sunnuntai 22. heinäkuuta 2012

MOVIE REVIEW - The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Christian Bale : Bruce Wayne / Batman
Gary Oldman : James Gordon
Tom Hardy : Bane

Joseph Gordon-Levitt : John Blake
Anne Hathaway : Selina Kyle
Marion Cotillard : Miranda Tate
Morgan Freeman : Lucius Fox
Michael Caine : Alfred Pennyworth
Matthew Modine : Peter Foley
Ben Mendelsohn : John Daggett

Written by Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer
Directed by Christopher Nolan


It's "Harvey Dent Day", on which Gotham City celebrates its greatest hero. The truth is that Gotham City's district attorney and "white knight" Harvey Dent went insane. Batman, who was merely trying to save Commissioner Gordon's son from Harvey's wrath, inadvertently killed Gotham's so-called savior. Since Harvey was a symbol of hope for the people of Gotham, and the truth about him would've plunged the city right back into the dark abyss it was in before his notable efforts to clean the city, Batman chose to take the fall for everything Harvey had done, as well as exile.

"I'm retired, but I'm aching to go on just one
tiny little stroll in the suit. Will be home before
9 P.M."
Batman hasn't been seen in eight years, but the police still seem to be ready for him - for many police officers in Gotham City, capturing Batman is the top priority, even if there's an immediate threat for them to attend to. Bruce Wayne, on the other hand, has not been seen by anyone but his butler in a few years. Wayne Enterprises isn't doing too well without Bruce personally calling the shots, and to the board, he has become even more of a burden than he ever was, as he still has sole ownership of the company. Bruce has severe physical injuries, which he has suffered since he first donned the cape and cowl - but they're not his problem when it comes to his self-imposed isolation from the world. The mental scars Rachel Dawes' and Harvey Dent's deaths left on him, are. Unknowing of Rachel's decision to be with Harvey - thanks to Alfred - Bruce is convinced that he and Rachel would've had a life together, a life without Batman. Simply put: since Rachel is dead, and he can no longer be Batman, Bruce has lost his sense of purpose when it comes to his life. He's not living, he's merely alive. Alfred tries to talk some sense into Bruce, into noting how thoroughly stunning Wayne Enterprises board member Miranda Tate is, and letting go of Batman's dark legacy forever.

An unexpected, but seemingly irrelevant confrontation with an extremely skilled and devious, but kind-hearted thief named Selina Kyle unlocks a chain of events that is about to change Bruce's life. When Gotham is targeted by an extremely dangerous, violent and cunning mercenary-turned-warlord calling himself Bane, to whom Kyle is working for to an initially undefined degree, Bruce knows he has to overcome his physical state, as well as his grief and regret, and rise against Bane, whose underground army is systematically destroying his city, by such means as effectively incapacitating the police and isolating Gotham from the rest of the world. As the proverbial "cherry on top", Bane has a Wayne Enterprises prototype in his hands: a fusion energy core that can be modified into a devastating neutron bomb.

After eight years on exile, the Dark Knight rises. Oh, how I love to say that.


I don't usually do movie reviews, as you well know, but there are a few reasons I wanted to do a number on The Dark Knight Rises. First of all, it's a huge movie. Secondly, it's the final Batman movie in a (award-winning) trilogy. Thirdly, IT'S A BATMAN MOVIE, which makes it stand above every superhero movie, or any action movie, out there on my account. The fourth reason is a particular key scene near the end - while I was in the theater, awestruck by the first two and a half hours into this amazing flick and merely _considering_ doing a review, one particular key point ripping off a page from the script of the video game Batman: Arkham City sealed the deal: I had to write a review of The Dark Knight Rises.

Let's put things in hindsight, first. Out in 2005, Batman Begins was a great movie, but it was criticized for some reasons. Let's see what the negative fuss was about. The main antagonist of the movie was Ra's al Ghul - a great comic book character, but that only. People who never really intensively cared for the comic books, had no idea who the hell Ra's al Ghul was; I even heard a friend of mine being under the impression that he was Christopher Nolan's own creation. To me, Ra's al Ghul is like a legend; I haven't read Batman comic books in years and none with Ra's al Ghul, but I still know everything there is to know about him, and consider him one of the most important characters in the history of DC Comics. To not twist this up too much, I kinda understand why people were so disappointed; they wanted a whole new Batman movie franchise to start off with a known villain, someone whose appearances weren't limited to the comic books, and someone extremely distinguished, like the Joker. They got what they asked for in the end of the movie, and then in the sequel as somewhat of a "reward", what they asked for and then some. About that later.

The second biggest point of critique - what I've gathered - was Christian Bale's portrayal of Bruce Wayne and Batman, opting to create a huge gap between the characters by having that infamous, much-spoofed whiskey-and-tobacco voice whenever he was suited up, and making even totally different facial expressions as Batman than he did as Bruce Wayne. At first, critics loved it, and found (hidden?) meaning in Bale's portrayal - they loved how Bale applied Batman's much-speculated insanity and schizophrenic tendencies into the mix. During the three years leading to the sequel, they started second-guessing themselves and suddenly claimed Bale's unique portrayal to be lame, cheesy and thoroughly inconsistent. It's funny how a critical outbreak by just a handful of fans, and people whose job is to make fun of pop culture trends - such as Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who applied "the voice" to the Coon and Mysterion in South Park - affects already made decisions like that.

"Uh-oh. Looks like I'm enjoying this a bit too
OK, I was never a big fan of the voice either, but it didn't prevent me from enjoying Batman Begins. Nothing could've, it was such a great movie, and did what it came to this world to do: to blow those ridiculous, last two movies in the Batman quadrilogy back to the hell they came from. It made Batman popular again, worldwide and most definitely on my personal account. It wasn't about chasing criminals, it wasn't about non-stop explosive action. It was about the hardships of Bruce Wayne - some could say Batman Begins was more of a drama than an action flick. If so, it's the best damn drama ever made. Its dialogue and individual lines set the tone for the whole trilogy. "[I can't kill you,] ...but I don't have to save you." "[You never had a chance to thank me,] ...and you never have to." "It's not who I am underneath, it's what I do that defines me." The Dark Knight Rises, of course, gives whole new meaning to "Why do we fall, Bruce? ...So we can learn to pick ourselves up", in a lot more ways than one can imagine while still walking into the theater.

I think that The Dark Knight (2008) is a dangerously acclaimed movie as far as common skepticism for The Dark Knight Rises is concerned. Let's face it: Heath Ledger stole the show as the Joker, as Jack Nicholson did in Tim Burton's original adaptation of Batman back in 1989. Ledger did something Nicholson didn't: he died during filming. He received a posthumous Academy Award for his already amazing portrayal of the Joker - this sealed The Dark Knight's forever firm place in movie history. It's easy to get consumed by the thought of the Nolans never being able to write a script this deliciously complex and still functional, AND deliver quite the similar ensemble cast of characters and actors. The Dark Knight is commonly perceived as a movie that had absolutely no flaws; that is simply not true. The cast was awesome, the plot twists were even better, and Ledger's performance was the kind you simply couldn't get enough of ("watch me make this pen disappear"), but the movie went on for a little too long for its own good, it had slow spots, it was a little inconsistent (even dumb at times), and there wasn't really anything besides Rachel's death which made Bruce Wayne (not Batman) tick in that movie - one of the main reasons I love these movies so much is seeing Bruce Wayne's character develop. This one was more of an action movie; the Joker wasn't really a physical force, not like Ra's al Ghul and his League of Shadows, but he was extremely resourceful when it came to mind games, and usually he played those games by blowing shit up. He loved to watch the world burn, and he did everything in his power to make it happen.

This is where we finally get to The Dark Knight Rises. The first thing I would like to point out is that it is NOT a stand-alone movie; to understand, and maybe even like, more than a half of it, you NEED to see both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight before it. Yeah, sure, it's a big movie, lots of action, it's got Batman in it, might be good to go see with your friends on some Saturday evening if there's nothing better to do. It's not how it works. The Dark Knight Rises is a conclusion, an end to a legend. About 120 of these 165 minutes are dedicated to linking this movie to the previous ones - mostly Batman Begins. It's made clear that the Joker was never intended to be the "real villain" in The Dark Knight - he was more of an engine to get things running the opposite way, and ultimately set the stage for the grand finale which is this third movie. He killed Rachel Dawes, albeit indirectly, and at the same time, he was responsible for Harvey Dent's transformation into the hideous Two-Face, and then encouraged the former hand of justice to become the hand of vengeance, and to take his mishaps out on the Joker's rivals, including Batman and Jim Gordon. For the Joker, the movie ended a bit abruptly - I'm not sure how big of a stake Ledger's death had in this. The first 30 seconds of The Dark Knight Rises clean the slate perfectly clear: Harvey Dent was the villain in The Dark Knight, not the Joker. He started out as the hero of the movie, then turned into the main antagonist - just like Batman did in the eye of the Gotham populace. In the very end of The Dark Knight, Batman lured the police on his trail, taking the fall for every single crime Harvey Dent committed - with the sole intention of not killing Gotham's hope for a better future, countering which was the Joker's ultimate agenda. The Bat-Signal was smashed to pieces, and a manhunt for the Dark Knight began.

Hardy's put on more than a little muscle.
Fast forward eight years. Harvey Dent's still remembered as the hero who saved Gotham City from ruin, while Batman is remembered as an urban legend, a cold-hearted murderer, who will be shot on sight if he ever steps out of the shadows again. Jim Gordon's damn near a breaking point. His family has left him, the truth about Harvey Dent is tearing at him and after eight years, he's still anxiously waiting for Batman to show up on his doorstep for a Bat-coffee and catch up for old times' sake. A young police officer, a "hothead" named John Blake is, like Gordon, sure that peace won't last in a place like Gotham City, and sooner or later, the city would need Batman to keep things together - especially after it becomes known that an extremely resourceful and dangerous mercenary by the name of Bane has targeted Gotham City. Like Batman, Bane was trained by Ra's al Ghul - only his methods were supposedly so extreme that he got kicked out of the band. Kicked out for "being to extreme" by people whose purpose in life is to purge the world? Words can't possibly describe the epic potential of these two guys confronting each other.

However, for the longest time, it seems that a confrontation isn't going to happen. It takes time for Bruce to just step out of the Wayne Manor's front door - the guy hasn't seen daylight in years, he's like Beast in Beauty and the Beast. Actually when I think about it, the key scene that eventually prompts Bruce to finally show his face to the world, mirrors Beauty and the Beast by quite a lot. In Selina Kyle, Bruce finds a thoroughly interesting person (in many, many, many ways), who's ultimately responsible for Bruce starting to take his choice of exile into review. Despite his doctor's warnings of engaging in any "strenous activity" and Alfred begging him to just "move on", Bruce decides that Jim Gordon, John Blake and Lucius Fox's opinions matter more to him, Selina Kyle would make a fabulous extra resource although she needs to be seriously negotiated with, and Bane needs to be stopped. The Dark Knight must rise again.

I've explained the same plot basics twice, I know that. I'm trying so hard not to spoil everything else that's going on. The Dark Knight Rises is filled with heart-stopping plot twists that you need to experience for yourselves; sometimes those plot twists are admittedly seen coming from afar, double that if you know your Detective Comics, but on the other hand, that's part of the beauty of it all. The Dark Knight Rises makes good use of a huge amount of resources, combining them into one neat package that one might see as a perfect superhero movie. Video games, comic books including individual comic book storylines, most notably The Dark Knight Returns and Knightfall, even the Burton flicks. Most importantly, original creations and interpretations of existing characters. John Blake, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (all grown up from his 3rd Rock from the Sun days) starts out as a very enigmatic, completely new character, who we grow to love and respect during the course of the movie, and the way the movie ends on his account is just one of the twists that makes you want to jump up from your seat and give the loudest applauds you possibly can. Perhaps it's one of those scenes or sequences that leave little room for surprise, but not the most obvious one, and it's still awesome. Veteran police officer Peter Foley, played by Matthew Modine, is one of those characters you simply love to hate. Despite everything going on, including Bane blowing half of Gotham City to hell, this guy only cares about one thing: having his name in the Hall of Fame on the grounds of catching the murderer of Harvey Dent. He's really motivated about it too, he doesn't really care if he gets killed in the process, but after finding the last eight years to have been a lie, the guy escapes Bane's trail of destruction to the confines of his home with his tail between his legs. "OMG, that Bane guy iz evil!" No shit.

The always lovely Marion Cotillard
plays "the new Rachel", Miranda, but
there might be more to her than just
being the mandatory damsel in distress.
On to our existing heroes. Bruce Wayne's a human wreck, both mentally and physically, and not only does he need new technology by Fox to even consider returning to the streets, he needs a new suit with reinforced joints and armor, he's so badly banged up. When you see Bruce for the first time in the movie, you cannot help but think that he's done for if he goes against Bane. Christian Bale is a lot less irritating in his double role than he ever was, and all the more of a better actor. He's learned to tone down on "the voice", and he's learned to really work on the viewer with his facial expressions alone. He's just an absolute wonder to watch in this flick, it's like he returns to remind the viewer that he's the star of the show, after that thing (or those things) with Heath Ledger. Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon is just as great and consistent as he always was, there's really not that much to say. Even Gary Oldman cannot outdo Gary Oldman - double that if you ever saw Leon the Professional. I have to go with most critics on Michael Caine's performance as Alfred; he's amazing. For the duration of two movies, especially the first one, we saw this guy's heart torn to shreds as he was forced to watch someone he's practically raised all by himself turn into a vigilante whose every move had the potential of being his final one, and getting consumed by his alter ego in more ways than one. In this movie, after seeing that there's no turning back for his beloved "son", Alfred finally crosses his breaking point and delivers one or two of the most sincerely touching and tear-jerking speeches I've heard in any movie in a long time.

I was thinking of ending the review somewhere around here, but after realizing I haven't said much about the villains, it's clear that I'm a long way from the end. First off, every Batman movie ever made has had a cameo by someone who's appeared in the comics, but is not close to being the main protagonist or antagonist of the movie. Cillian Murphy's Jonathan Crane does make a small cameo in this movie, once again, but I'm not talking about him; die-hard fans of Batman might remember Wayne Enterprises board member John Daggett from the 90's animated series, only in that one he was called Roland Daggett and although he was an evil businessman, he had nothing to do with Wayne Enterprises. Just a little trivia, I won't shed light on Daggett's role in the flick any more than that - just know that he's a central figure in how shit goes down during the first half. Selina Kyle - just like every incarnation of Catwoman ever designed, you simply don't know what to make of her. I have to give praise to Christopher Nolan for one detail you might've missed - she is NEVER called Catwoman in this movie, only Selina Kyle. It might seem like a small thing, but if they had given her that name in the movie, I would've lost at least a tiny bit of attachment to the character. This just isn't the place. Anyway, what's most important to know about Selina Kyle is that she is the most unpredictable character in the whole movie. It's clear that she has a noble agenda, it's just that she does absolutely anything and everything to get to that agenda. She is one tough character to trust, much tougher than Anne Hathaway is to watch in that black latex suit, which fortunately is not overused either - in terms of plausibility. I wouldn't mind if she stopped by my house wearing that.

That suit looks awesome on her, but it
doesn't come without that stupid mask.
She doesn't need it, and it makes her
eyes bulge.
Tom Hardy's Bane. I remember when the first Dark Knight Rises trailer came out; people were laughing their asses off, and killing the movie with fire well beforehand. First of all, you couldn't understand a word Bane said in the trailer - his muffled speech was a choice by Christopher Nolan, and he still kinda defends it, but he and Hardy went on to re-record Bane's lines anyway, and in the final product, he speaks VERY clearly. Got to admit, a little too clearly. His mechanical voice booms over everyone else's (it's LOUD), his speech has a very strange rhythm to it, and during the first Bane scene, I've got to say I was forced to try to take him seriously. Even after reading positive reviews of Hardy's supposedly magnificent portrayal of Bane, I was afraid that the voice alone would destroy the movie and make it the flashy, yet cheesy crapfest people were afraid of after seeing the first trailer. Before long, Bane hit the bullseye. He has physical structure well above any of the villains seen in the trilogy. He has combat skills and endurance that are, once again, too much for the League of Shadows to handle, let alone one man. He's intelligent and resourceful - perhaps not as sharp as the Joker was at his prime, but definitely a mental force to be reckoned with. I left the theater having absolutely no beef with Bane - just the way the movie ends for him, perhaps even worse than The Dark Knight ended for the Joker, but just as defeating the Joker was not The Dark Knight's point, defeating Bane is not the point of The Dark Knight Rises. The point is to save Gotham City, and clear Batman's name in the process.

If you ask me about how I feel with Bane being completely different from his comic book counterpart, I have to say I prefer Nolan's depiction of Bane over any previous one. The most important of Bane's traits - physical power, brilliant mind, remorseless nature and a tendency for ultra-violence - they're all there. To my regret, I must say that I still remember the last time Bane's been on the big screen - I would need a full lobotomy to get that image out of my head - and if you're saying Bane was destroyed by Christopher Nolan by just altering his backstory, taking away the physical enhancements granted to him by the Venom, and removing his trademark teddy bear, I actually am damn near compelled to ADVISE you to see Batman & Robin, and how Bane was truly destroyed in that movie. This is redemption, and then some. OK, perhaps Hardy is no Ledger, but you've got to give praise to how he followed Nolan's new script to the tee, but still managed to be the Bane comic book fans always wanted to see on the big screen, and how he works with his eyes, having that mask cover up just about everything else. It's phenomenal, and you'll see it once you get over the voice.

If there's something I disliked about this movie besides that final conclusion to "Batman vs. Bane" I mentioned (I won't tell you what it is, but I'll tell you that it's lame to spare you a disappointment), there are two things which almost threw me off the ball - one being Selina's mask. Again, I choose not to spoil any further details, but we return to Bruce's need for a mask as Batman. He says that he didn't use a mask to protect his identity, but the identities of those close to him - something he explained in Batman Begins, using slightly different words. Selina has no similar use to a mask, it does very little to conceal her identity and it looks cheesy. The other thing is one of the same basic subject, secret identity - it seems that Batman's true identity is known by a lot of people without them having any concrete proof, it kind of left me thinking why Wayne Manor hasn't been stormed in the last eight years by at least SOMEONE, and Bruce Wayne dragged off the toilet with his pants down and shot in his own yard. Well, then I started to think how many people actually knew his true identity in the comics, including villains, and digressed.


I was one of the skeptics. I loved the later trailers, but nothing could erase the common critique for the previews. Nothing could erase the thought that having two movies that were so great, both in their own separate ways, could not be followed by an equal - they must've run out of awesome ideas, and have perhaps only a few good ones left; that wouldn't be nearly enough to build a three-hour movie on. Christopher Nolan proved us all wrong. For the first five minutes of the movie, I was afraid we'd be right. It was confusing, loud - thanks to the first impression of Bane - and I guess the memory of Heath Ledger's Joker was still haunting some people 'cause I actually heard yawning, even over the loudness of the surround sound. The LAST five minutes of the movie - perfect silence in the theater, and a lot of happy, perhaps saddened, but definitely satisfied faces illuminated by the screen. The moment the credits started to roll, people actually stood up and applauded - I've never seen that happen in this part of the world! I was way too awestruck to join the applauders - it felt like a bulldozer had run me over. Not only was this a movie way greater than I could've ever expected, it was the perfect mix of the drama of Batman Begins and the action of The Dark Knight, a constant thrill ride that let no minute go to waste, regardless of the nature of events on the screen, a masterpiece in filmography, the best movie out of the trilogy, and to put it frankly, one of the best movies I've ever seen. It doesn't matter if you're a Batman fan. That's just a bonus. The Dark Knight Rises is a movie you simply MUST SEE.

< 9.5 >

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