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7.25 out of 10
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8.75 out of 10
Disney's Frozen movie
10.0 out of 10
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6.75 out of 10
8.25 out of 10

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises


Rated: PG-13  Intense sequences of violence, language, some sensuality and intense sequences of action.
Release Date: July 20, 2012
Runtime:  2 hours 45 minutes

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, David S. Goyer, based on characters created by Bob Kane
Cast:  Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Liam Neesn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Matthew Modine

SYNOPSIS: After the Batman is held responsible for District Attorney Harvey Dent's death, the caped crusader disappears from the streets of Gotham. Some years later, when terrorist leader Bane takes over the city, Bruce Wayne again dons his cowl as the Batman to protect the city that had forsaken him.

REVIEW: Christopher Nolan, the man who wrote, directed and breathed new life into the man behind the mask and the scourge of the streets of Gotham City with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, returns for the last installment of his trilogy of films with The Dark Knight Rises (see the The Dark Knight Trilogy: The Road So Far for the full story of the first two films of the trilogy). With Jonathan Nolan (The Prestige, Memento) and David S. Goyer (Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance), Christopher Nolan scribes a fully realized dramatic actioner from the characters created by Bob Kane that takes the Batman to the next level - as well as setting the bar higher for all other superhero films.
After the Batman (Christian Bale, The Flowers of Warand the new Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spydefeat the two-faced Harvey Dent, they take it upon themselves to cast the Batman as the villain and leaving the memory of Harvey Dent as the shining example of the righteousness of good in the city of Gotham. Pursued by the Gotham Police Department, the Batman abruptly disappears from the city streets. In addition, Bruce Wayne becomes a recluse, not even bothering to take part in the goings-on of Wayne Enterprises. Some years pass and the city of Gotham, with Commissioner Gordon at the head of the police department and the Dent Act in full effect for the criminals of the city, has become a town with low crime rates and no villainous underbelly. As Gotham City enjoys a period of tranquility and peace under The Dent Act, a new threat emerges in the guise of Bane (Tom Hardy, This Means War), a terrorist who shares the cleansing vision of his one-time mentor Ra's Al Ghul Ra's Al Ghul (Liam Neeson, Battleship) as the leader of the League of Assassins. When the mechanical masked Bane hatches a plot to cut off Gotham Island from the rest of the country by declaring marshal law under his rule, the Batman must come out of retirement to confront and attempt to defeat the skilled and vicious man. With only Commissioner Gordon, a new GPD detective named John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 50/50), the devious alter ego of Selina Kyle as the leather-clad Catwoman (Ann Hathaway, Alice in Wonderland), Wayne Enterprises CEO Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman, Dolphin Tale), perspective business partner Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard, Contagion) and his trusty butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island), the Batman fights an uphill battle that may break him physically and spiritually.

Christopher Nolan completes his vision of the Dark Knight with The Dark Knight Rises, the third in his trilogy of Batman films. Where Tim Burton's vision turned Gotham City into an abstract landscape filled with darkness and a little camp, and where Joel Schumacher lit up that darkness with iridescent color and a cartooned version of the Caped Crusader and his trusty side kick Robin, Nolan grounds his Bruce Wayne and cowled hero into a reality-based Shakespearean tragic drama centered around real architecture and deep symbolism. Throughout his films, Nolan denotes the Batman as a symbol to the city's denizens. In Batman Begins, when the Scarecrow rules the city with the symbol (and gases) of fear, the Batman became a darker, more dangerous symbol of real fear is. In The Dark Knight, the Joker hopes to mar the shining symbol of the city by corrupting Harvey Dent and his accomplishments as the city's district attorney. Instead of letting the Joker win, the Batman became the villain to shoulder the weight of the city's fury against his alleged murderous atrocities. In The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce Wayne and his alter ego must face difficult decisions and dire consequences to become a symbol for the city again. Can he rise up against the more skilled Bane to save the city he cherishes, and save himself in the process?

In The Dark Knight Rises: Prologue, the first six minutes of film was marred with the unintelligible rants of the mechanically respirator Bane. In the finished product, there are no more issues with his speech for the most part. With an elegant, raspy accent, Bane stands above his minions as a dangerous and driven man - bent on the destruction of Gotham City as per his one-time mentor Ra's A Ghul. Where Heath Ledger's Joker was a brilliantly psychotic maniac, Tom Hardy's Bane is a powerful and driven menace. Is Bane a better villain than the Joker? I am sure that many would find it blasphemy to speak ill of Ledger's last role. The brilliance of Nolan manages to set the characterizations of each rogue so far apart in scope and mission as to not warrant a comparison. In the comics, the Joker has been a mainstay menace to the Batman since the caped crusader's beginnings. Bane, although turned into a silly trench coated henchman in Joel Schumacher’s effort for Batman and Robin, was a critical component in a surprising and successful Knightfall story arc to the destruction and eventual resurrection of the man who would be Batman.

Many believe that Nolan may spread the story too thin by the introduction of too many characters. Before Batman Begins, the thought was that using minor rogues in the form of Ra's Al Ghul and the Scarecrow would undermine the success of the film, but its success spurred a sequel. With Bane, Cat Woman, and the possible return of Ra's Al Ghul, the same critics thought the same dilution of story might occur. Although long with a runtime coming in at 165 minutes, Nolan crafts a solid and dramatic tale that redeems Bane as a major pivotal villain in the canon of the Batman's rogue gallery and history, and cements all of Nolan's films of the Dark Knight into a carefully crafted, interwoven and tragic tale that borders more on fine drama than superhero fare. If you are looking for a super-powered follow-up to The Avengers, look elsewhere. If you are looking for too-human drama, The Dark Knight Rises is for you. Nolan's trilogy could be considered a saga in three acts. Act 1 in Batman Begins is Bruce's birth from man into the flawed, anti-hero and protector of the city. Act 2 in The Dark Knight takes the Batman from anti-hero to hero to villain. Act 3 in The Dark Knight Rises is Bruce returning as the reviled anti-hero to fight against odds he cannot overcome.

The Dark Knight Rises is a continuation of the foundation of what Nolan and his writers had already built in the first two films. Adding in elements from the Knightfall story arc and a dash of No Man's Land story arc, The Dark Knight Rises is both a telling of the physical breaking of the Batman and the spiritual breaking of the Gotham's citizenry. Equal parts Bane and Bruce, the Batman takes somewhat of a back seat to both. There is plenty of story and action, but the cowled avenger is relegated to the end of the first act and the sensational climax last act. For lovers of the dark detective, some story elements will be more obvious than for non-readers. This first-hand knowledge will not deter from the story, but will serve to foreshadow surprises later on.

The cast is stellar as always. Christian Bale gets a chance to just be Bruce for a majority of the film, but still managed to engage his gravelly deep voice of the Batman when needed. While Tom Hardy is barely recognizable behind Bane's mechanical mask, he does exude a fierce obsession of the destruction of Gotham that mirrors that of Ra's Al Ghul machinations from the first film. Ann Hathaway's Selina Kyle/Catwoman returns to the skin tight bodysuit and the razor's edge of doing for herself and doing for others. New character John Blake, played by Gordon-Levitt, steps out from the shadows of the GPD to become a detective in his own right. Oldman is still perfect as the ragged, war-weary, and determined Commissioner Gordon.

Similar to Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy where I enjoyed Spider-Man 2 the most with its established hero and superior villain, the performance of Ledger's Joker and the story in total stands out as the best of the Dark Knight trilogy for me. The Dark Knight Rises is a dramatic story with a sensational ending, working perfectly into the Nolan hero narrative. We can discuss and debate the merits of each film all day, but in the end all I can say is - 'why so serious?'.

WORTH: Matinee and BluRay

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