“THE DARK KNIGHT RISES” (2012) Review

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“THE DARK KNIGHT RISES” (2012) Review

Seven years after it began, Christopher Nolan’s three-movie saga about the D.C. Comics character, Batman, finally came to an end. The saga that began with 2005’s “BATMAN BEGINS”, ended with 2012’s “THE DARK KNIGHT RISES”.

This third film, set seven years after 2008’s “THE DARK KNIGHT”, began with the aerial kidnapping of a nuclear scientist by an escaped terrorist named Bane. The scene shifted to Gotham City, where a fund-raiser was being held at Wayne Manor. The only person missing was millionaire Bruce Wayne, who had given up his vigilante activities as Batman after claiming he had murdered former District Attorney Harvey Dent. During the fundraiser, Bruce caught a maid breaking into his private safe. She turned out to be a resourceful cat burglar named Selina Kyle. Aside from a necklace that once belonged to Bruce’s late mother, Selina did not steal any other object from the safe.

Curious over Selina’s actions, Bruce resumed his Batman alter ego and tracked down Selina. He discovered that she had been hired by a rival corporate CEO named John Daggett to lift and steal his fingerprints. Bruce also learned that Daggett had hired the terrorist Bane to attack Gotham’s stock exchange and bankrupt Wayne Enterprises. And along with Police Commissioner James Gordon and Wayne Enterprises executive Lucius Fox, Bruce also discovered that Bane was a former member of the League of Shadows and planned to continue Henri Ducard’s (aka Ra’s al Ghul) goal of Gotham City’s destruction. Bruce asked fellow millionaire Miranda Tate to take control of Wayne Enterprises to ensure that Daggett and Bane will not gain control of their clean energy project, a device designed to harness fusion power.

Re-reading the above made me realize that Christopher and Jonathan Nolan had created a very complicated plot. For me, the plot became even more complicated two-thirds into the movie. “THE DARK KNIGHT RISES” obviously exists under the shadow of its two predecessors – “BATMAN BEGINS” and “THE DARK KNIGHT”. I would say that this especially seemed to be the case for the 2005 movie. Batman and James Gordon’s decision to lie about the circumstances behind Harvey Dent’s death in the second movie had a minor impact upon this third movie. But Bruce’s relationship and later conflict with Ra’s al Ghul seemed to be the driving force behind his conflict with Bane in this third film.

I had heard rumors that Christopher Nolan was initially reluctant to make a third BATMAN movie. Personally, I found that rumor a bit hard to believe, considering how “THE DARK KNIGHT” ended with Batman accepting the blame for Harvey Dent’s crimes and death. But there were certain aspects of the script he wrote with his brother Jonathan that made me wonder if he had truly been reluctant. There were certain aspects of “THE DARK KNIGHT RISES” that I found troubling.

It seemed a pity that the second movie ended with Batman and Jim Gordon’s decision to lie about the circumstances behind Dent’s death. I found their decision unnecessary back in 2008 and I still do. The impact behind their lie proved to be hollow. It merely kept Batman off Gotham City’s streets and led Mayor Anthony Garcia and the city to pass a strong anti-criminal law that proved to be hollow following Bane’s arrival in Gotham City. I also found Bane’s mid-air kidnapping of a nuclear scientist and escape from a U.S. marshal (portrayed by Aidan Gillen) rather somewhat idiotic. I understood that Bane needed that scientist to weaponize the Wayne Enterprise device.  But I never understood why that U.S. marshal failed to take the trouble to identify the hooded prisoner (Bane) before boarding the plane.  In the end, the movie’s opening sequence struck struck me as unnecessarily showy. Was this the Nolan brothers’ way of conveying Bane’s role as a badass to the audience? If so, I was too busy trying to comprehend the villain’s dialogue to care. I understood why Batman had not been seen in Gotham for so long. But what was the reason behind Bruce Wayne’s disappearance from the public eye?  His physical state was not really that severe.  Rachel Dawes’ death? Rachel’s death did not stop him from going after the Joker and Harvey Dent in the last movie’s half hour. Was it an injured leg? How did he injured it? And why did Gotham’s citizens failed to put two-and-two together, when both Bruce and Batman finally appeared in the public eye a day or two apart after many years? The only person who managed to discover Bruce’s alter ego – namely Officer John Blake – did so through a contrived reason.

For me, the movie’s real misstep proved to be Bane’s three-month control over Gotham City. As a former member of Henri Ducard’s League of Shadows, he planned to achieve his former leader’s goal of destroying Gotham City. And he planned to use Wayne Enterprise’s energy device to achieve this. One – why not simply build or snatch his own nuclear device? Why go through so much trouble to get his hands on the energy device? Why did Wayne Enterprises create a device that not only saved energy, but could be used as a bomb, as well? And why did it take three months before the device could become an effective bomb? The Nolans’ script could have frustrated Bane’s attempts to acquire the bomb during that three-month period . . . or anything to spare the audiences of that second-rate version of the French Resistance. The latter scenario seemed so riddled with bad writing that it would take another article to discuss it. And what was the point of the presence of Juno Temple’s character Jen? What was she there for, other than being Selina’s useless and cloying girlfriend? And Wayne Enterprises executive Lucius Fox was last seen declaring his intentions to leave the corporation for good, following Batman’s misuse of cell phones in “THE DARK KNIGHT”. In this movie, he is back, working for Wayne Enterprises. What made him change his mind?

But not all was lost. I found Bruce’s introduction to Selina Kyle very entertaining and sexy. Even better, the incident served as Batman’s re-introduction to Gotham City and allowed him to discover Bane’s plans regarding Wayne Enterprises and the energy device. One of the more interesting consequences of “THE DARK KNIGHT” proved to be Rachel Dawes’ last letter to Bruce. Its revelation by Alfred Pennyworth after seven years led to an emotional quarrel between the millionaire and the manservant and their estrangement. At first, I had balked at the idea of Bane carrying out Ra’s al Ghul’s original goal to destroy Gotham. After all, why would he continue the plans of the very person who had him kicked out of the League of Shadows? But a surprising plot twist made Bane’s plan plausible . . . even when I continue to have problems with his three-month occupation of Gotham.

Many critics had lamented the lack of Heath Ledger’s Joker in the movie. As much as I had appreciated and enjoyed Ledger’s performance in the 2008 movie, I did not need or wanted him in “THE DARK KNIGHT RISES”. Tom Hardy’s performance as the terrorist Bane was good enough for me. Mind you, I found it difficult to understand some of his dialogue. And when I did, he sounded like the now aging Sean Connery. But I cannot deny that Bane made one scary villain, thanks to Hardy’s performance and intimidating presence. Before I saw the movie, I never understood the need for Marion Cotillard’s presence in the film. I thought her character, Miranda Tate, would merely be a bland love interest for Bruce. Not only did Cotillard ended up providing a subtle and intelligent performance, her Miranda Tate proved to be important to the story as the co-investor in the energy device and for the plot twist in the end.

“THE DARK KNIGHT RISES” provided some solid performances from other members of the cast. Matthew Modine shined as the ambitious and arrogant Assistant Police Commissioner Peter Foley, who proved to be capable of character development. Another solid performance came from Brett Cullen, who portrayed a lustful congressman that had the bad luck to cross paths with Selina Kyle. Both Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman continued their excellent performances as Bruce Wayne’s “heart” and “mind”, manservant Alfred Pennyworth and Wayne Enterprises executive Lucius Fox.

In the end, the movie was fortunate to benefit from four outstanding performances. One came from Gary Oldman’s excellent portrayal of the now weary, yet determined police commissioner, James Gordon. His guilt over the Harvey Dent lie and discovery of Batman’s true identity provided Oldman with some of his best moments in the trilogy. Another came from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who was superb as Gotham City beat cop John Blake. The actor did a wonderful job of balancing Officer Blake’s intelligence, passion for justice and disgust toward the bureaucracy.

When I learned that Anne Hathaway would end up being the fifth actress to portray Selina Kyle aka Catwoman, I must admit that I had my doubts. Then I remembered that Hathaway was an Oscar nominee (less than a year before she finally won her Oscar), who had also done action before. Watching her sexy, yet complicated performance as the complex cat burglar removed all of my doubts. She was superb and her sizzling screen chemistry with star Christian Bale made me wish Selina had been Bruce’s love interest throughout the movie. Speaking of Bruce Wayne, Bale returned to portray the Caped Crusader for the third and final time. I must admit that I found his performance more subtle and complex than his performances in the previous two movies. Bale did an excellent job in re-creating a slightly aging Bruce Wayne/Batman, who found himself faced with a more formidable opponent.

I was a little disappointed to see that “THE DARK KNIGHT RISES” lacked the Chicago exteriors of the 2008 movie. In the end, Gotham City resembled a collection of East Coast and British cities. But I cannot deny that I found Wally Pfister’s photography very eye catching. And Hans Zimmer’s entertaining score brought back memories of his earlier work in both the 2005 and 2008 movies.

I have a good deal of complaints about “THE DARK KNIGHT RISES”. It is probably my least favorite entry in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. For me, the movie’s main problem centered around the script written by Nolan and his brother Jonathan. But despite its flaws, the movie still managed to be both entertaining and intriguing. It also has an excellent cast led by the always superb Christian Bale. It was not perfect, but “THE DARK KNIGHT RISES” did entertain me.

 

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“FRANCHISE RANKING: The STAR TREK Movies”

Below is my ranking of the twelve “STAR TREK” movies from my favorite to my least favorite. The movies featured characters from “STAR TREK” (1966-1969) series and “STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION” (1987-1994):

FRANCHISE RANKING: THE “STAR TREK” MOVIES

1. “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986) – Even after so many years, I am still in love with this time travel tale in which the senior officers of the U.S.S. Enterprise go back in time to find a humpback whale, bring it back to 23rd century San Francisco and save the Alpha Quadrant. Leonard Nimoy directed and he co-starred with William Shatner and Catherine Hicks.

2. “Star Trek: First Contact” (1996) – Here is another time travel story that is a major favorite of mine. Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise-E go back to mid-21st Earth to prevent the Borg from conquering it. Director Jonathan Frakes also co-starred with Patrick Stewart, Alfrie Woodward, Alice Kriege and James Cromwell.

3. “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (1984) – Following Spock’s death in “The Wrath of Khan”, Kirk and his fellow senior officers steal the U.S.S. Enterprise and return to the planet Genesis in order to find Spock’s body and bond it with the half-Vulcan’s essence, which is inside Leonard McCoy’s body. Directed by Leonard Nimoy, the movie starred William Shatner, DeForest Kelley and Christopher Lloyd.

4. “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982) – James Kirk and his crew are reunited with an old foe from twenty years earlier, the genetically engineered Khan Noonien Singh. Directed by Nicholas Meyer, the movie starred William Shatner, Leonard McCoy, Ricardo Montalban, Kirstie Alley and Paul Winfield.

5. “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” (1991) – Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise must stop a plot to prevent a peace treaty between the Klingon Empire and the Federation. Directed by Nicholas Meyer, the movie starred William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Christopher Plummer, David Warner, Kim Cattrall and Brock Peters.

6. “Star Trek: Generations” (1994) – In this first movie to feature the “NEXT GENERATION” crew; Picard, with the help of supposedly dead James T. Kirk, must stop a madman willing to murder on a planetary scale in order to enter a space matrix. David Carson directed Patrick Stewart, Malcolm McDowell and William Shatner.

7. “Star Trek: Insurrection” (1998) – When Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-E learn of a Federation plot against the inhabitants of a unique planet, they begin an open rebellion. Director Jonathan Frakes co-starred with Patrick Stewart, Donna Murphy and F. Murray Abraham.

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8. “Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013) – Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise are charged with tracking down a renegade responsible for the murder of several Starfleet officers, including Admiral Christopher Pike and end up dealing with a conspiracy within Starfleet and an enhanced Human known as Khan. Sequel to J.J. Abrams’ 2009 film.

9. “Star Trek: Nemesis” (2002) – After the Enterprise-E is diverted to the Romulan planet of Romulus, supposedly because they want to negotiate a truce, the Federation soon find out the Romulans are planning an attack on Earth. Directed by Stuart Baird, the movie starred Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spinner, Tom Hardy and Ron Perlman.

10. “Star Trek” (2009) – Directed by J.J. Abrams, this reboot follows a young James T. Kirk and Spock, before they unite aboard the USS Enterprise to combat a Romulan from their future who threatens the United Federation of Planets. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana, Zoë Saldaña and Bruce Greenwood. The quality of the “TREK” films begin to waver around this point.

11. “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (1979) – In this lackluster tale, a mysterious and immensely powerful alien cloud called V’ger approaches Earth, destroying everything in its path and Admiral James T. Kirk assumes command of his old starship—the U.S.S. Enterprise to lead it on a mission to save the planet and determine V’ger’s origins. Directed by Robert Wise, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Persis Khambatta and Stephen Collins co-starred.

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12. “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” (1989) – In what I consider to be the worst “TREK” movie ever, Kirk and his crew must deal with Mr. Spock’s half-brother, who hijacks the Enterprise-A for an obsessive search for God. Director William Shatner co-starred with Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, David Warner and Laurence Luckinbill.