rating, because of how I’ve scored other films this year. This just felt better than the other 4/5′s I’ve given. I couldn’t give it anything but a 5/5.

  4. I think I ended up disliking exactly what you liked about the film. Too me it was just too somber and heavy. I would have liked some more action and a bit more humor too.

    I did however like a few things, the ending was very well done. Hathaway really surprised me, I was ready to hate her. JGL was good as usual but I wish they had advanced his plot so that the revalation came in act 1. How cool would that have been.

    This film made me appreciate The Amazing Spiderman a bit more ;-)

    • I’m glad Blake’s revelation wasn’t until the end. I mean, it was more or less implied throughout the whole film. One of the main points of the film would have been totally skewed if it had been earlier and there would have been far too much going on along with everything else which was already on the verge of being too much.

      There were little bits of humor. Maybe a bit more wit would have been welcome, but it lacking it didn’t make me enjoy the film any less. A good bit of comic book drama is what the filmic world needs.

      It made you appreciate Spidey more? TDKR just pointed out to me how weak Spidey actually was!

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  6. I dunno… I’m with Adam. I had major issues with this one J, strating with Bane. I thought he was silly. That mask was a bad idea. And then it was SO damn serious.

    Spider-Man had major flaws too, but was much more fun at least. :(

    • Spider-Man was fun, I can give you that much. But I was under no doubt that TDKR wouldn’t be fun. Well, in the sense, that it was going to be a sombre affair. I was expecting a fair amount of death and destruction with very little hope.

      I’m going to go and see it again tomorrow and will wait and see if it still has the same effect on me.

  7. wow 5/5, you really loved it (more than I did, I think)

    I agree about the prison scenes being great, and more emotion in ‘Rises’ (I wasn’t moved by Gary Oldman as you were, though) ..Possibly a best supporting actor academy award nomination is in the cards for Michael Caine? I’m not sure if he has enough screentime, but Judi Dench won for 8 mins in Shakespeare in love…

    I still don’t know how I feel about it as I’ve only watched ‘Rises’ once. I’ll have my mini-review posted in a few days for monthly round-up. Maybe I’ll be a copycat and rewatch the whole trilogy, the story in ‘Rises’ almost demands that.

    • I really hope the Academy remembers Michael Caine come awards season. Definitely think he’s worth a nom for supporting actor.

      I saw it a second time and just loved it more. I just got into it more. Looking forward to a big ol’ trilogy watch when all three are out on blu-ray.

  8. I had waited reading reviews till I finally saw it myself, which I did on Tuesday. Although my score for it isn’t as high as yours, I must say that it’s an impressive conclusion to the trilogy. The opening scene was stunning indeed. I thought the movie tried to put too many characters in, giving some things too little time to develop (like the two romances or the takeover of Wayne Enterprises).

    • There were definitely a lot of new characters and relationships that needed to be built. I thought they did a good job with them. Though probably not as well with Miranda.

    • Rewtching Batman Begins and The Dark Knight before going in to see Rises felt like having my eyes opened. The Dark Knight as a film is sort of eclipsed by the performance by Heath Ledger and that’s all people seem to remembered and appreciate.

      Rises is an epic film. I feel somewhat justified that I have Brik on the same side as me when it comes to what I thought about the film!

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