Yes it’s not a horror movie, but it’s the goddamn Batman! And if you don’t get that joke, you really need to read more comics. Anyway, The Dark Knight Rises is not the end to this trilogy that it deserved, nor is it the one that it needed, but it was better than I expected. Although, I must admit, my expectations going into this one were pretty low.
Now I loved the previous movie (The Dark Knight) and really liked the first one (Batman Begins), so why was my expectations low for this one? Well part of it was the “they’ll never be able to top the last one” feeling that I had. And sure enough, this end to the trilogy is a pale shadow of the excellent middle movie. The second bugaboo I had about this film before seeing it was the pick for the main villain: Bane. I never liked Bane. Not in the comics, not in any of the animated TV shows or movies, and not the monosyllabic doofus from completely dismal 1997 movie Batman & Robin. Bane was always a one note villain, a steroid junky joke in a lucha libre mask. And that was going to be your big baddie in the last movie of this oh so serious series? Really?
Well thankfully, as right as I was about my first fear with this film, I was completely wrong about how Bane would fit in this movie. I actually really liked him here. And yes, that includes his somewhat controversial voice. I loved the big, hulking villain with the refined, posh voice. Also, he was an incredibly menacing presence and thankfully they did get rid of the luchador mask.
The other “villain” of this movie would be Catwoman played by Anne Hathaway. She does a passable job here, being neither amazing nor disappointing me. She doesn’t reach the fun heights of Michelle Pfeiffer, but thankfully she does not slip into the abysmal lows of Halle Berry.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is another familiar new face to the franchise. He plays a cop, and he’s OK, but his character felt unnecessary in this already overstuffed movie. Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine all return for this movie, as does someone else, but I’ll leave that for you to discover, and they all do their previous good jobs. Although Michael Caine’s Alfred is criminally underused in this movie, and that brings me to my biggest gripe with The Dark Knight Rises: the actual story.
Yes, here be SPOILERS. So if you have yet to see this movie, read the following at your own peril.
The movie picks up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight and for all of those years Bruce Wayne/Batman has hid in his house, did the crazy rich recluse thing, and stopped fighting crime. WRONG! That is NOT Batman. The Batman I know does not quit, does not give up just because his girlfriend dies and people don’t like him. That right there did more to wreck the character of Batman than all the bat-nipples and bat-credit cards from both of the horrible Joel Schumacher movies. OK, strike number one against this movie.
Soon Bruce must pick up the Batman mantel once again and we get the titular rising … for the first time. Yes, in this movie, for some inexplicable reason, Batman rises twice. If that sounds like bad writing and/or pacing to you then you would be right. Strike two. Furthermore, Batman doesn’t show up in his own movie for an astonishing long time. And once he does, he continues to only pop up infrequently. The movie should have really been called Gotham City Rises, as it is far more about any of the residents of Gotham than the caped crusader. And that’s a big ‘ol strike number three.
Anyway, Catwoman is doing her thief thing unwittingly for Bane who has come to town to continue what Ra’s Al Ghul began in the first movie. Namely, to destroy the city completely. The pretty kitty lady is doing the dirty work for an outright magical McGuffin that is detailed in one of the most horrible, hackneyed, heavy handed exposition dumps I’ve ever seen. One that is actually painful to listen to. Yep strike … oh who cares, counting them all is making me sad.
Bats and Bane have their big showdown, Batman loses as you knew he would and gets shipped to an inescapable prison by Bane. Here Batman has his second rise, as you knew he would, and then somehow, with no money and no allies, travels halfway around the world to get back to Gotham. And director Christopher Nolan doesn’t think that journey is important enough to show us. Instead he gives us lots and lots of coverage of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a character brand new to this movie and one we don’t care about, doing cop stuff. Yep, that’s superhero movie gold!
Dear lord, the more I type about this movie the worse it starts sounding and honestly I don’t think it’s horrible. It’s just … so very disappointing. Anyway, Batman returns, kicks Bane’s butt, saves the day in spite of a mandatory twist that I saw coming from a mile away, tries to pull off a surprise ending that should surprise no one, and then says farewell in another completely out of character turn at the end. Blah.
So with all that said, how can I say that this movie isn’t horrible? Well Christopher Nolan, while making some really poor story choices, is still a very capable director, even if this is far from his best work. The little bit of Batman we get in this film is pretty good stuff, when he’s actually acting like Batman. All of the actors bring their A game, and that includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, even if I think his character is completely unnecessary. There is an amazing beginning action scene involving airplanes that looks to have been shot practically and not cheated with CGI and I have nothing but respect for that. And once again, I did really dig Tom Hardy as Bane. Is all this enough to outweigh all the bad in this movie? I think so, if only just by a hair.
Now as meh as the movie is, the new Blu-ray from Warner Brothers is top notch. Not only does this movie look amazing in high-def, but it’s a Blu-ray, DVD, Ultraviolet triple pack. As for the extras, that’s where this release really shines. By far my favorite part of this Blu-ray, perhaps even more than the feature film itself, is the hour long documentary on all the various batmobiles throughout history. From the comic books, to the 1930s serial, to the classic ’60s TV show, through all the movies, they’re all covered here. How they were thought up, designed, created, and used. For true bat fans this is a great featurette. Oh and for the record, my favorite batmobile is from the 1989 Tim Burton movie. Man is that one badass looking car.
There is an extensive, multipart featurette called “Ending the Knight” that is divided between Production, Characters, and Reflections and those three subheadings are further divided into 17 smaller featurettes. All together they run well over two hours. If that wasn’t enough there are four trailers and a neat Batman app that you can download for free to your smartphone of tablet and have a duel screen experience while watching the movie, with the film on your TV and various video and text extras popping up on you mobile device in sync with the flick. Holy extras, Batman! That’s a lot of Bat-goodies to be found on this BD set.
The Dark Knight Rises is not a perfect film. It’s not even all that good of a movie, but, it’s not horrible either. What it is, is a huge missed opportunity, a rather sad disappointment. Should you watch it? Yeah, it’s good enough for that and it is how this chapter of Batman comes to an end. Should you get this new Blu-ray? Yeah, I think it should. While that’s not a glowing recommendation, it is a solid one.