Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises review, an epic of the greatest scale

It's been four long years.  Four long years since we saw HIM ride off into the darkness.  Four long years since he took the blame for murders he did not commit.  Four long years, fans have waited to see what has become of The Dark Knight.  Four long years to see the conclusion of one of the greatest trilogies in film history.  Christopher Nolan has given us a Batman that is sure to stay relevant for many years to come.  His dark, and grim take on the character and the world he inhabits somehow resonated with people across the world.  The trilogy showed us Batman's beginning, also his fall from grace. But today, The Dark Knight Rises!

What I liked about the film:
The Cast
What really makes an epic?  It's a tricky question.  There are a multitude of answers to that question.  Of course, you need a story.  A human story.  Forget that it's about a man in a cape and cowl fighting crime.  The actors in this great trilogy, and in this movie specifically breath great life into their characters.  Christian Bale is superb as the battered and beaten, Bruce Wayne.  Bale may be the most underrated aspect of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy.  He gave us a memorable Bruce Wayne AND a memorable Batman.  In this trilogy, Bale was often overshadowed by Batman's adversaries.

Anne Hathaway is a newcomer to the franchise and proves... me... wrong.  I complained, endlessly, about her casting!  But deep down inside, I told myself, 'Christopher Nolan knows what he's doing'.  And I was correct.  She was terrific as the anti-hero, Catwoman (even if she's never referred to by that name).  The character of Selina Kyle writes her own moral code, keeping the audience guessing as to which side she's really on.

Michael Caine gives an Oscar worthy performance in his powerful, albeit short, performance.  Same goes for Morgan Freeman as the supplier of Batman's toys.  Gary Oldman turns in another sincere performance as Commissioner Gordan, Gotham City's top cop.  Inception alumni make up the rest of the supporting cast.  Joseph Gordon Levitt has a much bigger role than previously expected. He plays a police officer with motives very similar to Bruce Wayne's.  Marion Cotillard plays a Wayne Enterprises board member.  She has very little screen time as well, but the woman can act with nothing more than her eyes.  And speaking of acting with nothing more than eyes....  Tom Hardy plays the masked villain, Bane.  But I'll get to him later.

The Director
Christopher Nolan was recently honored with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.  Not that he needed it to prove he was one of Hollywood's elite directors.  You see, what makes him so special is, behind all the flash, spectacle, and explosions, he's a pure storyteller.  What is the story of Batman, really?  At its core, it's about a boy, who lost his parents, and his journey through life trying to cope with that loss.  We've seen many stories similar to this one; but Nolan finds a way to make it epic.  All the while, keeping fanboys satisfied with all the mythos that makes Batman so special.  He may be done making Batman films, but he is no where near done grasping our imagination with his films.

The Story
Once again, Christopher Nolan and his brother, Johnathan, team up for this script.  The story is complex and has many pieces to its puzzle.  It may need a second viewing to truly appreciate it everything.  Take out Batman and the gang, and you've got a script that will resonate with a lot of people.  Politics, economics and sociology are all covered in the 2 hour and 45 minute film.  I'm sure people know how hard it is to direct a film of this size and scope, but does anyone understand how hard it is to write one?  Characters need to be flushed out, plot needs to be ironed out, etc.  Kudos to the Nolans for sticking to what matters, Bruce Wayne's story.  Keep an eye out for things you've seen in the past two films.  Also pay attention towards the end of the film for several wink winks.

The Score
I didn't expect anything less from Hans Zimmer.  He knows these characters, he knows this world.  Hell, he helped to created it.  He had a tough task following Danny Elfman's terrific score in the 1989 film, Batman.  But, in my opinion, he's surpassed the quality of the film that came decades before him.  As he's done with other Nolan films, Zimmer found a delicate balance between the heart warming moments and the action sequences that make the film rise to another level (no pun intended).  I will definitely be picking up the soundtrack this week and look forward to his interpretation of Superman, in next year's Man of Steel.

The Special Effects / Spectacle
When reviewing The Avengers, earlier this year, I made a bold statement and said it contained the best special effects I'd ever seen in a superhero film.  We may have a tie.  While The Avengers was very CG-heavy, The Dark Knight Rises relies more on practical effects to tell its story.  The addition of "The Bat", Batman's new flying vehicle, I'm sure required some computer effects, but looked as real as it could flying around the buildings of Gotham.  The special effects are really taken up a notch.  Everything in this film is bigger than the previous two.  I can't wait to see it again.  Nicely done.

What I didn't like about the film:
I'm a big fan of Tom Hardy.  His work in films like Inception and Warrior show he can create some amazing characters.  But he didn't do it for me in this film.  It's not fair to compare him to Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker in The Dark Knight; BUT, if you did, it wouldn't even be close.  To be honest with you, Liam Neeson (the villain in Batman Begins) is better and more charming than Hardy was in this film.  Yes, he is physically a monster, a mercenary who was raised in a prison, but I didn't fear him at all.  I'll be interested to see what you all think, do you agree that maybe Hardy/Bane weren't the best choice for the film?

The Coincidences 
Oh the coincidences.  Characters just randomly show up to various settings, and just in time.  And I'm not just talking about 'save the day' type situations; in general, characters just SHOW up.  I had two eye rolling moments where I thought to myself, 'this is silly'.  Without giving anything away (it was shown in the trailer), a scene involving Bale and Cotillard is cringe worthy.  the coincidences can be written off as silly and could have been handled differently perhaps.

The Verdict:
The Dark Knight it is not, but epic it is
In the words of The Joker in The Dark Knight, 'you've changed things'.  Christopher Nolan has forever changed the genre of Superhero films. Much like Richard Donner did with Superman in 1978.  His real life approach to characters, setting, and above all, story, is what makes these epic films so great.  It's Bruce Wayne's story we're following, his journey.  I don't think the film is as good as its predecessor, but still amazing in so many ways.  The film does bring Bruce Wayne's story full circle, and definitely concludes in a satisfying way.  It's hard to review these films without spoilers, but it wouldn't be fair to do that to you.  Go experience Nolan's story telling and be thankful we have directors like him that take a great deal of pride in everything they do.  To Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and the rest of the cast and crew that treated the franchise with so much respect, thank you.  Until the next time we see Batman on the big screen, we have Nolan's films to keep us plenty busy.  If only there were more films like yours.  If only....

1 comment:

Ben Knight said...

Well said Mr. Sayegh. Perfect amount of specific, relative insight without giving anything away. We will be seeing the film tonight and after reading your thorough review we are even more excited.

-The Knights