Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

By Matthew Huntley

July 27, 2012

I love a woman with a whip.

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That’s the movie’s central plot, which is not unlike plots we’ve seen in other comic book movies or even the James Bond pictures. But as familiar as it may seem, it’s surrounded by richly drawn characters and elaborate action sequences, which provide a genuine rush and work at keeping us on edge. Once again, Nolan delivers stupendous chase scenes around the city with Batman speeding around on his motorcycle and, for the first time in the series, flying in the air with his helicopter on steroids. Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Bruce’s loyal friend and head of Wayne Enterprises’ Applied Sciences division, appropriately calls his new toy The Bat.

Among the new characters is a brave, hotheaded police officer named Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who explains to Bruce that he knows the pain of being an orphan but still clings to hope that things can always change for the better. The same goes for Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a philanthropist and Bruce’s new love interest, who wants to provide the city with a sustainable energy source. Bruce shows her his company’s breakthrough fusion reactor and entrusts her to watch over it because he knows it could just as well be turned into a weapon.

Eventually, everything and everyone culminates into (yet another) war fought between good and evil against a cold and dreary cityscape. This, too, we’ve seen before, but it’s so effectively executed that we feel it in our bones and there are several moments that shake us down to the core. At one point, when Gotham’s police officers start running toward Bane and his gang of ruthless criminals, part of me felt like cheering and I wanted to run with them. The movie is that good at putting the audience in the middle of the action and making us feel like we’re a part of it. And when Batman and Bane come face-to-face, the violence hits us hard.


Many consider The Dark Knight to be an inimitably great film, but one thing Rises does better is balance the hero and villain’s screen time. In the last film, Batman’s personal story and drama were overshadowed and put on the backburner next to the Joker’s, but here, both Batman and Bane are developed and the screenplay by Nolan and his brother Jonathan flushes them out equally, seeing neither in terms of simple black and white. Amidst all the action and violence, the film manages to bring forth a good deal of substance. Overall, it’s not quite as thought provoking as the previous installment, but it still pays off handsomely.

I recently watched the first two films in the trilogy in order to prep myself for the third one (as I’m sure a lot of people did, or will), and I found myself re-admiring how many turns each of the plots and drama took and how they didn’t merely settle for the usual structure that usually accompanies the superhero genre. Rises seems more willing to adhere to a traditional formula and survive on sensationalism, convenient plot devices and a somewhat standard twist to close out all the legacy’s remaining threads. Perhaps Nolan assumed he’d be giving fans what they want by ending it this way, and while the film entertains us immensely, Nolan has been better than this before and will no doubt be better than this again. Don’t get me wrong: Rises is exceptionally well-made and satisfying, but one of the lasting qualities of a Christopher Nolan movie - not just the Batman films - is they don’t just leave us satisfied. They give us more than we anticipate and often leave us in a state of deep reflection. Feeling satisfied is good; being left in a state of deep reflection is better.

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