Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Non Spoiler Review:
Faced with closing a final act to a trilogy that included the nearly flawless Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan has taken great pains to create a suitable ending to the saga of Bruce Wayne with The Dark Knight Rises. Eight years after the death of Harvey Dent, Gotham City is a much changed place. Peace reigns in the streets due to the strict Dent Act that has allowed police to round up a thousand criminals in Blackgate Prison. The vigilante blamed for his murder, Batman, has disappeared, and Bruce Wayne is a recluse believing the city no longer needs him, while mourning the loss of his true love, Rachel. Wayne Enterprises has floundered after some expensive and failed humanitarian endeavours. But trouble brews with a band of mercenaries led by the notorious Bane who have set their sights on Gotham.

The entire cast returns—Christian Bale as Bruce, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Michael Caine as Alfred and Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon. This time they're joined by Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, Marion Cotillard (Inception) as Miranda Tate, G. Gordon Levitt as John Blake, and Tom Hardy as Bane. Add in a few very nice cameos, and it's an amazing ensemble.

At a three hour running time, Nolan has indulged his final act with every bit of emotion and plot fitting this epic trilogy. The film juggles a lot of themes, and even wades into the class divide currently in the thoughts of everyone. Fans of the comic book will note that Nolan has taken the best threads from a variety of storylines—Miller's Dark Knight, as well as epics like Knightfall and No Man's Land. And the sense of a three movie arc is brought home with flashbacks to Batman Begins, and ongoing plot threads resolved in this film.

There are usually two types of Batman fans—the ones who enjoy the gadgets and super-villains, and the ones who are drawn to the story of Bruce Wayne. Nolan's series has always been about the latter, and Dark Knight Rises brings to a conclusion the definitive cinema version of Bruce Wayne, courtesy of the talented Christian Bale.

When I heard Anne Hathaway was cast as Selina Kyle, I had my doubts. Suffice it to say she put them to rest wholeheartedly. She's a Catwoman for a new generation (filling the shoes of Michelle Pfeiffer's iconic performance).

It's not a perfectly plotted film—anyone can always find holes if they look hard enough—but the story and acting overwhelm any big ones. One critique I had was the lack of mention of the Joker. I know this was done in honor of Heath Ledger, but seriously? After the mayhem he created, to have Gordon and Bruce only speak about Harvey again and again without bringing up the Joker at least once was a bit much.

The Dark Knight Rises is an immensely satisfying film. It is quite dark, and many critics preferring a more comic book feel will be disappointed. While it might excel just a bit more as the final act of this trilogy rather than on its individual merits, viewers will leave a film series that is wrapped up very neatly. It's now an epic that can be rewatched as a complete story in the same way as Lord of the Rings. Whatever Warner Brothers does with Batman next, it will be a different take on the character. For now, this one remains a masterful work.

Spoilery Musings:
While I did guess that Miranda Tate was likely Talia Al Ghul, I also assumed that Bruce would die but leave her pregnant with little Damien (his son in the comics). But it certainly looks like that's a dead end. And I would have loved to have seen a resurrected Ra's. But at least we got Liam Neeson's cameo.

I also found myself focusing on one of the MacGuffins in the film—the unlimited power source never really gets a good explanation. Bruce's failed endeavour was to create a fusion reactor to provide unlimited power to Gotham—a classic science fiction trope. Yet I was left wondering how such a thing would go over in the real world if an industrialist just switched on a new energy source in a major city. One would think the various power companies would be filing some lawsuits. And why not just flood the reactor to prevent Bane from getting it?

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