The Daves would like to welcome guest blogger Mark Justice to Terror From Beyond The Daves with his review of the movie THE DARK KNIGHT RISES! Hopefully we will see more reviews from Mark in the future!
When I went to see The Dark Knight Rises, it was with a great deal of reservation. Sure, Christopher Nolan had made two incredible Batman Movies, The Dark Knight perhaps being one of the best comic book movies ever made, but Bane, again?, and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman? Really? Surely, Mr. Nolan had lost his marbles choosing the star of The Princess Diaries to play one of the sexiest villains of all time and for bringing back Bane in the wake of the horrendous Batman and Robin. There are dozens of wonderful villains in Batman’s rogues’ gallery. Bane? Hathaway?
I also had similar feelings of certain doom and incredulous disbelief about Heath Ledger playing the Joker, and we all know how that turned out.
The Dark Knight Rises is the last of Nolan’s amazing Batman trilogy. Unlike the mythic trilogy, where the middle installment is the darkest, Nolan gives us an incredibly dire final act. Bleak is the word of the day here, kiddies. Without spoiling anything, I can say that, very much like The Dark Knight, it’s the characters around Batman who make the movie. What would Bale’s Batman be but a death-metal growling vigilante without Ledger’s dizzyingly chaotic Joker? The same ensemble effort is ever-present in The Dark Knight Rises.
Bane is a true psychopath in the true sense of the word. He is entirely devoid of emotion and is a masterful tactician as he sets his plans for Gotham into motion. If your only exposure to Bane was from the godawful Batman and Robin, you’ll be in for a delight as you see a much truer representation of the uber-powerful character. His desire to bring Gotham under his control stems from deeply personal convictions. He is every bit the match for Batman, and then some, which is something the Batman has never encountered before. Tom Hardy’s performance is more than believable. His Bane simply reeks of power, control, and nihilism. Hardy relishes every moment of screen time given. His presence is tangible, and I like this Bane much more than I do the comic book character. This Bane is a force of reckoning. This Bane is terrifying. This Bane is believable.
Likewise, Hathaway’s Catwoman is much, much more than a sex kitten in a cat suit. Oh, sure, she totally rocks the cat suit. Let me say this again. She’s incredibly hot as Catwoman, as bendy and as sexy as one could want, but it’s Hathaway’s performance, as both Selina Kyle and as Catwoman, that really blew me away. She morphs and changes and adapts to every situation like a chameleon, at times demure, subtle, vicious, threatening, and seductive. Catwoman is nothing if not self-serving. She goes in and out of personalities quicker than Sybil, like putting on a dozen favorite shirts, each fitting with such ease and perfection that they’re like an extension of the body, and that’s how watching her performance feels. Hathaway has complete control of this character and turns out what may be not only the best performance of her career but the sexiest Catwoman, because of the depth of her character, the kind of which has ever been shown on the screen before. Call me, Anne. Wear the heels.
Hesitantly switching gears, it was a mistake for Warner Brothers to market this movie as the end of the Batman franchise. This knowledge let me see the first cracks in the otherwise outstanding Batman series. Lines of dialogue that would have gone by as ordinary carry more weight than they would have had this not been the end of the Batman series. Lines like “Anyone can be Batman” feel awkwardly heavy, almost clumsy with foreshadowing. Other issues with the plot, like the reason why Batman has not been seen in Gotham since the Joker’s demise, seem a bit forced, as Batman has been around only a few years in Nolan’s mythos. Incredibly, in spite of its nearly 3 hour running time, parts of the middle seem rushed, as in how quickly Gotham descends into the hands of Bane and succumbs to his control. In contrast, other elements take longer to develop than one would expect, one being that Batman isn’t seen the first hour or so. I’d like more Batman in my Batman movie, thank you.
It is because I had been bludgeoned about the head about this being “The End of Batman” that I came into the movie on such high alert. I really prefer to know almost nothing about a movie when I see it. That way, it’s fresh. I’m continually excited as each minute unfolds in its own time and glory. Knowing so much about “the end” of things really puts a damper on the sense of excitement and anticipation. While it wasn’t like watching the Super Bowl after one already knows the final score, it certainly had a sense of predestination that I found leaving me an aftertaste in my brainpan, one that Nolan’s Batman movies had never left before. I wonder if knowing too much beforehand tainted what could have been an entirely different movie experience.
Still, it is a compelling movie, a story writ large as only a comic book plot can be, at times huge and cumbersome, at times deeply intimate and personal. Epic has become a commonplace word, which is unfortunate, for The Dark Knight Rises, in spite of its flaws, is epic in its scope, ambition, and implementation of handling the immense Batman mythos as well as audience expectations. Straddling themes and plot elements from various Batman story arcs from The Cult and Knightfall, The Dark Knight Rises brings an end to this Batman series. I like this Batman. I don’t want the series to end. This is a Batman as the way we all want him to be, the way we envision Gotham to be. It’s a world that we relish visiting, if only for a while, because we want to believe that this Batman exists in flesh and blood as much Mr. Nolan has made us believe he does. As much as I don’t want this franchise to end, The Dark Knight Rises is a fitting finale for what is arguably the most comic-book-authentic and engaging Batman series made.
~ Mark Justice