A few weeks ago, I made two huge mistakes. One, I admitted to my circle of geek friends that though the trailers looked good, I wasn’t excited to see The Dark Knight Rises. Then, I compounded that error by saying that I thought Batman Begins was boring. Holy Shitstorm, Batman. You’d have thought I went over to their houses and took a piss in their fridges.
So let me be clear: I did not say that I didn’t want to see TDKR or that I wouldn’t see it, just that I wasn’t as enthused as I felt I should have been. I think I was still basking in the glow of making sweet, sweet love to The Avengers five times that I didn’t have eyes for anyone else. I still stand behind my other statement. Batman Begins was boring as hell. But that’s okay. It’s an origins film and those tend to be slow at the start with all that, you know, origins going on. While I loved The Dark Knight with an almost inappropriate passion, Batman Begins put me to sleep every time I watched it. Some elements of the trailers for TDKR reminded me of BB. I got the vibe that there’d be a lot of story (which is fine) since it was the finale.
But despite my fears, I found myself getting swept up in Dark Knight Fever with everyone else.
And I need not have worried.
The Dark Knight Rises begins seven years after The Joker (Heath Ledger) wreaked havoc on Gotham. The city has since enjoyed years of no organized crime thanks to the Harvey Dent Law, named after their hero whose virtuous reputation was preserved thanks to the lies of Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman). Living with the ghosts of his lies has obviously taken a toll on Gordon, who struggles with revealing the truth: Harvey Dent was a disfigured mad man in the end and he killed the crooked police officers, not the city’s pariah, Batman, who hasn’t been seen since the night Dent died. Also, MIA is billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), rumored to be holed up in a wing of his manor, sporting 8″ nails and pissing in mason jars while his company is slowly run into the ground. Though his self-induced exile isn’t that extreme, it’s pretty damn close. Our boy Wayne is looking rough and still in mourning over the death of Rachel, last played by Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Enter Bane (Tom Hardy, Inception), a masked, excommunicated member of The League of Shadows. You know if he’s too extreme for that band of crazies, he’s probably pretty fucking nuts. And he is. But he’s also organized. Maybe a little too organized if you look at the badass, but over-the-top, plane crash/jail break which opens the film, but I digress. Like the Cylons, Bane has a plan: Bring the ruckus to Gotham. His plan involves working with a shady businessman to get control of Wayne Industries, crash the stock market, get his hands on Bruce Wayne’s secret toys, and hold the city hostage with the threat of a nuclear bomb. And that’s just the first hour!
Of course, this is more than enough to push Wayne out of retirement. Well, that plus the sexy cat burglar, Selena Kyle a.ka. Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) – though she’s never referred to as such in the film. A Bane associate tasked her with getting the goods on Wayne, and she soon finds herself in the middle of the impending war between Bane and Batman. Despite Alfred’s (Michael Caine) concerns that he will Batman himself into an early grave, Wayne suits up with his bad knees, back, and yes, even brain, to take on Bane.
It’s difficult to say more without giving away major spoilers. (Hint: Pay attention to the scars.) The story is weaved together nicely and every connection is significant: Lucius Fox’s (Morgan Freeman) foresight in keeping his weapon developments secret, Miranda Tate’s (Marion Cottilard, Inception) sudden rescue of Wayne Industries, and the return of several familiar faces from BB and TDK.
Though I side-eyed the casting of Hathaway, her Catwoman was pretty badass. She was more Scarlett Johanssen in The Avengers than any previous Catwoman. In fact, she made Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal look like a declawed mewling kitten by comparison. Another nice addition was Joseph Gordan-Levitt (Inception) as police officer Blake, a former orphan who idolizes both Gordon and Batman, and never believes for a second that Batman was guilty of murdering Dent or the other police officers, and still believes that he is the key to saving Gotham from Bane and itself.
My issues are few and quite small: Why would people worry about the release of Gotham’s criminals prosecuted under the Dent Law once it’s revealed that Dent was a bit loco, especially considering the source of the revelation and when it comes out? Also, they show you the ending at the beginning, though thanks to a later revealed plot twist, the co-star in the ending isn’t who you might think it would be halfway through the movie. Finally, I get that the mask on Bane’s face added to this creepiness, but I felt a disconnect with him and the voice. We all know that it wasn’t really James Earl Jones in the Darth Vader suit, but it worked. Here, I was very much aware that the actor playing Bane was Tom Hardy, but the voice didn’t match – it sounded like Sean Connery. Also, there weren’t enough closeups of him for my taste so that we could get an impression of his acting with the few features of his face that were visible. Because of this, I was left feeling like the villain was as dangerous as the final boss in a video game: all heavy footsteps and predictable power moves.
Again, those are just tiny issues with a movie that was, overall, pretty fucking fantastic. I know there will be comparisons to The Avengers and people will want to say which is better. Honestly, it all boils down to – as does everything – subjective tastes. Personally, I dig the ‘popcorn movies’ that are not too heavy on plot, lots of flash and color, and shit blowing up. The Avengers delivered that and managed to have a pretty decent plot and snappy dialogue. I bow before thee, Joss Whedon. Stylistically, they’re different movies, yet both awesome. I refuse to put one above the other. A cop out? Perhaps. But it’s my site and I do what I want!