Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (in a glowing review)

hi there

well, this is a review i was not expecting to write for a couple of months. i was pretty much resigned to having to wait for the DVD of The Dark Knight Rises at the end of November. as luck would have it, we had the chance of a babysitter for one night only - thus, off to the cinema we went to see it!

as it was released in July i would dare to imagine that the 1 (one) billion or so who have already been to see it have no need for a review, and further one would imagine my review isn't going to say to anyone "rush to see it". that said, a few have asked for my comments on the film, and these would be comments i am delighted to give.

a short, spoiler free review for you would be that it gives all to the audience that Batman Begins and The Dark Knight did, with this final chapter in Christopher Nolan's telling of the Batman story being an outstanding film. if for some reason you have not seen both (and i do mean both) of the films mentioned there, do not try and watch this one without doing so.

whereas i will try to preserve as many of the secrets of the film as i can, a *** SPOILER WARNING *** should be considered to be in place for everything after the film poster below.

the starts eight years to the day from the end of The Dark Knight. this particular day has become known as "Harvey Dent Day", a public holiday in Gotham to mark the death of a man whose legacy was to radically change the city, in appearance for the better. to mark his death, politicians apparently rushed through "The Dent Act", a law which allows them to detain without bail or trial anyone suspected of being involved with organized crime. the streets are relatively clean, then, but at a cost.

this cost is exposed in the figure of Jim Gordon, one of the few who know the truth of Harvey Dent's death and his true legacy. he clearly wrestles with the idea that 'the Batman', the true hero and saviour of Gotham, has had to flee as a felon whereas Harvey Dent is celebrated as a hero, the fact that he tried to murder Gordon's children kept a secret.

Gordon is ready, at a fundraiser being held at Wayne Manor, to deliver a speech which will reveal the truth of what happened that night. at the last minute, though, he believes it is a story to save for another day, and puts the planned speech away.

perhaps the figure lurking atop of Wayne Mansion was felt by Gordon, and that's why he opted to leave the truth buried.

watching the celebrations from afar is Bruce Wayne. we are led to believe that Wayne has become a recluse for at least half of the eight years since the death of Harvey Dent, not having been seen in public for at least three years. hobbling from "skiing" injuries, he casts a sad, depressed figure.

he does, however, do his best to spring into action when he catches a thief, posing as a waitress, stealing something of exceptional value to him. whereas he is unable to stop her physically, he seems to be mentally rejuvenated by something else she takes.

highly interested in why the thief took the other item that she did, we soon see Wayne return to the world of detective work.


with the evidence left behind he soon works out that the identity of the thief is Selina Kyle, a somewhat notorious and frequently caught cat burglar.

whereas finding her shall be quite straightforward, Bruce Wayne, easily slipping back into the Batman persona, becomes intrigued to see that Ms Kyle is linked to someone called Bane, a notorious terrorist and one of the most wanted men in the world.

Bruce heads off back into the world to play cat and mouse, or if you will bat and cat, with his thief, leaving Alfred to investigate and find out as much as he can of this Bane character. Alfred doesn't have to do too much digging, however, to discover that Bane for unknown reasons seems to be making his way to Gotham.

with Jim Gordon, ahem, unavailable as a consequence of the above and no one in the police force prepared to believe that the world's most wanted terrorist is Gotham bound, a rookie cop called Blake steps up.

Blake has, for some time it seems, been quite aware that the true identity of the Batman was one Bruce Wayne. he forces a confrontation with Wayne, and pleads with him for the return of the Batman.

does that happen? well, there would not be much of a film if it did not. the above is more of a premise than a plot, i suppose, and that's more or less where i intend to leave it. the rest is a discussion of the merits of the film, so if you skipped over the spoiler warning above, blame only yourself.

the dynamics of this film are, frankly, astonishing. time and again, it seems, Christopher Nolan has an exceptional gift in taking ensemble casts, a fanciful premise and the weight of requirement from a thus far pleased but difficult to keep pleased fan base, adding them all together and making a film that is as breathtaking and brilliant as much for its character and drama as it is for its unprecedented spectacular scenes of action.

a key to understanding the film is accepting that it is as much of an "equal sequel" to Batman Begins as it is a continuation of The Dark Knight. the box office made it clear that many only saw the second film (the box office for the second film surpassed the total of the first in one single day), those who did not seek out the stunning original on DVD might struggle with this.all three films do, however, belong on the shelf of any sort of film lover.

if we look at the characters in the film, well, perhaps the most sensible place to start would be one Christian Bale. we've had two films, however, to discuss the merits of his performance (there are many) as well as observing the flaws (there are none). it strikes me, then, as the next best person to speak of is the one who for some reason all the fuss surrounded - Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle.

for some reason lazy journalism still flourishes, and the idea of a "female lead in a superhero movie" is a concept that most writers cannot but help harp on. how it is the fault of Christopher Nolan that so few other writers and film makers develop all their characters properly is strange, and one imagines he is somewhat bemused by the attention given to one strong character in a film filled with them.

yes, Anne Hathaway is stunning in the film, playing the part to perfection in both the action and more dramatic moments of the film. a superb slice of casting for a well written part. at no point in Nolan's trilogy, however, has the director condescended to make a female character either the token love interest or symbolic damsel in distress. the character of Selina Kyle is no different.

for some reason the notorious "fanboy" brigade got their knickers, those that are washed by their mothers who they still live with, in an incredible twist over the fact that at no point is Catwoman called "Catwoman" in the film. no, she isn't. i cannot for the life of me recall a scene in the movie where calling her that would have made it better, which is presumably why the name is not used, just strongly implied. i would say get over it, but there's nothing to actually get over.

i bring up the above because these rather sad, nerdish and almost certainly self-appointed "it should be the same as the comics" defenders didn't really complain with the re-imagining of The Joker in the previous film, and nor did they argue with the re-imagining of Bane in this one.

whereas i am led to believe that Bane had a high level of intelligenceas well as brute strength in the comics, i presume it was nothing at all as equal or ferocious as presented here. lest we forget, too, that the only other time he was put onscreen was in Batman & Robin, where he was presented as a bumbling idiot and, indeed, a sidekick to a sidekick. top job done by the Nolan brothers with creating from that one of the most memorable screen villains in living memory. and yes, i mean he is on Frank Booth / Hannibal Lecter levels of memorable.

the character requires something more than muscles and a mask, which is presumably why the short, stocky Tom Hardy was cast and duly worked out. worked out a lot, i should say. just as Christopher Nolan said "casting Batman is easy, it's a man in a mask. the key is casting Bruce Wayne", so too he had to choose wisely for Bane. from behind a mask he can act only with eyes and hand gestures, and boy does he act.

for reasons i am trying to avoid for spoiler-ish reasons, Bane is to all intents and purposes the dark variant of The Dark Knight. he is "Batman gone bad" if you will. famously other films have tried this as the third part of a trilogy and have fallen truly flat - Superman and Spider-Man being your examples. here it works as Bane has a character beyond just being "a nasty version of the goodie".

whereas Christopher Nolan was adamant that there was not to be the slightest reference to The Joker in this film out of respect to Heath Ledger, it's inevitable that Bane will be compared to the previous villain of the piece by audiences. in my view, he stands equal in that regard simply by not trying to mimic, recreate, outdo or underplay the part. Bane is a character in his own right and should really be viewed as such. its unlikely that Tom Hardy shall trouble Oscar voters in the same way that Heath Ledger did, but that takes nothing at all away from the performance.

there is, alas, one for want of a better term "underplayed"character and performance in the film. this, surprisingly, comes from Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon. Yes, that Gary Oldman, the one who can usually instantly make any film watchable purely by being in it.

even with two hours and forty minutes of film it's inevitable that some points of interest would fall by the wayside and it's sadly the case that it's the character of Jim Gordon that does here. this idea of his inner turmoil about having to condemn the man who saved his family whilst celebrating the man who nearly killed his family has "Gary Oldman acting masterclass" written all over it. this is a Batman film, though, not a Jom Gordon one.

that said, one could reasonably have expected more of Gary when given some key moments. in the final meeting with Batman, at which point The Dark Knight effectively tells Jim not only who he is but why he is, a truly beautiful, tear to the eye moment is somewhat belittled by Gordon's flat reaction.

a great, poignant moment is somewhat undermined, then, by the last actor in the world who you would think of when considering "who could give a poor performance of an important line here".

on the subject of poignant, the star of the show? other than Christian Bale? well, step forward Sir Michael Caine.

Michele disagrees with me here, but for me the thread that sows the plot together and tells the story is Alfred. Michael Caine gives one of his greatest performances of all time in what looks likely to be his last performance in the part. his delivery of lines is note perfect, and he is as emotional as he is threatening as and when the scene requires it.

whereas it's unlikely the Oscars will recognize Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman has effectively underacted his way out of any sort of consideration, here's hoping that Sir Michael gets another Oscar for the performance here. he really is that good in this.

applause too, of course, for Jospeh Gordon-Levitt as Blake. quite a brilliant performance, but one i feel it's best you discover for yourself. as for the rest of the cast, what a delight to see Matthew Modine back on the cinema screen - i think i have seen him all of twice since his stellar performance as, oddly, Joker in Full Metal Jacket.

there is of course someone else involved in the film that should get mountains of recognition, but probably shall not - even though he was at least nominated for The Dark Knight.

Mr Christopher Nolan, and i am aware that Martin Scorsese is still active, is currently the greatest still alive director of films right now. Paul Thomas Anderson comes close, but the phrase "In Nolan We Trust", adopted by fan films everywhere, is valid.

it speaks volumes of the respect he has earned that Warner Brothers basically let him make the film the way he wished to. they must have been eager to simply recyle The Joker and everything else they assumed made The Dark Knight a success, and indeed pleaded with him to make it is this horrid "3D" format. he refused both, and thankfully Warner backed him when it would have been just as easy to sack him and replace him with a stooge of a director. he paid them back with an "ambiguous" ending to the film of sorts, one that says "look, i'm done, but you can either pick up where i left off for you or simply start again". 

one can only hope that Warner, like they did with Kubrick, continue to back the remarkable vision of Christopher Nolan in regards of whatever he decides to do next. whatever it is, it shall surely be a film that they can be proud to have their name on.

of all the things that impressed me in The Dark Knight Rises , Nolan's insistence that "if it isn't plausible or possible then it isn't in this film" stands firm. i was rather concerned when i saw some sort of flying tank in the trailers.....

...but as it turns out the parts in the trailers are more or less the only times one sees it in the film. i am sure the technology of it is possible, but an over-use of it might have led to the film being seen as rather "gimmicky".


overall, The Dark Knight Rises is a brooding, epic homage to despair, isolation and the concept of finding the will to rise and be better than your circumstance. that this is true of the protagonist and the antagonists of this film alike shows off the sheer skill and ambition Christopher Nolan brought to the project. this film and the two before it are of certified must-see status.if you have seen the other two and have yet to catch this one, do try and get to a cinema before its run ends. i am sure it will look impressive on high-end, big TV sets, but this is one of those movies that reminds you that when made properly films are indeed always better in the cinema.

i am not sure when i will get to a cinema again, so the next movie review could well be more out of date than this one! that said, thank you very much indeed for reading this!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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