Well i will say this is the fastest i’ve pumped out reviews in a while, but i figured the time was right and all my thoughts were more or less organised so that i could write my definitive take on these movies.
After i had finished watching the The Dark Knight and been disappointed by it and honestly myself, i promised myself that i would never hype or follow any film closely. I would be content with knowing what date a certain film was coming and watch the trailer only, no interviews, no on set visits, no obsessing over anything. These rules have largely been the status quo for six years and it has produced wonderful results.
I kept myself completely in the dark about Rises, i paid no attention to any news or speculation. Some things were unavoidable, like watching the teaser and trailer a few times, and seeing that first picture of Bane, but i would never dwell on them. I knew most people would probably be as dissatisfied as i was with The Dark Knight Rises as i had been with The Dark Knight because everyone else would be clinging onto any news about it and the hype and expectations would rise so high that it would never be able to live up to them.
When it did come out, i waited a few weeks before i went to see Rises and i didn’t read any reviews, and i avoided talking to people about it as much as i could, i just went when it was convenient for me to go. My self-control paid off, and when i walked out of the film i had a growing sense of satisfaction and yes that all so important sense of exhilaration was there.
I find it much easier now to ignore movie news thanks largely to the lesson i learned with The Dark Knight. I really wasn’t in a hurry to watch The Avengers, and i’ve missed out on Iron Man 3, Thor 2, and will probably not bother with the rest and just settle for watching Age of Ultron when it comes out, and honestly i’m much happier for it. Not everyone can do this, but its the best thing for me.
These types of films always leave the best impressions when the villain of the story is well, good for a lack of a better term. Heath Ledgers Joker is so monolithic that a comparison between the villain roles in all of the films is to be expected, and i quite honestly believe Tom Hardy’s Bane can easily stand favourably with Ledger’s Joker, in the history of Batman villains. Hardy (being the talented actor he is) clearly put a lot of thought into how to make Bane come to life much like Ledger did, and for the most part focuses on making Bane physically intimidating but also brutally sophisticated. Much like Joker, Hardy’s Bane steals every scene he is in with a combination of physical performance and unique vocalisation, and coupled with how weak and out of touch Bruce is in comparison Bane truly becomes a very dangerous and threatening presence that is felt throughout the entire film.
Thematically i also find Rises to be more interesting than The Dark Knight (which may be one of the reasons i was disappointed with the latter). I find the theme of pain both emotional and physical to be a much more engaging thematic drive than chaos. Chaos is just chaos to me, and invites no real thought or will to expend the effort to do so as it is wasted effort by the very nature of the subject matter. Pain however is more personal and more relatable than chaos as hopefully we have all felt it in our lives. “Suffering creates character”, says one of the characters here, and it is most certainly right. Here in Rises Bruce Wayne suffers the most he ever has, everyone he loves or holds dear has left or leaves him, his strength is sapped as he lets pain take over his life and is physically brutalised for it. But despite this he finds the strength to set aside this pain and complete his journey, and it is this that shows that Bruce Wayne was truly meant to be the hero he is.
With the thematic focus being more personal in nature i found myself actually caring and rooting for Bruce just like how i did throughout Batman Begins. This was most evident by my long-awaited scene of Alfred walking out on Bruce, i’ve lost father figures (not remotely in this way but that doesn’t matter) and i always wanted to see what Batman would do without Alfred there to guide him. I have never seen Batman this alone, and naturally i sympathise with him.
(some spoilers here)
All of the above would make The Dark Knight Rises head an shoulders better than The Dark Knight if it weren’t for that damned twist ending. How the writers managed to build up effectively over the course of three films a growing sense of finality and tragedy and flush it all down the toilet is truly head scratching. Having Miranda Tate revealing herself as Talia Al Ghul adds nothing to the plot in fact it serves to confuse and muddle up a number of things that happened previously (like Bane being born in prison and saying so himself, although he could just be lying but that really robs him of a lot of his intrigue). Most heinous of all is letting Bruce Wayne still be alive by the end, as that destroys everything the series has been building up to and hurts his growth as a heroic figure.
The bad writing doesn’t stop with just the inclusion of the unnecessary twists, and while the film doesn’t have anywhere near as many plot holes and contrivances that the rest of the internet has decided it has, it nonetheless starts to stretch itself dangerously close to being ridiculous at times (the way that Batman’s back was “fixed” honestly takes a lot of assumption on my part to accept). However i will admit that i wasn’t aware of them during my first viewing.
Hans Zimmer delivers a score here that much like the rest of the entire series is very much bereft of any development. Quite literally if you’ve heard the score to one of these films you’ve heard them all. None of the promised development of the main theme has come about, all the action scene ques have been recycled and as a result the score is for the most part dead in the water, and most disturbingly this is continues to be the norm for a once very engaging composer.
When The Dark Knight Rises hits its high points the film really soars for me. It’s a far more personal experience and is therefore more engaging for me. However while i was able to ignore its flaws during my first few viewings, repeated exposure to them really starts to chip away at my first impressions.
However while i can’t say that it is a better film than The Dark Knight, i liked it more, and yes that reason alone is enough for me to say it is a great cap off to a solid series of films.
**** OUT OF FIVE
I hold a bit of a fascination about the ending of things, stories in particular. How a story ends i feel is the most important part of a story, as i had stated in my review of The Desolation of Smaug that a story without an ending can really have no meaning. After all, all the intrigue and conflict in acts one and two would be ultimately pointless if it just stopped instead of ended. This fascination with endings is something i’ve had for almost as long as i can remember, i used to as a child flip to the last page of any book i picked up (text books, novels, etc.) not to spoil the ending but to see what the last sentence of the book would be, i even looked up and read about the last episode of Friends (anyone who knows me will find that quite strange), even though i had no investment in the show in fact i have contempt for it. But i was curious as to how it would end. With all of this in mind, hopefully it is clear as to why i was always going to like Rises more than The Dark Knight.