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    The Dark Knight Rises (Movie Review)

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    Paeter
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    The Dark Knight Rises (Movie Review)

    Post  Paeter on July 20th 2012, 5:15 pm


    "The Dark Knight Rises" takes place eight years after "The Dark Knight". Gotham is doing much better than it was and Bruce Wayne has effectively retired from being Batman. But when a dangerous mercenary leader named Bane threatens the safety of Gotham, Bruce Wayne has to find the dormant strength to once again confront and stop evil.

    I have to warn you that this review may sound more negative than my final score reflects. The reason is that the numerous things The Dark Knight Rises does well were also done in the two previous Batman films, and so don't require as much comment here.

    The cast is wonderful and performances are great without exception. Returning actors bring the same humanity to their roles as they did in the past, and Michael Caine delivers his most sympathetic, heart-wrenching performance yet as the loving and loyal Alfred Pennyworth.

    Newcomers also bring great things to the table. Anne Hathaway surprised me by portraying a Catwoman that can believably take on beefy bad guys, thanks in large part to using her body weight as leverage in acrobatic combat. She also displays levels of complexity in her character that make her engaging and sometimes unpredictable.

    Tom Hardy does a fine job as Bane, delivering dialogue with a nice range of expression, even though director Christopher Nolan strangely likes to make dialogue difficult to hear clearly at times. (An odd factor in all three of his Batman movies.) Despite the mask, Hardy is still able to create an interesting character.

    In general, the greatest strength of the film is its drama. These characters and their stories and motivations are captivating and easy to invest in. I would love to see Christopher Nolan produce a weekly TV series called "Gotham City", a crime drama about Gotham and the people living there. Instead, Nolan chose to make this movie. Which brings me to my chief complaint.

    This is not a "Batman movie". It's a movie about Gotham and some of the key people who live there. I walked into the theater still wondering why The Joker had to be left out of the movie. I left the theater wondering why Batman was left out of the movie.

    Bruce Wayne does not appear onscreen as Batman until 60 minutes into the movie. (Forgivable in an "origin story". Not good for the climax of a superhero trilogy.) He then has two or three relatively short scenes as Batman over the next 60 minutes. It isn't until about the last 45 minutes that we stop seeing Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne and start seeing him as Batman regularly. And even during the last 45 minutes, Batman doesn't really shine in the way he should after the movie spends so much time hammering Bruce Wayne into the ground.

    In this movie, Batman relies on his gadgets when I wanted to see him being physical, and brawling when I thought he should be using gadgets. In his last fight with Bane I kept asking myself why he wasn't using those razors that shoot out of his gauntlets, as we saw in his final fight with the Joker in "The Dark Knight". And the climax involves him leaning too heavily on his flying vehicle for my taste. Lots of people could fly that vehicle. For me, Batman action scenes mean more "cape and cowl" activity and outsmarting the bad guys with ingenious foresight. Very little of either in this movie, relative to the nearly three hour run time.

    Batman Begins had to grow on me. I wasn't expecting it to be as grounded as it was. The Dark Knight had to grow on me some, too, but not near as much. The Dark Knight Rises likely will not improve as much with age for me. It just strays too far from Batman for too long. Including a final fate for Bruce Wayne that, while cathartic, is very out of character with the Batman of the comics. The time spent straying from Batman is well done and still good movie making in general, but seeing a great drama that was marketed as a comedy will still be disappointing if you were expecting two hours of laughs.

    The movie also lacks some of the focus of the previous two films and doesn't always make sense. We're to understand that Bruce Wayne's entire body is a wreck from years of being Batman. But after putting on a leg brace he's back to swooping down from above and traversing the field of battle with supernatural ease.

    In another scene, Jonathan Crane (The Scarecrow) makes a cameo, but doesn't behave at all according to his previously established character or scarecrow persona.

    Although the film does very well within the limitations needlessly imposed on itself, I still sensed that the entire experience was "plan B". I believe a more satisfying climax to the trilogy would have featured the Joker or at least Two Face. (Batman survived that fall and was jogging away soon after. Why couldn't Two Face have pulled through in critical condition and been kept hidden away somewhere as part of Jim Gordan's lie?) Chris Nolan squeezed nearly all the potential he could out of Bane's character, but Bane just isn't near the catalyst for storytelling that The Joker or Two Face are.

    There are a number of scattered themes worth talking about in this movie. Lying, self-sacrifice, human depravity, and probably a few more that don't come to mind. But none of these themes were consistently given enough of the spotlight to stay with me beyond the scenes in which they were present.

    "The Dark Knight Rises" is a very good film, and the drama and story alone may make it a great one for you. But if you are hoping for a "Batman movie" to close out a "Batman trilogy", prepare for this one to fall short of its potential in noticeable ways.

    Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language

    Quality: 8.5/10

    Relevance: 6.0/10



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    Rickster

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    Re: The Dark Knight Rises (Movie Review)

    Post  Rickster on July 20th 2012, 5:39 pm

    Paeter wrote:
    I walked into the theater still wondering why The Joker had to be left out of the movie.



    2 words why Heath Ledger While i don't think he would have gotten all the praise for his Joker if he was still alive I do think replacing him after so much buzz about his performance would have been a mistake and might have hurt the DKR in the box office

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    Re: The Dark Knight Rises (Movie Review)

    Post  Paeter on July 20th 2012, 7:37 pm

    I agree it would have hurt the box office, but the reason probably being that most of us would have been unnecessarily offended on Ledger's behalf.


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    ComiKate

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    Re: The Dark Knight Rises (Movie Review)

    Post  ComiKate on July 21st 2012, 4:04 am

    I agree with most of what Paeter says. The review I posted on my own blog yesterday (which is in Dutch so I guess linking to it is useless clown ) had the same main complaint: too little of Batman, and even Bruce Wayne doesn't really have much to do at all. He indeed seems almost like the sidekick in his own movie. Which is a pity for I like Christian Bale's interpretation of the character very (very!) much.
    I really didn't like Anne Hathaway's Catwoman at all though. Too young, too girly. Plus I wasn't convinced by her performance, her dialogues etc. And the very deliberate batting of her eyes every two seconds, that actually made me want to roll my own Rolling Eyes.
    Doesn't matter of course, tastes differ Wink Wink Wink

    Anyway, I enjoyed the movie very much, I wouldn't mind going back to the cinema to see it again and I will buy it on DVD to complete my Nolanverse Batman collection.


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    Re: The Dark Knight Rises (Movie Review)

    Post  BenAvery on July 22nd 2012, 12:39 am

    Started listening to your podcast just after I left the theater tonight. I haven't listened to your review yet, nor have I read it (I always listen to your reviews rather than read them) but I did want to chime in on why no Joker. And here's my thought:

    Even if Heath Ledger had not died, he would have not played an important part in this movie. Look at Scarecrow. Yes, he pops up in Dark Knight, but he is not there for any real importance. And you just can't cameo Joker. Dark Knight, as a film, belonged to him. But more than most superhero movies, Joker existed in The Dark Knight to explore Batman.

    To put Joker in the sequel would overshadow Batman, I think, no matter who played him. And he;s just too big to be there for two scenes.

    Maybe they could have done it. Maybe they planned to before Ledger's death. But watching this movie, and understanding that each of Nolan's films is meant to explore this bat-guy, I just don't think there's room for him.

    Nathan James Norman
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    Re: The Dark Knight Rises (Movie Review)

    Post  Nathan James Norman on July 22nd 2012, 4:44 pm

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    I really disagree with Paeter on this film.

    First of all, I think the movie is bursting with relevance. To start with, the theme of the Truth was running throughout the entire story. Gordon struggles with telling the truth right at the beginning, but decides not to because it would be too socially damaging to reveal the truth about Harvey Dent. Mid-way through the film, Alfred says something to the effect of "maybe instead of trying to control the truth, maybe we should set it loose." When it was finally revealed, by Bane, how the truth was discarded, it worked against the people of Gotham, but ultimately allowed the people and police of Gotham to rally behind Batman.

    Still speaking about relevance, we see Bruce/Batman at the beginning of the movie decide to rejoin society and answer his calling as Batman (even going so far as to have to use cybernetics to do so . . . which is very non-batmanish). And he gets the snot kicked out of him, and cast into his own "Dark Night of the Soul" as St. John of the Cross would call it. In order to fulfill his calling, he needs to descend, and ascend from the pit to become, not the man he hopes to be, but the man he should be. This was a fantastic visual metaphor for spiritual formation and our spiritual journey. God can really work through us only after he's broken us, killed us and we surrender our will to him.

    Once again in the relevance category, I think Batman was a pretty good messianic symbol. (One of the better ones actually.) In the Dark Knight, Batman becomes a murderer and outlaw for the benefit of Gotham (even though he was not a murderer). In TDKR when Catwoman tells Batman to just leave the city with her because he'd given the people of Gotham everything already, Batman response, "No, not everything, not yet". - He's talking about laying his life down for the people of his city . . . and in a way, Batman does sacrifice himself, and returns to life, but not in quite the same state as before.

    Second, as a Batman movie as a whole, I think this film really stands strong. The tone is spot-on in it's dark, desperate and depressed tone (compare and contrast to the "fun" atmosphere of The Avengers). And while there's not quite as much Batman in his suit, I think we see quite a bit of Batman outside of his suit.

    Finally, one of the things I love about this film is how it gives us something that the comics will never be able to . . . an ending. And I for one, was very satisfied by it. It was a bitter-sweet ending, where we see Bruce build a new life, but everything that made him Bruce/Batman (even Alfred) is gone. So it was rather awesome in my humble, but correct, opinion. Smile I can't wait to see it again with my wife!

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    ComiKate

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    Re: The Dark Knight Rises (Movie Review)

    Post  ComiKate on July 22nd 2012, 5:28 pm

    Wow Nathan James, seems you had the same kind of experience concerning Relevance at TDKR that I had at The Amazing Spiderman! Smile
    (see my comment on that topic)

    I may have to go see TDKR again Cool, with your higher relevance score in mind.



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    Re: The Dark Knight Rises (Movie Review)

    Post  BenAvery on July 22nd 2012, 7:11 pm

    SPOILERS>>>

    BEWARE>>>

    SPIOLERS>>>


    I agree completely. I like your take: "bursting with relevance". I was surprised at the 6 when I listened today, because that's essentially a "D" grade!

    I wrote down a number of things that struck me as I watched the movie, like Alfred's line about trying to "outsmart the truth".

    When Bane is beating the poop out of Batman, he says, "Victory has defeated you," which is an apt description of apathetic Christianity in America. Bruce's whole life in the beginning of the movie, that first 60 minutes with no suit, is a nice metaphor for modern Christianity, I think.

    There is a LOT of material in the movie dealing with hope, from the "hell vs. hope" of the pit, where he literally crawls out of the darkness and in to the light, to John Blake chiding a priest for not giving the children hope as they faced death.

    We'll be recording our episode of Strangers and Aliens soon and I can;t wait, because there is a LOT I want to talk about with this movie.

    Also, there's the ending. It's a VERY Inception-like ending. I wonder if Bruce is actually alive at the end . . . and if he's not alive at the end, there's a point of view that the entire trilogy is actually Alfred's. That scene in the cafe -- what if that is Alfred's fantasy? And on a metaphorical level, we have this image of Christian life: hopelessness, death to self, "rising", literal death, passing the torch to the next generation, and new life in heaven (represented by the fantasy like ending of Bruce and Selina starting over). Now, the whole idea of starting over is a BIG theme in the movie, and so Bruce and Selina starting a new life together COULD be a literal event. Batman plans for everything, right? And he would plan to follow through on what Alfred told him. So I could go both ways.

    Anyway, when i heard you gave it a 6, Paeter, I was VERY surprised. I'd give it a 9, but perhaps even a 10. Quality, I can see the 8, although I might go as high as 9. But there were some jump cuts (this was a MUCH longer movie and had to be cut down, I am sure) and some muffled dialogue and some plot points that worked, but barely.

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    Re: The Dark Knight Rises (Movie Review)

    Post  Nathan James Norman on July 22nd 2012, 10:15 pm

    ****************SPOILERS********************************


    BenAvery wrote:I wonder if Bruce is actually alive at the end . . . and if he's not alive at the end, there's a point of view that the entire trilogy is actually Alfred's. That scene in the cafe -- what if that is Alfred's fantasy? And on a metaphorical level, we have this image of Christian life: hopelessness, death to self, "rising", literal death, passing the torch to the next generation, and new life in heaven (represented by the fantasy like ending of Bruce and Selina starting over). Now, the whole idea of starting over is a BIG theme in the movie, and so Bruce and Selina starting a new life together COULD be a literal event. Batman plans for everything, right? And he would plan to follow through on what Alfred told him. So I could go both ways.

    I was wondering this myself.

    And I agree with the Relevancy score . . . anything that's causing my eyes to tear up while two guys are busy beating the snot out of themselves . . . has to be close to a 10 in my book.

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    Re: The Dark Knight Rises (Movie Review)

    Post  Nathan James Norman on July 23rd 2012, 6:05 pm

    ****************Spoiler Alert**************************

    Breakpoint has a FANTASTIC article on the Batman trilogy and the "Problem of Evil" it can be found in its entirety here:
    http://www.breakpoint.org/features-columns/articles/entry/12/19898

    Here's the gist:

    "For Nolan, it isn’t enough for his hero to merely defeat evil. That’s too easy. So throughout this tale, Batman’s primary focus isn’t on besting bad guys. It’s on deflecting justice from people like you and me. His real opponents are not the scum of Gotham’s underbelly, but the angels of moral perfection who seek to bring judgment on the city.

    Other superheroes save their towns from genetically enhanced, extraterrestrial evil geniuses. Bruce Wayne saves his town from the “good guys.” He climbs up on his cross and suffers the wrath of the Law rightly due to the people of Gotham. He betrays his training by the League of Shadows to save millions from condemnation. He bears the full blast of Joker’s wickedness and becomes hated for it. He descends into the pit of “hell” rather than abandon those he intends to redeem.

    His story makes our hearts “burn within us,” not because DC Comics’ Batman deserves our worship, but because he reminds us of Someone who does. Nolan’s Dark Knight gives us a rare glimpse into what it must have been like for Jesus Christ—a man—to suffer Hell and utter rejection by His Father and those he loved, and to drink the cup brimful of death for us all.

    And of course, he also reminds us that it wasn’t enough for Christ to simply die. As Michael Caine said, “Making something disappear isn’t good enough. You have to bring it back.” And Batman, like Christ, had to come out of that tomb and live again. The Dark Knight, like Christ, had to rise."

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    Re: The Dark Knight Rises (Movie Review)

    Post  Paeter on July 23rd 2012, 8:56 pm

    Nathan James Norman wrote:

    His story makes our hearts “burn within us,” not because DC Comics’ Batman deserves our worship, but because he reminds us of Someone who does.

    Not the case for me. At least not on a real experiential, heart-level.

    Gotta say that I'm happy and envious that so many disagreed with my low relevance score. Hopefully I'll get to see and experience some of those moments in the way you guys did once I'm watching it at home three months from now and over the fact that this Batman trilogy ended on a bit of a whimper for me, despite being a strong film in many respects.

    Some of the "relevant" moments you guys pointed out I didn't see at all, others I did but quickly forgot without being impacted by them. I'm guessing that, since the movie was falling short for me as a hopeful Batman nerd, I was distracted from seeing some of the philosophical undertones. A bit like the reverse of my "Superman Returns" experience, in which I wanted to love the movie and refused to believe I wasn't loving it, and so held tight to the wonderful Christ-metaphors.

    In the end I'm guessing DKR will land in the same camp as Superman Returns for me. A movie that does a lot of things right and has some great metaphors and moments, but that noticeably stumbles and falls short of hitting it out of the park as a representation of the source material.

    I've come to accept Superman Returns, not as a great representation of Superman in the comics, but as an interesting and at times wonderful "what if" book-end to the original Christopher Reeve film franchise.

    Likewise, I think in time (especially once a new Batman film franchise gets going) I'll grow to appreciate, maybe even love, DKR as "that-fantastic-thought-provoking-movie-about-an-ensemble-cast-of-Gotham-City-characters" and simply re-title it "Gotham City" in my mind.


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    Re: The Dark Knight Rises (Movie Review)

    Post  DNArington on July 28th 2012, 12:42 am

    Wow! I had so much to say about this movie, especially after viewing it a second time. I haven't been on In a while and BAM you guys said everything I had to say! There is not a lot more I can say really. I thought it was a terrific movie with a lot of thought pervoking material, most of which you have already discussed. I can't say I read lots of Batman comics but I've read some, so I was aware of things that didn't line up but they honestly didn't bother me because I love the story they are telling so much!

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    Re: The Dark Knight Rises (Movie Review)

    Post  DNArington on July 28th 2012, 12:51 am

    SPOILERS!!! IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS MOVIE YET DROP EEVERYTHING YOUR DOING GO SEE IT NOW THEN COME BACK AND READ THIS POST BECAUSE SPOILERS!!!!
    (^^that's not excessive at all Wink ^^)


    So at the end of TDKR Batman is riding away with the bomb and KABLEWY! it blew up. Walking out of it the first time I thought Batman/Bruce Wayne was dead. No question. But then I found out people all across the internet were arguing whether he was actually dead or not and I was like, "Huh?" After seeing it again I guess I can see where they're coming from, but personally I think he died. What Alfred saw was just showing that Bruce got back out into the world and even found a girl and Alfred is trying to move on.

    What do you guys think? Did he actually die?

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    Re: The Dark Knight Rises (Movie Review)

    Post  tmorrill on August 17th 2012, 3:06 am

    I wanna see a movie about Gotham during Bane's occupation.

    Edit: Oh and did anyone else figure out the no rope thing in the Pit?

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    Re: The Dark Knight Rises (Movie Review)

    Post  Paeter on August 17th 2012, 12:41 pm

    tmorrill wrote:I wanna see a movie about Gotham during Bane's occupation.


    I think that would make a great ongoing TV show! In fact, once again, I'm reminded of how much of Nolan's approach to Batman movies would translate to a rockin' "Gotham City" TV series.


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