spreading the talent

Rick Pipito Reviews: The Dark Knight Rises

It has taken me a few hours, but now I can breathe and tell you what I thought about The Dark Knight Rises.  My rating right off the “bat” (pun intended) is a 9 out of 10.  There were a couple problems I had, but I got over them quickly, and I’ll explain below.  I am going to go in depth about quite a few of the MAJOR SPOILERS, to perhaps open a discussion.  If you’d like a review without spoilers, check out my brother’s review.  Again, I will have to warn you that there will be Spoilers after this paragraph.

“And here we go,”… again.  Christopher Nolan has given us an epic work of art.  This whole trilogy as individual installments was outstanding, but as a whole, they are EPIC!  That being said, he has stayed true (for the most part) to the fans of the Batman universe and for one final time, he has pulled no punches.  I noticed three things that stood out to me.  Elements of this story were taken from four major plots from the 1990s and early 2000s.  (Knightfall, Tim Drake, No Man’s Land, and the Talia/Bane relationship.)

It has been 8 years since the death of Harvey Dent, and Bruce Wayne has become a recluse.  Batman is no longer needed by the city, and Wayne is basically considered Howard Hughes at this point.  Here was my first issue with this point.  Could Batman really stay out of it for that long?  It seemed like too long of a gap for me.  Batman became obsessed in the comics with protecting Gotham.  So why can I ignore this?  Because he didn’t need to be the bat anymore.  The Harvey Dent act made organized crime extinct.

From the explosive opening on the plane, Tom Hardy really shows how menacing Bane is.  Okay, so my second problem with the movie was that there was nothing called “Venom” running through tubes to beef up Bane into a monstrosity.  Then I saw the movie, and accepted the changes greatfully.  Though I would have loved to see that, I think the choice to alter his story slightly was a wise one.  His background of being born and raised in prison was kept true to the comics, with the added part of him needing the mask.  The mask could have been talked about more, but it was highlighted to the point of knowing that it kept him from feeling any pain.

Still not convinced?  Okay, let me put it this way.  Say you get into a fight with someone who is visibly a lot stronger than you.  There have been plenty of times when the smaller person wins because of speed and size.  A smaller person can maneuver around someone and manage to land more hits to take down his/her larger opponent.  Now, take the same situation, but substitute someone that can experience no pain for the muscle bound one.  Now its a whole different battle.  How the hell do you take down someone who you can’t even hurt?

The Camera angles and vicious fight sequences between Bane and Batman made Tom Hardy really look monstrous anyway, so there was no need for the steroid compound.  He even punched a chunk of concrete off of a pillar at one point.  Oh, and as a fan, I will admit, I had a tear in my eye when he lifted Batman over his head and literally Broke The Bat!  It was the exact same scene from the comics, and replayed nicely.  I couldn’t believe it.

Christian Bale also did an amazing job as usual.  I still want to giggle a little when I hear his Batman Bark, but overall, his performance was great.  Bruce Wayne had nothing left to live for, and the emotional scene between him and Alfred, where he tells Alfred “goodbye,” had half the people in the theater choked up.  The battle Batman deals with in this movie isn’t just Bane either.  He is dealing with his own self managment.  He has shut himself out from the world, and has to realize at his deepest darkest hour, what he needed to do.  Bane made the Joker look like a joke.  He was a terrorist mastermind that even fooled the world’s greatest detective.

Speaking of detectives, John Blake was an unexpected surprise.  Joseph Gordon Levitt was probably the highlight of the movie for me.  I knew something was up, and from the second he told the background story of his parents and the foster care by Bruce Wayne’s donations, I turned to my wife and said, “Holy $#!+.  That’s Robin.”  Yes, his name may have been changed, but he literally was Tim Drake from the comics.  My suspicions were placed in concrete when Bruce told him that he needed a mask to protect his loved ones, and gave him the coordinates to the batcave.  And yes, his first name was revealed to be Robin.

So Batman had a sidekick, and so did catwoman… well, sort of.  To my knowledge, they never said what Selina Kyle’s roommate/thief friend’s name was, but she most definitely was Holly Robinson from the comics.  A short and fun role that was worked in well.  But the highlight here isn’t the sidekick, it’s the main act.  Anne Hathaway was the best Selina Kyle/Catwoman I’ve ever seen.  Don’t get me wrong.  Michelle Pfeiffer was excellent, but I feel that Anne really made the performance top.  The head piece and hair could have been done differently for the cat look, and I missed the nails and whip, but she kicked major ass.  Both the good guys and the bad guys, really weren’t ready for the beating that she could dish out.

So other than the three main performances, what else can be said?  Well, all of the supporting characters (Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon, Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox, and Michael Caine’s Alfred Pennyworth) were a pleasure to watch.  Speaking of pleasure, there was also Marion Cottilard as Miranda Tate.  I figured it out, from the second that Ra’s Al Ghul was mentioned and Wayne and Tate slept together, that this wasn’t who it appeared to be.  I knew she was Talia Al Ghul, but wasn’t expecting the twist (quite literally) that happened when she revealed her true colors.  I only wish that if the series were to go on from here, that Talia would have survived with child of Bruce Wayne.  Afterall, Damien Wayne (their child) is now the current Robin in the comics, so it would have been something extra, but not needed.

Liam Neeson is another one.  He showed up in a brief cameo as Ra’s Al Ghul.  I loved how he explained that he was immortal in more ways than one, and that it was just left that way.  On the same note, Cillian Murphy reprised his role as Jonathan Crane, aka Scarecrow.  This time he was judge at blackgate prison.  I only have this to say…  I think that if Heath Ledger was still alive, this role would have been given to him as the Joker.  It would have made more sense to have the joker carrying out these sentences in the way they were portrayed, and had Murphy do something else to complete it, but still, it brought a smile to my face, regardless of who was sitting on the judge’s chair.

One final role that I wasn’t expecting was Roland Daggett.  In the animated series from the nineties, I recall the one episode with Daggett.  How do I remember this?  Because in that episode, he was the man directly responsible for the creation of Clayface.  He didn’t have a large role and there was no clayface, but it showed that he could be brought in at some point.  Another quick throw out was when the police laughed at Gordon’s claim that there was an army of mercenaries in the sewers.  Someone said something along the lines of “Sure, and I guess you want me to believe there is a giant alligator down there too.”  This was an obvious reference to Killer Croc.

Look, for those of you who might have a problem with the ending, tell me why…  I mean, it is obvious that Batman is not dead.  He was seen in Florence with Selena Kyle, Gordon had a repaired batlight, and he had a new protege (adopted son) to keep an eye on.  It wasn’t Batman that died, it was Bruce Wayne.  Don’t you see?  This was a potential setup by Chris Nolan so that someone can take these loose ends and run with them.  This trilogy was all about Batman beginning.  Now he is established.  Bruce Wayne doesn’t need to be anymore.  Batman is the key.  He always was.  It was that way in the comics as well.  Who knows, maybe a little Helena Kyle (Huntress) could be on their way as well somewhere down the line.

From the number of days it took Wayne to heal his back to the severing of Bane’s tubes, this movie may have altered a few things, but stayed true all around.  My brother mentioned the vehicles in his review.  I disagree with his view.  The Tumbler and Batpod were damn cool, and though I wasn’t too happy about the Bat, it definitely gave me a temporary satisfaction for the batwing.

My final thoughts are this.  Please PLEASE PLEASE… whoever is in charge at Warner Brothers/DC, do NOT start this franchise over!  Everyone wants to see what happens next.  You now have a Justice League movie in the works.  This is your first step.  Batman exists in a universe.  Use that universe.  Perhaps Wayne will come off of his sabatical/fake death once the world needs heroes.  You can recast him if you need to, but keep Nolan’s universe alive.  I will be sad to hear if this truly is the end of such an epic era of Batman.

The Dark Knight has risen to the challenge of what The Avengers has brought to the table.  DC has hit as hard as Marvel, now let’s watch each side continue to bring us the most entertaining films of all time!  Please, if you have any comments, make them.  I’d love to get a discussion going on everyone’s thoughts.

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8 responses

  1. I picked up on the Daggett reference too, but I think they named him “John” in this movie. Either way, can’t be a coincidence. Good catch on the Kilelr Croc thing; that enver even crossed my mind. And even better on Joker as the judge/jury/executioner. That would have been terrific.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    • Now that you say it, I’ll have to check. I think they did call him John in this movie instead of Roland. either way, I’ve always wanted to see clayface on the big screen. Here’s to hoping that still happens at some point soon.

      July 24, 2012 at 7:59 pm

  2. I was able to find many faults with the film, but the biggest transgression was the fact that this just wasn’t Batman. As a regular reader of the comics for over 30 years, I’d like to think I know who and what this character is about. Unfortunately, Christopher Nolan didn’t. His Batman acted uncharacteristically throughout the entire length of the movie. Firstly, anyone that considers themselves a fan of the Bat, knows that his greatest weapon isn’t his fighting ability, all his wonderful toys, or even his billions of dollars. It’s his brain. He outsmarts and overcomes. He would have knows within the first 10 seconds of fighting Bane (which is an entirely different trainwreck that I won’t get into right now) that he’s no match for him physically. This is an enemy he needs to outsmart. Yet he goes back to trading punches with him repeatedly throughout the film. Not a very “Batman” move. Batman is considered the world’s greatest detective, yet aside from a couple moments in the beginning of the film, we don’t see that side of him. I’m not expecting him to go snooping for clues all movie long, but give us an example how smart he is, not the careless, jump into the fray “hero” we were given.

    Also, Batman is not someone who would take the fall for Dent’s action and go into hiding for 8 years. That’s not his style. He also wouldn’t let his company crumble to pieces the way it did. Same with the ending. Faking his own death and leaving Gotham isn’t Batman. Batman needs Gotham. It’s not just part of his identity, it IS his identity.

    This is my main problem with the film. Nolan has stripped Batman’s identity from him entirely. I guess you could argue that this is “Nolan’s Batman”, but if that’s the case, why call him Batman at all? For the payday? With a track record like Nolan’s, I’d like to think he would have more integrity than that as a filmmaker. I hate to rip on the guy. Memento is in my top 5 movies of all time, so I’m definitely a fan of his work, but as far as this movie goes, he has disrespected everything Batman stands for.

    Another complaint I had with the film was the insanely predictable plot twist. Hearing Talia’s accent in the beginning of the movie I had my suspicions, but after seeing her scar I knew who and what she was. That was about an hour and a half BEFORE the actual reveal. You’d think Bruce would have caught on as well after seeing the scar, but like I stated above, this clearly isn’t the smart detective we know and love. This is someone else entirely. Catwoman was entirely unnecessary, and I feel that Anne Hathaway was miscast in the role. And much like Batman, Bane is only Bane in name. He has no ties to the Bane we know from the comics. Expelled from the league of assassins for being too “extreme”? Come on, that’s ridiculous. If you don’t follow the league’s rules, they kill you. That’s all there is to it. Bane’s voice sounds like Sean Connery after inhaling a balloon full of helium and talking into an oscillating fan. Also, for building up just how tough he was for nearly three hours, being taken out in the blink of an eye with a rocket from the Bat-cycle was incredibly anticlimactic.

    All that said, there were a couple things I liked about it. I thought Joseph Gordon Levitt did a great job. He was the only character in the movie with heart and purpose. I also really liked Cillian Murphy’s reprisal of the Scarecrow in a couple tiny scenes.

    I’d also like to add that Gotham PD may very well be the dumbest police force on the planet. 60+ cars chasing down Batman during the chase scene all funneled down one street and trapped. 4000 cops funnel into a single tunnel, all to be trapped underground. What’s the point of sending that many police? What good could a cop that’s 200 people deep do in a situation like that? You’d think they’d learn after that, but no. Then all 4000 police funnel down a single street on foot, where they’re shot like fish in a barrel.

    I know my opinions on the film may not be popular, but the way I look at it, if you’re not a reader of the books, and your only exposure to Batman is through these movies, then I can see how it would be a fitting and satisfying (if all-too convenient) ending to the trilogy. However, if you’re truly a fan of the character and what he represents, I honestly don’t know how anyone could really enjoy it.

    July 25, 2012 at 9:40 am

    • I appreciate the comments and thoughts… A lot of what you said I can agree with on most levels. Though I still can enjoy the movie. You are right. Batman took Bane on like diving into moving traffic, and the cops were really stupid. I feel JGL’s character was more of a main character than Batman, and the fixing of the spine was ridiculous, though I suspended that disbelief because he was in a prison filled with people who were familiar with different forms of fighting/healing etc. I think Catwoman was placed there to be a link for him to come back into the game. She didn’t feel anymore out of place to me than the half hour that Two Face got on screen in the last film. I don’t like the openness of the ending, and like you I figured out Talia (and Robin) for that matter, about an hour and a half before the reveals. I think as a movie though (if you didn’t call it Batman) you can’t argue that it is bad. True, there were alterations a plenty that made it untrue to the comics, but there were a lot of elements there that were. Keep this in mind too… each time we see a comic character on screen, the directors change something about story/character/or abilities that is untrue to the comics. I can’t name one comic movie that hasn’t…

      July 25, 2012 at 12:45 pm

  3. Oh, I also had no idea that it was possible to fix a broken back by kneeing the vertebrae back in and hanging from a rope until you can walk again 🙂

    July 25, 2012 at 9:46 am

  4. I totally understand and agree that comic-to-screen adaptations will never truly be an accurate representation of the source material. The directors want to put their mark on it and make it their own, and I won’t ever fault them for that. However, when you take a character with such a rich history and strip him of everything that makes him special, can you even call it an adaptation at that point?

    July 25, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    • I never looked at it that way. I still enjoyed the movie however. Though like I said, I’m craving some finalization. All of your issues with it could be resolved by another director taking over and claiming that it really was Batman begins… He hadn’t fully become the batman we know and love… yet… lol…

      July 25, 2012 at 7:29 pm

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