Monday, 23 July 2012

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The Dark Knight Rises IMAX [Review]

Opinion: B

An honourable conclusion to the highly admirable trilogy by Christopher Nolan is by no means the best effort by the revered filmmaker. With an overly ambitious film material and a surprisingly underwhelming screenplay, the film gets even darker and more serious (post-era after the defeat of The Joker - "Why so serious?"). Opening with a muddling premise and first half, it fortunately gets its act together and reassures the audience with a blockbuster second half. Certain criticism aside, which is arguably arising from a soaring high expectation, Nolan proves to be a skillful master filmmaker who churns out impeccable cinematic magic when blessed with the right material and cast.

Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' "The Dark Knight Rises" is the epic conclusion to filmmaker Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, Leading an all-star international cast, Oscar(R) winner Christian Bale ("The Fighter") again plays the dual role of Bruce Wayne/Batman. The film also stars Anne Hathaway, as Selina Kyle; Tom Hardy, as Bane; Oscar(R) winner Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose"), as Miranda Tate; and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as John Blake. Returning to the main cast, Oscar(R) winner Michael Caine ("The Cider House Rules") plays Alfred; Gary Oldman is Commissioner Gordon; and Oscar(R) winner Morgan Freeman ("Million Dollar Baby") reprises the role of Lucius Fox. The screenplay is written by Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan, story by Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer. The film is produced by Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan and Charles Roven, who previously teamed on "Batman Begins" and the record-breaking blockbuster "The Dark Knight." The executive producers are Benjamin Melniker, Michael E. Uslan, Kevin De La Noy and Thomas Tull, with Jordan Goldberg serving as co-producer. The film is based upon characters appearing in comic books published by DC Comics. Batman was created by Bob Kane.

*Some of the film's plot elements might already be familiar to the comic book fan audience. Readers kindly be informed on the distinct lack of the film's source material knowledge behind this opinion.

Nolan has been a featured filmmaker of contemporary times with due credits to his highly acclaimed takes on the DC Comics' superhero. He has shown fans what a superhero film could and should be with the inspirational Batman Begins in 2005, followed by the highly satisfying The Dark Knight in 2008. While the former anchored much of its focus around the inception of Batman, the later pivoted much about a driven villain. And they both proved to be effective and never has the world been exposed to a highly relevant superhero in the modern society.

The Dark Knight Rises, however, doesn't seem to have a selling point like its predecessors.

Possibly due to its very ambitious screenplay by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan (story also co-developed by David S. Goyer), the already long running screentime of nearly three hours did not provide ample time for everything that Nolan has planned for. There's the thematic message of civil chaos and sociopolitical debate, together with personal endeavours and moral values (such as justice and rightfulness), crowded by the shoulders of responsibility to deliver action and satiable climatic conclusion to Nolan's masterpiece trilogy. It of course by now, includes values from the performance of its cast to visual and sound effects.

It is never easy to outdo what is already considered an already accomplishing masterpiece.

The film features a lot of its central villain, Bane (played by Tom Hardy), but lacks credible character detailing for the audience to buy into his intentions and motivations. What drives Bane into becoming such a vicious and powerful agent of crime, who dares to confront the Dark Knight and competently cast him away to certain failure. The failure that will rightly address the film's title and highlight Bruce Wayne's late father's words of wisdom ("Why do we fall, son? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up"). Indeed, Batman picks himself up from certain doom, but it all materialises within a flash or two and too quick for us to appreciate it well.

Nolan's film does not only revolve around these two central figures, there's more. Many more. There's the clean-energy enthusiastic businesswoman Miranda Tate (played by the underused Marion Cotillard), the reprise of Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, Michael Caine as the Wayne's butler Alfred (with his most emotional performance in the trilogy), and Morgan Freeman as Batman's weaponry R&D inventor Lucious Fox (with sadly, much less wits in his dialogue). There's just too much to explore with too short a time span, so there really is no blame here.

Exceptions are noted in the shifty Selina Kyle (played by the apt Ann Hathaway) who looks as gorgeously dangerous as her cat-burglary skill-set. Hathaway seems to be the only one who has managed to breathe some personality into her role. The other one who comes the closest might be Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays the driven young Detective John Blake, who's true character destiny will be further revealed as part of the film's plot surprises.

Oh yes, there will be plot twists.

Despite its debatable plot theme on civil sociopolitical change, the second half does give rise to spectacular set pieces such as the explosive urban city destruction and the mass street brawl. These are both delivered by commendable visual effects (by Double Negative) and production design (Nathan Crowley and Kevin Kavanaugh). The art conceptual design team has already done much with the cool Batman gadgetry envied by many (in case you've taken the impression that Lucius Fox did them).

Not to forget how the amazing IMAX footage truly engages one's vision and senses to instill cinematic epicness. 

In a way, the film's central mayhem is yet again driven by the already defeated Ra's Al Ghul in spirit, which didn't cater very much to liking as it does feel like a reuse of previous elements. While it is possibly an attempt to tie up ends of a central story concept and keeping affairs close to heart, it also allows the film to become less imaginative that's highly expected by the trilogy's ever-growing audience base.

There are some things, however, that feels good to be implemented. Batman being out of physical combat fitness due to peacetime is something that keeps Batman (or rather Bruce Wayne) dearer to humanity, which also aligns the idea of Batman as a symbol of hope that the city can rally behind and draw inspiration from. Batman is beyond its physical entity and can be channeled through anybody, not just Bruce Wayne.

For that, we salute the epic conclusion to the grand trilogy orchestrated by Nolan. Even despite its flaws, like how Batman falters in light of mortal constraints.

(We like to express our condolences to those victimised by the Aurora Colorado incident as well as their loved ones. Cinema should never be tainted by such cold blood brutality and we condemn them.


  1. Excellent review, but for me this was an A. There were no huge flaws. As a writer, I felt every single character was done to perfection, fully realized and fully developed. The threads were laid out for Bane in Batman Begins, he is the new leader of the League of Shadows. You knew at the end of Batman Begins that there would be hell to pay after the death of Ras al Ghul. It was only a matter of time. Revenge is a dish best served cold and Miranda served it up well. Marion was onscreen as much as say Katie or Maggie in the first two films.

    Selina was the best character here. She stole the entire film in my opinion with her incredible lines, fight scenes and attitude.

    Does it surpass the Dark Knight? No, but then Jedi is weaker than Empire as Return of the King is weaker than The Two Towers.

  2. @Melissa: Much agreed with some of your points and well-taken.

    Perhaps Kyle was so distinct that she stole some limelight away from characters like Bane. Could feel his wraith and strength as a villain, but wish there could be more of him. Then again, could the Joker be too good in comparison?.

    Thinking much into your comment on "revenge is a dish best served cold and Miranda served it up well". Gets me thinking and might warrant a second look to reassess.

    Thanks for ever being so kind in providing a second opinion Melissa, it always helps :)

  3. Great review!

    Actually, yeah, a number of reviewers didn't give much night ratings for TDKR, maybe because of overly-high expectations. But, for me, it was really good. Epic actually. Chris Nolan did it again! :D

    Check out my review too. Thanks!


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