❖ The Dark Knight Rises, without spoilers

This is a fraction of a review of The Dark Knight Rises. It is the no-spoilers version of a piece I want to write this week. But for the time being, priority is given to members of the audience trying to decide what to do now that another Christopher Nolan Batman film is playing keep-away with the public attention span.

Sure, you loved The Dark Knight, but how well do you remember Batman Begins? Do you remember much of Liam Neeson’s involvement?[1] The zig-zag narrative structure? If the first thing that came to mind when you thought of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies is Heath Ledger’s The Joker, there’s a chance you should refresh yourself on Begins before you go see Rises. I know, I’m giving you homework, I’m a horrible person. But trust me, it will prove useful. And if you don’t want to spend that much time, here’s the wikipedia plot summary.

The plot of Rises is equally influenced by both movies that came before it. I found this unusual for a comic book movie, because typically third films aren’t written to bookend and finish a series, even if they should have been. Maybe the fact that all the films are tightly connected helped Rises avoid The Curse of The Threequel (see Spider-Man, X-Men, Godfather). But with great reference to previous films comes great responsibility not to heavily rely on expository dialogue. This, is probably the biggest problem with the movie. When the dialogue starts to get too jammed together, a problem mostly found in the first hour of the film, the movie threatens to lose the audience’s focus and attentions.

Thankfully, with Morgan Freeman reprising the role of Lucius Fox, the Q. to Batman’s Bond, the action scenes are outfitted with some wonderful new toys that will have audiences ooh’s and ahh’s. I’m impressed by how much has been left out of the trailers, how much surprise was left for the audiences.


Tom Hardy is Bane

Heath Ledger’s frighteningly manic Joker was a wondrous anomaly – not a fluke – but impossible to replicate. In comparison, Tom Hardy’s Bane is much more controlled, and restrained experience. It’s not until Bane has his first fight scene, that audiences unfamiliar with the character from the comics learn to fear the big lug. Looking at the rogues gallery that Bale’s Batman has survived, though, the progression is logical. The only threat to a Batman who beat that Joker is a villain who is bigger, stronger, and faster. Bane serves a purpose to the film, but doesn’t hold attention in the same way. Not that I expected him to. Also, his jacket is crazy distracting and not fitting of his pseudo-99%er talk at all.

The other new entrants to the ensemble of this Batman trilogy – Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Marion Cotillard – all give good performances, though declining in that order, and most are overshadowed by Christian Bale giving his best performance of the series, probably knowing he has to carry this movie. 

Despite the issues the movie has, I enjoyed Rises quite a lot, and I recommend seeing it. If you’re wondering whether or not to see the film in IMAX, there’s an interesting problem that anecdotal evidence has complicated for me. Thanks to Nolan’s penchant for shooting scenes on cameras made explicitly for the IMAX screen, the movie is a beauty on a legitimate IMAX screen, but hearing it, though, is another story. As the trailers have demonstrated, Bane speaks through a mask that’s even worse for his voice than whatever Bruce Wayne does to his own voice when he dons the cape and cowl.

When I saw it in IMAX, it was at times a strain to understand what Bane was saying. A friend in Maine who saw the film at a normal theater understood him clearly throughout, and seemed to be more positive about Bane’s dialogue than I was. I’m probably going to see the film at a standard theater this week to put to test a theory that the soundsystem in an IMAX theater gives off too much bass, or the IMAX recording equipment picked up too much static noise, for the film’s own good.

The running time of the series has grown by 12 minutes with each movie, for what it’s worth, from 2 hours 20 minutes, to 2 hours 32 minutes, to 2 hours 44 minutes. Maybe this is unintentional by Nolan, but his film teaches that detectives aren’t supposed to believe in coincidences. I’m just of the opinion that directors are supposed to believe in editing. Now all that’s left is for audiences to prepare for one very big film. A very big film that tried to do a whole hell of a lot in too little time for their goals, but already more time than many may find fitting. 

I’ll be back later this week to pick at nits and sweat the small stuff.

[1]  Yes, Liam Neeson existed prior to TAKEN.