Sunday, August 5, 2012

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

So, The Dark Knight Rises huh? Meh, final grade: 2/10.

Okay, I'm not serious. The movie was fucking AWESOME. First though, my history with the franchise: I do not read the Batman comics. I have not seen any of the TV shows or pre-Nolan movies. I AM aware of many of the events that happen throughout the comics thanks to wiki research and Comics Cast (a podcast). I highly enjoyed both of the previous Nolan movies, though unlike most I enjoyed Batman Begins slightly more than Dark Knight on a visceral level (though in terms of the quality of filmmaking and acting I recognize the general superiority of DK), I just like the tone and villains of Begins. I have been on general spoiler blackout for DKR, with the exception that I've seen most of the main trailers - can't dodge 'em when you're sitting in the movie theater. So basically, I knew that it featured Bane and Catwoman and that there would be some bridges blowing up. Not a real surprise, and left significant secrets. Oh, and from checking his filmography back when I was fact-checking for the Battleship review I knew that Liam Neeson would be playing Ra's Al Ghul again, though I was not sure of the extent of his role.

Speaking with blatant hypocracy, this review will not be at all attempting to avoid spoilers. Watch out. Moving on!
Oh wait, one more thing. I am aware that everyone and their mother is talking about the shooting when they talk about the film. Yes, it was a tragedy, but it does NOT affect the movie.

The Plot & Such: It was very intriguing. We're 8 years after DK and Wayne has been hiding in the mansion the whole time - no one's seen Batman since the night of Harvey Dent's death. I really liked how you could really see how much Alfred was worried about him and how much he longed for Bruce to finally settle down into normal life, it was a very real performance. I'm not going to go through every aspect of the plot here, it's quite a long movie, but know that it is very surprising, even if you've been watching the trailers. Cool stuff include...
* John Blake. I liked him. I also had him pegged as "That's gonna be Robin" pretty quickly. I think I associated his name with that of Tim Drake, one of the actual Robins. Maybe a logical fallacy (similar names don't mean anything) but my guess followed through pretty good. I seem to have gotten lucky - he's actually unrelated to any of the actual Robins. Overall, I liked his character. A natural hero, he'll do excellently in his future as Batman.
* Bane. VERY good job. It's funny to think that yes, this man is not really truly evil like The Joker or like Scarecrow, he's fulfilling the mandate of the League of Shadows - Gotham must fall so civilization can rise from its ashes and be uplifted. He doesn't seem to have anything individually against the city or against Batman, it's sumply what needs to be done. Despite being a League of Shadows graduate, his fighting style was far more brutish than Bruce's, but it made him astonishingly effective. Something I liked that they tried to do was to make the body and mind not quite match - very sophisticated and "florid" with his voice, while well, being built like a gorilla.
* Miranda Tate. Unlike John Blake, in her very first scene I leaned over to my bro and whispered that she was DEFINITELY gonna be Talia Al Ghul. I hadn't even known Talia was in the movie but I got it right! It's actually a little ironic - they'd said in interviews that she would NOT be playing both Miranda and Talia, and it turns out this was misdirection, so by avoiding spoilers I managed to guess the plot faster. Knowing she was Talia it was quite amazing to watch Bruce keep handing her power before finally watching her crush him with it. I'm extremely happy with her plot arc, especially the fact that she really does come out of nowhere and all the pieces fall into place.
* Selina Kyle. They may not have actually CALLED her Catwoman in the film, but I really liked the design. It was subtly cat-like, but not overt. Honestly, she was everything I wanted her to be, even though I'd been been a touch worried about Anne Hathaway playing her - I was wrong. If I had to pick, her and Bane were my favorite performances.
Some cameos that I liked! Neeson cameos as Ra's briefly, which I liked, and it was in a way that had him not actually be alive like I suspected they might, so I was thankful he was still dead. Probably my favorite thing was the brief Cillian Murphy cameo - I really like him as Dr. Crane and Scarecrow is among my favorite characters.
Looking at the trilogy as separate from all Batman continuity, it makes you wonder if the Joker had a League of Shadows affiliation - I mean, movies 1 and 3 were heavily featuring the League. Hmm.

For other aspects of the movie, you essentially get the usual set of big-budget production stats - top grade special effects, strong cinematography, etc. Nolan got all the resources he needed to make this work.

I wanted to mention the music, because it's especially awesome. Like usual, Hans Zimmer's talent comes through, and you hear his Batman theme going strong, but the chanting is especially cool. Not only is it a great sounding chant, but the fact that he crowdsourced the voices is really neat and shows some of the evolution of how the internet and the crowdsourcing revolution is changing even the face of something like composing and soundtracking.

Um, I don't have a ton else to say. Like usual, reviewing top level movies can be a bit tougher than mediocre ones since I basically end up saying "Part X is great, Component Y is awesome, Segment Z is cool."
Now, it's not perfect. In fact, despite near-perfect performances and execution, it doesn't have the "something special" that Begins had with being revolutionary with the franchise and building a world blanketed in darkness and fear or that DK had with Heath Ledger's extraordinary pitch-perfect portrayal of the most classic villain in the Batman stable. Bane and Talia and Daggett and Selina are all giving top-level performances, but none of them other than Bane really go above and beyond the role to become something I'll be talking about and comparing things to in comic-book-movie-future. Okay, that's a lie - I'll probably end up comparing things to Selina Kyle for hitting the best live-action Catwoman yet - subtle and sly, a hero but not quite.
In conclusion:
See the Movie if you Like: Batman, either of the previous movies, superhero movies, movies with dark tones, or great quality film in general.
Don't See it if: For some reason you didn't like the other two, you hate fun
Grade: 9.25/10 A (Compare it to Dark Knight's 9.5 or Begins' straight 10)

Now go see it!
I'll either toss up the Rapid-Fire Reviews for games tomorrow or something else if I think of something better. I've got a few ideas. Check my Twitter for updates on what it'll be, I'll probably decide in the middle of the day tomorrow.

End Recording,

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