The Dark Knight Rises - movie review

From July 24, 2012

Score: A
First off, is 'The Dark Knight Rises' better than 'Batman Begins'? Yes.
Is it better than 'The Dark Knight'? No, but then again I think few movies are.
The direction: great. The acting: great. The music: great. No surprise there. 
Bane's theme is the booming drums (which sound like Japanese taiko drums). While I like it a lot, I still miss the quiet, weird atonal note that heralded the Joker's presence. But the heart-pumping drums let you know that Bane is on the scene.
Also, Selina Kyle's theme song is a nice little piano flourish. And thank you, Nolan, thank you for NOT ever calling Selina Kyle "Catwoman" in the film! Calling her that wouldn't have fit with Nolan's more realistic Batman movies.
I'm so glad to see the Tumbler back! And not only the one Tumbler. There's about 6-10 of them running around Gotham, still with their army fatigue paint job. Cool! Also, the Batwing -- called simply "The Bat" -- is very neat, too.
Bane's voice IS hard to understand some of the time. The filmmakers got a lot of flak once people heard it because everyone said it was hard to understand. Nolan chimed back with something about it not being entirely important to understand Bane all of the time. I would disagree. Bane has some great lines, it might just take you a few viewings to understand him fully. 
'The Dark Knight Rises' is a big movie. Maybe a little too big. In some respects it seems a little out of step with the other two Christopher Nolan films. 'Batman Begins' was Batman vs. the head mobster of Gotham and the cops and judges who were in his pocket. 
'The Dark Knight' was Batman vs. the Joker (an insane mobster) as well as the other mobsters in the city (with a twisted Harvey Dent near the end). 
'The Dark Knight Rises' is all of a sudden Batman vs. the terrorist revolutionary Bane and... [drum roll]... a nuke! 
That's about as big and balls-to-the-wall as you can go. The director and writers make it work, though. Like I said, it just may be a little TOO big. 
However, 'The Dark Knight Rises' actually feels more in-step with 'Batman Begins' than 'The Dark Knight' did because it's more of a direct sequel to 'Batman Begins'. It again follows the League of Shadows' interest in razing Gotham, which was started in 'Batman Begins'. 
It helps to remember the first two Nolan movies, because 'The Dark Knight Rises' quotes them a lot, visually speaking. There's quick shots spliced in from 'The Dark Knight' and 'Batman Begins'. And the prison in the film recalls the tunnel young Bruce Wayne falls down in 'Batman Begins'.
I think simply because it deals with a shadow society bent on Gotham's destruction again, 'The Dark Knight Rises' also feels more like a comic book movie again, as opposed to 'The Dark Knight', which felt like a cop/mobster movie that just happened to have Batman running around in it. 'The Dark Knight' felt more real because of that. 'The Dark Knight Rises' feels like a comic book movie once more. And that's not a bad thing. I'm just noting it.
Also, it's hard to put into words, but something about 'The Dark Knight Rises' just isn't as personal as 'The Dark Knight' was. It's not necessarily a bad thing, it just is what it is.
I think in its attempts to be bigger than its predecessor, 'The Dark Knight Rises' loses that human element. 'The Dark Knight' was more about the people of the city (Batman/Bruce Wayne's love triangle with Rachael and Harvey Dent, the Joker killing people up close and personal with a knife, etc.). 
'The Dark Knight Rises' is more about Gotham the city, than it is about the people of Gotham. 
The film does suffer a bit from what most critics and commentators have noted: it's deadly serious, with little-to-no moments of levity, unlike the previous two Nolan films. 
I would disagree a little bit with that because Selina Kyle offers a lot of the humor in the film. The two guys who did most of the wisecracking in the first two films -- Alfred and Lucius Fox -- are not funny in this one, for good reasons. They're worlds have gone to shit. What the hell are they supposed to joke about, movie critics?
Some people claim that the movie is overly violent. Oh, please! Spare me your crocodile tears, people. The movie is rated PG-13. There is no blood or gore in the entire movie (unless you include a scene where someone's blood is drawn through a tube at the beginning of the movie). 
There is a bit of railing against appeasement in the movie, which goes back to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Nazi Germany before WWII. 
While I agree with the sentiment that appeasement doesn't work, it sounds a little too Bushian these days. I remember people bitching a lot about appeasement pre-2008. It seemed unnecessary in the film.
Also, 'The Dark Knight Rises' has been criticized for taking a stance against the Occupy movement. While this is sort of true, the Occupy movement is more about bringing certain issue to the fore than it is about an actual revolution like what is portrayed in the film.
Now, I'm going to talk about Roger Ebert's review of the film a little, which sort of has some SPOILERS, so BEWARE:
Ebert, in his review here ( said that Bane "is a mystery because it's hard to say what motivates him". Um, the film blatantly states that he's part of the League of Shadows, who are bent on Gotham's destruction. Ebert then says Bane "releases thousands of Gotham's criminals in a scenario resembling the storming of the Bastille. As they face off against most of the city police force in street warfare, Bane's goal seems to be the overthrow of the ruling class. But this would prove little if his other plan (the nuclear annihilation of the city) succeeds". 
Did Ebert even watch the movie? Bane's ultimate goal is the nuclear annihilation of the city. 
He pits the ruling class against the middle class and poor because at that point in the movie he is trying to torture Bruce Wayne by making him watch his city rip itself apart. 
Duh. Jeez, Ebert. I should have your job.
Roger Ebert also says, "No attempt is made to account for Bane's funding and resources" (although he never asked the same questions about the Joker in his review of 'The Dark Knight' four years ago).
Anywho, there are two sources of Bane's funding that are explicitly explained in the movie. 1) The billionaire Dagget, and 2) Bane is part of the League of Shadows (from 'Batman Begins'). Now, where do the League of Shadows get their money? That's explained, too, at the end, but I don't want to give away who funds them in this review.
There has also been a lot of political commentary surrounding the movie, even after you disregard the Colorado theater shooting. I'm going to quote from Wikipedia now: "Writing in Salon, David Sirota, a progressive political commentator compared The Dark Knight Rises and the game Call of Duty to 1980s popular culture reflecting the political period of the time, accusing them of perpetuating a conservative agenda: 'Just as so many 1980s pop culture products reflected the spirit of the Reagan Revolution’s conservative backlash, we are now seeing two blockbuster, genre-shaping products not-so-subtly reflect the Tea Party's rhetorical backlash to the powerful Occupy Wall Street zeitgeist.' An article in Variety reported Chuck Dixon, the co-creator of the Bane character, as saying that Bane is 'far more akin to an Occupy Wall Street type if you're looking to cast him politically.' Catherine Shoard of the center-left British publication The Guardian claimed the film 'is a quite audaciously capitalist vision, radically conservative, radically vigilante, that advances a serious, stirring proposal that the wish-fulfillment of the wealthy is to be championed if they say they want to do good.'"
Does the film do all of that? I certainly didn't think so, and I consider myself pretty far left politically. If you re-watch 'The Dark Knight' there seems to be a lot that is anti-vigilante, anti-Bushian (with Lucius Fox calling Batman's cell phone surveillance system "unethical... dangerous. ... This is wrong."). If there's any real anti-left stuff in 'The Dark Knight Rises', maybe it's the filmmakers' way of balancing things out? Who knows?
On the other hand, to quote from Wikipedia again: "Nolan has denied the film criticizes the Occupy movement and insists that none of his Batman films are intended to be political: 'I've had as many conversations with people who have seen the film the other way round. We throw a lot of things against the wall to see if it sticks. We put a lot of interesting questions in the air, but that's simply a backdrop for the story. What we're really trying to do is show the cracks of society, show the conflicts that somebody would try to wedge open. We're going to get wildly different interpretations of what the film is supporting and not supporting, but it's not doing any of those things. It's just telling a story. If you're saying, 'Have you made a film that's supposed to be criticizing the Occupy Wall Street movement?' – well, obviously, that's not true.'"
Quoting Wikipedia again: "On the other side of the political spectrum, politically conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh alleged that the film was biased against Mitt Romney due to Bane's name being a homophone for Bain Capital, the financial service company Romney used to head. In response, Nolan said that the comments were 'bizarre', while Dixon and Freeman said that the comments were 'ridiculous'."