tek's rating:

The Dark Knight Rises (PG-13)
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Caution: spoilers.

This is the third and final movie in Christopher Nolan's trilogy that began with Batman Begins and continued with The Dark Knight. There's been a lot of talk in the media about how each movie works on its own, but how they also fit together as part of a whole story arc. Which is certainly true. I'd say most of the movie seems like a direct sequel to The Dark Knight, though later on it seems more like a sequel to Batman Begins. But throughout the movie, I just kept thinking there was too much going on, it was too complicated. It made me long for the days when Hollywood made simpler movies... like Nolan's own Inception. (But then I tell myself, the book I'm writing is probably more complicated than anything I complain about being too complicated... so I really shouldn't complain.) To be honest, I have mixed feelings about the movie. It's hard to say I enjoyed it, per se... There were some moments I found entertaining, in various ways. It had funny moments, and some cool action (though perhaps not as much as one might expect, in this kind of movie). It had plenty of drama... maybe even too much. But then, the movie is trying to tell a more serious story than your typical superhero movie, and it's a good story. If you can figure out what the hell's going on and how it all ties together. Another thing the media has talked a lot about is how it can be impossible to make out some of the things the main villain, Bane, says, because of the muzzle-like mask he wears. And that is a very legitimate complaint, but then, I found it impossible to make out some of the things anyone in the movie said, just because the theater I saw it in hasn't got the best sound system. So that kind of detracts from the drama. I might like the movie more if I saw it at home on DVD, but... I'm not sure I liked it enough to bother. At least not for several years.

Anyway... the movie is set eight years after The Dark Knight, in which Batman took the blame for crimes committed by Two-Face (aka District Attorney Harvey Dent), and disappeared. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne became a recluse. And Commissioner James Gordon has been feeling guilty over going along with the lie of allowing the public to believe Batman was guilty. But he and Batman did so because the public needed someone to believe in, and that someone was (the late) Harvey Dent. Now there are like a thousand criminals in Blackgate prison, thanks to the Dent Act, which gave the police greater freedom to act against the mob.

Alfred wants Bruce to move on with his life, now that he's no longer Batman, but Bruce is unwilling to do so. Though one night, a cat burglar named Selina Kyle steals his late mother's pearl necklace. (Btw, comic fans know Selina Kyle as Catwoman, though she's never called by that name in this movie. She does eventually start dressing in a somewhat catlike manner, but it seems a fairly minor affectation.) Bruce finally leaves his mansion to get the necklace back, but also he's concerned because when he examined his safe, he realized Selina had lifted his finger prints from it, which was the real purpose of the robbery. She later sells his prints to John Daggett, who has a plan to take over Wayne Enterprises. Bruce's company (which is run by Lucius Fox) has not been doing well lately, since Bruce had invested heavily in a project to create a new power source, a fusion reactor designed by Miranda Tate. Or actually it was designed by Fox, I guess, though it was Tate's pet project. Or something. Anyway, three years ago Bruce shut the project down after hearing that a Russian nuclear physicist named Dr. Pavel had developed a way to turn such a reactor into a nuclear bomb. So... the costly project was a failure (Bruce let everyone believe there were design problems that couldn't be resolved.)

Meanwhile, Dr. Pavel had been abducted at the start of the movie by a villain named Bane, and his henchmen. And it turns out Bane has ties to John Daggett. So Bane's group came to Gotham, ostensibly to help Daggett with his plans, but actually Bane had a plan of his own. I don't want to get into it too much, but it involves stealing the fusion reactor and forcing Dr. Pavel to modify it into a bomb. Ultimately, Bane's plan is far more epic than those of most supervillains in comic book movies, which makes the story more interesting, but also harder to relate to. Not that I can relate to much of anything in typical comic book movies, but, you know... I'm used to (and therefore comfortable with) smaller-scale villainy, in these sorts of movies. This was more like a movie about a political terrorist than superhero vs. supervillain. Still, Bane apparently thinks of himself as a good guy (as terrorists generally do), and believes what he's doing is for the good of the people of Gotham. I feel like certain aspects of the movie were set up to make it seem like he had a point, but honestly, I don't think the movie did a good job of making that believable. It's rendered even less believable by the fact that a kangaroo court that gets set up by the people is presided over by Jonathan Crane (aka the Scarecrow, though he only appears as himself in this movie, not as his villainous alter ego).

Anyway, a lot happens in the movie (in fact I think it would have been even better if events were spread out over an entire season of a TV show, instead of a movie). Much of it seems disjointed, but it all (or most of it) fits together, even if it takes awhile to see how. I should say that at one point, Gordon gets shot, and spends much of the movie in the hospital. But he does eventually get out, and plays an important part in the fight against Bane's army. There's also a young cop named John Blake, who gets promoted to detective. He has a tragic backstory which mirrors Bruce Wayne's (except for the being rich part), and he believes in Batman's innocence. And... he's just a smart, determined, good guy. It seems important for there to be regular people fighting the bad guys, instead of just someone like Batman (who does eventually reappear to start fighting Bane, btw). The whole point of Batman, in these movies, was to serve as a symbol for ordinary people to look up to (at least until taking the fall for Dent), and Blake seems like the embodiment of exactly what Bruce had hoped to accomplish in the first place. I'm leaving out some major plot developments about things that happen to both Gotham City and Bruce. Things get monumentally bad on both the epic and personal scales, which makes for great drama. The farther a person (or city) falls, the greater the challenge of, you know, rising. Which I guess makes it all the more rewarding when one does rise. Most of the movie is depressing, though, and one can't help but wonder if the good guys will even win, in the end. It seems like any time they take a step forward, the bad guys force them to take a step back.

I'm not going to say how it ends. I thought it was a decent ending, though maybe not one that fans of comic book movies might entirely appreciate. It's clearly the sort of ending to be expected of... the kind of story Nolan set out to tell, with his trilogy. A story with a beginning, middle, and end, unlike comic books, which essentially never end. Although... I did feel like certain aspects of the ending seemed a bit more positive than I would have expected of the story Nolan seemed to be telling, even if I could imagine some people seeing the end as more negative than they might like. Also it seems like there's room for the story to be continued... sort of. At least, a new saga could be set up, which seems odd given how final the movie is supposed to be. (On the other hand, just because a new story is set up doesn't mean it needs to be told. The audience can simply infer certain things may happen, and leave it at that.) Like the movie as a whole, I have mixed feelings about certain aspects of the ending. But basically... decent.

I'll also say that I feel this movie strays more than the others from the comics (though all three did some diverging). All three movies make an attempt to be more realistic and, you know, less comic book-y, than most such movies. But I felt like the first one especially was faithful to the comics, in spite of that realism. And that's why it was my favorite. And perhaps the divergence from the comics is why this is my least favorite of the three films... though mostly I think the reason for that is just how convoluted and... almost boring the movie could be, at times. It gets more interesting and exciting the further into it you go, of course. But there's a lot of setting up to wade through. And as I said, there's also a lot of dialog I just completely missed. Bane, I must say... is quite different from how I'm used to him. Which isn't really a bad thing. Actually, he seems more intellectual, more philosophical, than in other incarnations of the character. He was a good villain, but he would have been better if I could have made out more of the things he said. As for Cat- uh, Selina- she was, as is often the case in various adaptations of the comics, not really a villain at all, in spite of technically being a criminal. I thought she was fairly well played, but my feelings about how she was utilized by the story are somewhat mixed. Oh... also, I meant to say I feel like the plot of the movie is something of a mishmash of various stories from the Batman comics of the last few decades, though mostly those are story arcs I was aware of, but didn't really get a chance to read. (This may sound like a contradiction from my saying the movie strayed from the comics, but... mainly by that I meant Bane's origins, and possibly a few little things like... a certain implication about Blake at the end, which I don't want to spoil.)

Well... I don't want to spoil any of the twists (at least one of which I found predictable, but probably only because I was aware beforehand that a certain character was supposed to be in the movie, but didn't appear to be). I'll just conclude by saying it's a good movie, and I might turn out to like it more on a repeat viewings, if I ever get around to that. (I really cannot stand the idea of saying I want a movie to be less thinky or talky, and more actiony. Because I'm usually all about the thinky and talky.) But for now... I'm just sort of like, "Okay, well that happened."

comic book movies

Batman Begins * The Dark Knight * The Dark Knight Rises