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Dark Knight Rises, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"What's A Playboy To Do In A World Gone Wrong?"
5 stars

"The Dark Knight Rises" arrives in theaters with the kind of advance hype and anticipation that used to be reserved for such epics as "Gone with the Wind" or "Cleopatra." This is not a new development by any means--thanks to advances like the Internet and other delivery systems for infotainment, it now seems as if hardly a week or two goes by without a new film debuting amidst an avalanche of publicity. The difference is that while most of the anticipation in the cases of those other films is based on a couple of key money shots in the trailer, a flurry of interviews the week that they opening and little else, the desire to see the conclusion of Christopher Nolan's enormously successful rebooting of the Batman saga is based almost entirely on his previous achievements, which demonstrated that one actually could conceive of thoughtful, meaningful and complex narratives that still centered on a guy fighting crime while decked out in a rubber suit.

"Batman Begins" (2005) jump-started a franchise that had been run into the ground with an increasingly juvenile approach by treating the material as seriously as if it were inspired by a highly regarded novel instead of a comic book and the result was one of the very best comic book movies to date--one that fanboys and serious-minded cineastes could embrace equally. Instead of simply coasting on the reputation of the first film, Nolan upped the ante considerably with his 2008 follow-up "The Dark Knight" and came away with an instant classic one of the most commercially and critically successful movies of our time. Therefore, when you see people lining up en masse to see "The Dark Knight Rises," it is not because they are having the usual Pavlovian response to a massive promotional campaign--they are there out of a genuine love for what Nolan has accomplishment and curiosity as to whether he can pull it off again for a third time and come up with something as good or possibly better than his previous attempts.

In regards to the latter, the answer is a resounding "yes." After the accomplishments of the first two films, one might assume that there was little more that Nolan could do with the material and that any additional films, no matter how elegantly they were produced, would inevitably feel like more of the same, only bigger, louder and with different villains. Instead, Nolan has given us a sprawling and crazily ambitious epic that builds on the achievement of the previous films instead of merely copying them and takes more genuine risks than any major film of the size and scope than Nolan's equally audacious "Inception." Combining comic-book thrills, incisive social commentary and moments of surprisingly powerful emotion over the course of a near-three-hour running time without a single lag or dull spot, this is popular storytelling of the highest order and solidifies Batman's position as arguably the key cinematic myth of our time and Nolan's position as one of the great filmmakers working today, regardless of genre or scale.

The film takes place eight years after the cataclysmic events of "The Dark Knight" and as it begins, Gotham City is a seemingly more hospitable environment in the wake of the near-canonization of the late district attorney Harvey Dent--following his death, a law was passed in his name has helped to decimate the criminal underworld and has finally made the streets safe. (Of course, Harvey was, in reality, the villainous Two-Face and came close to destroying the city until finally defeated and killed by Batman, who took the blame for his crimes and disappeared on the basis that Gotham City needed a real hero to rally around and the idealized version of Dent fit the bill better.) However, cracks are beginning to appear in the seemingly perfect surfaces--the Dent Law is being threatened with repeal because of certain elements of a questionable legality, the division between the haves and the have-nots is growing greater with every passing day and a guilt-ridden Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), one of the only two people who knows the truth about Dent and Batman, is contemplating revealing the big secret even as he is in danger of losing his job thanks to the machinations of those who want things to stay exactly as they are.

Through all of this, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has been living in self-imposed exile within the walls of Wayne Manor ever since taking the fall for Dent and hanging up his rubber suit for good. Although rumored to have gone the full Howard Hughes during this time, he merely limps around the house and avoids contact with pretty much everyone except for loyal butler Alfred (Michael Caine). Unfortunately for him, his absence has had a grim effect on his business empire--a good portion of his wealth has been lost on a clean energy initiative that apparently did not pan out and he is in danger of losing the rest of Wayne Industries to unscrupulous board members. Besides Alfred and loyal weapons designer Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), there are also a couple of new faces that arrive in the hopes of breaking Bruce out of his ennui. One is Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a brave and resourceful young cop who shares a similar background with Bruce and seems to have a pretty good idea that the reclusive playboy and the Caped Crusader were one and the same. The other is Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a rich and beautiful philanthropist who spearheaded Bruce's stab at green energy and who just might be the one to bring him back to life both professionally and personally.

As it turns out, what gets Bruce out of his shell and back into his cowl is the arrival of two other newcomers of a more nefarious nature. When we first see Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), she merely appears to be the world's most ridiculously attractive catering company employee but she proves to be the world's most ridiculously attractive cat burglar as well when she makes her way into Bruce's room makes off not only with a valuable string of pearls but with his actual fingerprints as well. It turns out that she was hired for this job as part of a dark conspiracy that also involves the fearsome Bane (Tom Hardy). Even in the admittedly strange annals of Batman villains, Bane is certainly a singular figure. As a young man, he suffered terrible tortures that have left him permanently wearing a mask so as to help alleviate his constant pain. Now he is a ferociously cunning mercenary who has engineered a spectacular escape from the authorities and has turned up in Gotham City with a diabolical plan to isolate it from the outside world and inspire the ordinary citizens to rise up at last against the elite that take but never seem to give back. Before long, there is anarchy in the streets and show trials where the "guilty" are forced to answer for their so-called crimes. As it turns out, Bane has more on his mind than rallying the working class to Occupy the streets and it is up to Batman to save the day but even his efforts and technological gifts may not be enough to rescue the populace that was once so quick to reject him.

One of the things that have made Nolan's previous Batman films more exciting and memorable than the rest of the superhero films that have been glutting multiplexes over the last few years has been the in the way that he uses them as a way of exploring the concerns of the real world--primarily the increasing paranoia of the post 9/11 world and the lengths that people will go to in order to maintain the illusion of order--in ways that are both complex and thought-provoking. This time around, Nolan and co-writer Jonathan Nolan have amplified that sense of fear lurking just beneath the seemingly calm facade that everything could just go "boom" in an instant and leave people with absolutely nothing through no fault of their own. At the same time, they also layer in a inspired meditation on the growing schism between the privileged and the poor and the ways in which the former willfully ignore the needs of the latter, who are growing in numbers and anger and need only someone to channel their sense of betrayal into something horrifying.

Despite what some conspiracy theorists might try to have you believe, this film was written and put into production long before the Occupy movement began in earnest last year but Nolan taps into that sense of rage and disenfranchisement--which existed long before anyone began occupying anything--so powerfully that if you can mentally subtract the rubber-clad heroes and villains and their elaborate toys, there are images on display here that will seem all too familiar to anyone who has been watching the news in the last few months. However, without going into the kind of details that would unveil spoilers, Nolan doesn't not present this material in an overtly black-and-white manner--instead, he has enough respect for his audiences to allow them to wrestle with the ideas that he has raised without spoon-feeding the answers to them in the most simplistic manner possible. In other words words, by claiming that the entire film is a left-wing conspiracy due to the fact that the bad guy happens to be named "Bane"--a character who has existed in the Batman mythos for decades--Rush Limbaugh has demonstrated that a.) he had not seen the movie when he began his complaint and that b.) he is kind of a dope.

Despite all that, there is far more going on with "The Dark Knight Rises" than a mere exercise in elaborate zeitgeist-tapping. There is also an incredibly ambitious narrative going on that at first builds upon ideas that were previously developed in "The Dark Knight" and then reaches back to "Batman Begins" in a way that propels the story forward while also tying the entire trilogy together in fascinating and unexpected ways. There are a couple of points where it seems as if the story is about to lurch into a more conventional mode but at every turn, the screenplay winds up turing these moments around so that they pay off in interesting and ofter surprising ways. The characters--both old and new--are given the kind of dimensions that are rarely seen in films of this type and the extended running time gives them all their moments to shine without ever bogging down the pace as a result. From a technical standpoint, the film is likewise stuffed with astonishments. There are set-pieces here ranging from massive chase scenes and images of shocking destruction to brutal fights conducted in tight spaces and all of them have been put together with the kind of care and excitement that will take your breath away, especially during the points when Wally Pfister's cinematography expands from regular 35mm to the miracles created by the use of the enormous IMAX cameras. (Since roughly a third of the film is shot in IMAX, it is highly recommended that you see it in that format--and not the fake version plaguing multiplexes--if at all possible.)

Another recurring element of the saga, not to mention a testament to Nolan's talent and reputation, has been his ability to attract a caliber of actor that one does not often associate with this particular style of filmmaking. Series regulars Bale, Oldman, Freeman and Caine all get the opportunity to bring closure to their characters and go about it in stunning fashion--Freeman and Caine both have moments here that are among the very best of their long and distinguished careers. Among the newcomers, Anne Hathaway has the unenviable task of taking on the role of Selina Kyle (the name "Catwoman" is never mentioned at all as far as I can recall), a part that has been essayed so memorably in the past by the likes of Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer and others, and while it takes a little while to get used to the character--her initial cynical wisecracking is a bit disconcerting from the serious nature of everything surrounding her--both the character and the performance wind up paying off wonderfully as the film heads into the home stretch. From "Inception," Nolan has brought over Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard and Tom Hardy and they do an excellent job of quickly fitting into the proceedings--the latter shows that he has charisma to burn despite spending the entire film with his face obscured by a mask and a voice so rumbly that there are moments here and there when it is hard to understand what he is saying. And as in the previous films, Nolan has sprinkled the supporting cast with a number of unexpected familiar faces that turn up for a scene or two to add further juice to the proceedings--again, I will leave their identities for your to discover for yourself.

To be honest, if I had to pick one of the Batman movies as the best of the bunch, I would probably still have to stick with "The Dark Knight" and that is largely because Bane, despite Hardy's efforts, is simply not as interesting of a bad guy as the master class of malevolence that was Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning turn as the Joker. (I was also prepared to dock the film for moving the production from Chicago, where the previous two films were shot, to Pittsburgh, New York and Los Angeles but considering the damage done to Gotham City throughout the film, I guess that decision was a good thing after all.) That tiny quibble aside, "The Dark Knight Rises" is a triumph in pretty much every other regard and works both as an individual achievement and as the conclusion to one of the great cinematic trilogies of recent years and by the time it reaches its brilliant final shot, it has not only evoked both tears and cheers from its viewers, it has more than earned them both.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=20714&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/18/12 14:22:31
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell awesome conclusion 2 the trilogy 5 stars
4/26/16 Ken Brilliant conclusion to the great trilogy. 5 stars
3/22/15 HunterB stupid fucking awful piece of shit nolan films 1 stars
2/14/15 enicmatic al many plot holes 1 stars
10/30/14 Negative Not as good as the first two, but it's right there with them! 4 stars
4/07/14 Jack Bombastic & just plain awful. Never ending monologues and glaring plot holes. And BORING. 1 stars
3/23/14 Justin R. Spellbinding conclusion to the trilogy. 5 stars
3/11/14 Ravenmad Ahhh! Terrible. Made no sense, poor character motivation, messy. 2 stars
12/23/13 Michelle O dark knight was a tough act to follow--& it made RISING look bad 4 stars
11/28/13 The Rock What film were you fuckers watching? Bad writing and laughable plotholes 1 stars
11/26/13 terra c are you kidding worst batman film ever? Terrible plotholes 1 stars
9/27/13 Derek Diercksmeier Easily my favorite of Nolan's trilogy. 5 stars
7/18/13 Joe Strong finale. 5 stars
3/01/13 Charles Tatum A very good end to the trilogy, Caine is a standout this time. 4 stars
2/21/13 Ibthesam the story is epic, but personally, i wanted to see a bit more of bruce wayne and the batman 4 stars
1/19/13 Nero A satisfying, emotional conclusion to a great trilogy. 5 stars
1/17/13 Simon wildly entertaining Nolan brushstrokes,but plotholes and no Joker means it cant stand alone 4 stars
1/07/13 austin slightly below the dark knight, but still awesome. 5 stars
12/24/12 Fozbungle Best Batman ever 5 stars
12/20/12 Jason An Amazing Film. Brilliant Ending. One of my all time greats! 5 stars
12/19/12 Jack Bottomley Haters and Bandwagon jumpers persist but this was still a meaningful blockbuster 5 stars
12/17/12 Joe A surprisingly emotional and contemplative superhero blockbuster 5 stars
10/11/12 austin masterpiece 5 stars
9/18/12 Gabrielle Barnard A letdown from the The Dark Knight. I was frustrated by the major plot issues. 4 stars
9/06/12 austin fantastic 5 stars
9/05/12 Albert There was a lot going on. Perhaps too many characters, but I still enjoyed it. 5 stars
9/03/12 Courtney Has great acting and a great soundtrack, go see it. 5 stars
8/29/12 Delcia Pena The movie was great. 3 stars
8/26/12 Sreekiran Big time Summer movie. 4 stars
8/26/12 mr.mike Good but certainly not great. 3.5 stars. 3 stars
8/22/12 Martha Rios Great soundtrack... story not amazing 3 stars
8/16/12 John D Rediculous plot holes, completely unrealistic. horrible ending 3 stars
8/11/12 Koitus I thought the movie was good - but last five minutes / the ending was awesome! 4 stars
8/11/12 Joseph Sciortino A fine conclusion. 5 stars
8/06/12 alice B-O-R-I-N-G 1 stars
8/05/12 reptilesni Between him hurting his knee & throwing out his back BM's only in the film for 15-20 min 1 stars
7/27/12 Terry Not as good as Dark Knight. Batman was hardly in this film but it was still good. 4 stars
7/24/12 the truth yes. most critic's objections to this movie are related to their inattentiveness thru it. 5 stars
7/24/12 erica awesome film! 5 stars
7/22/12 Dan Worth the wait. Bane was down right intellectual. 5 stars
7/21/12 The Big D Prune-face Batman and snotty Catwoman--it needed Adam West and Julie Newmar. 1 stars
7/21/12 Kevin Bradley Greatly satisfying end to the Nolan trilogy. It's good enough to see twice. 5 stars
7/20/12 Roy F. Moore Christian Bale owns the Batman. Fantastic film! 5 stars
7/20/12 John Holmes One of the best films I've seen over the past year 5 stars
7/20/12 Bob Dog So disappointing. :( 1 stars
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  20-Jul-2012 (PG-13)
  DVD: 04-Dec-2012


  DVD: 04-Dec-2012

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