Saturday, July 21, 2012
Movie Reviews: The Dark Knight Rises
This is it folks, the big one, the one we've been waiting all year for. Now that The Dark Knight Rises has hit theaters, what's the verdict?
Well, and this is hard for me to say, it's not as good as The Dark Knight. Now to be fair, I think everyone expected there was no way Rises could live up to its older brother. But I imagine that everyone, myself included, held the hope that Nolan would surprise us as much as he did with TDK. Which, when you get down to it, was probably unfair, and will color the opinion I, and others, have of TDKR.
With this in mind I'll try to be as objective in my review of the movie as possible and view it in light of what it means to movie making as a whole and as just a movie.
TDK was such a surprise because nobody expected anything as amazing as Heath Ledger's performance. Such a performance, coupled with a great script and direction was what produced what many consider the greatest superhero movie of all times. TDKR had one major handicap from the begining, the lack of Heath Ledger, or any real contender for such a powerful performance. While there was a ton of speculation that Anne Hathaway might surprise us with an amazing performance, I think that while she was a much better Selina Kyle than I could have hoped for, there's still the fact that she was overshadowed by Ledger's performance. No matter how good she was, everyone would always remember Ledger just because his performance came out of nowhere.
So, since we do not have a performance to compare to Ledger, it's best if we examine the movie based solely on the elements that can be controlled. The story and directing, and to an extent the editing as well.
Overall I'd have to say that TDKR suffers from the same symptom so many other Hollywood movies suffer from, lack of proper editing and tight storytelling. Ever since The Lord of the Rings trilogy Hollywood has been releasing much longer movies. This often leads to sloppy storytelling. Instead of a tight hour and a half to two hour long movie we now have bloated three hour monstrosities. Sometimes this works, but I think TDKR is a bit closer to the bad end of that spectrum. The second act especially could have used a fair bit of trimming to make the story overall much stronger.
Another problem is that there was a bit of a lack of focus. Bruce Wayne/Batman only really features heavily in the first and third act. The second act focused heavily on the John Blake character. And while he becomes significant towards the end of the movie, during the second act I couldn't help but wonder, "Who is this guy, and why am I watching him instead of Batman?" It's a bit of a pet peeve, and one that could have easily been resolved by cutting down on the second act. Also, changing his name. There are several characters in the source material that he is meant to emulate, so I think it would have been a nice touch to actually use one of the proper names rather than create a new character for the part.
What would have also helped the second act would have been a clearer focus for Bane's plan. It seems strange that he would want to rule the city if he was just going to destroy it anyway. Though, I suppose that his real motivation was to expose Gotham for the corrupt place that it truly was before he destroyed it. It's circular reasoning, and not something that was directly stated in the film, but considering that he was carrying out R'as al Ghul's mission to destroy Gotham, I could see him making Gotham suffer before ultimately destroying it. It makes sense to me, but his motivation isn't exactly stated during the movie itself.
The problem with Bane's voice, brought up in early screenings, was still present in the movie. Not that it was hard to understand him, but that his voice just doesn't fit the character. It distracts early on in the movie, but towards the end I had gotten accustomed to it, so I guess there's little to complain about there.
TDKR felt very different from its predecessors. Whether this is a good or a bad thing I can't really say. I enjoyed the movie, I just don't think it was quite as strong as I was hoping it would be. There were quite a few flaws, mostly dealing with editing and storytelling, but the dialogue was strong and the characters were well fleshed out, with only a few possible exceptions. And while Anne Hathaway can't quite match Ledger's peformance in TDK she was still amazing in the role. Best Catwoman as far as I'm concerned, pity she wasn't present in the movie more.
I'm a bit at a loss as to what exactly to say. Most of my complaints do have root in my expectations, but I still feel that there were some serious flaws in this movie's pacing. Considered as a whole I was satisfied with TDKR but during the movie there was more than once that I felt dissatisfied with what I was watching. I'm going to have to watch it again to solidify my opinion, but in the course of writing this review I went from being mostly critical to mostly satisfied. Yes TDKR wasn't as good as TDK but it was still a good ending to an amazing trilogy. And complaining that it isn't as good as TDK is like complaining that Return of the Jedi isn't as good as The Empire Strikes Back. Both RotJ and TDKR are good endings for a trilogy, and both are preceeded by the best movie in the trilogy. TDKR is still a great movie, if inherently flawed on several levels. I'd have loved to end the trilogy on a higher note than TDK but I can't say I'm dissatisfied with what Nolan gave us.