Dark Knight Rises A-
Christopher Nolan’s eagerly-awaited “The Dark Knight Rises,” the third and final chapter in the epic franchise that began a decade ago, is the most thrilling and satisfying spectacle this summer.
In helming the film, Nolan utilized IMAX cameras even more extensively than he did on “The Dark Knight,” which had marked the first time that a major feature film was even partially shot with the large-format cameras. Quite impressively, about half of the new picture is shot with large-format IMAX film cameras.
World premiering on July 20, “Dark Knight Rises” is presented on 70-millimeter film in 102 IMAX 15/70mm locations worldwide. I highly recommend that, if possible, you watch this supremely mounted picture in IMAX.
One of the most ambitious and gifted directors working in Hollywood today, Nolan has set his aims high for the conclusion of the “Batman” saga, spending time, energy, and other resources on developing a shapely narrative, which benefits from a dozen sharply etched characterizations.
End result is a massive, supremely mounted fantasy-action-adventure that fulfills expectations in every department, narrative, visual, emotional, and even socio-political. “Dark Knight Rises” is the kind of movie that only Hollywood can make, one that gives mainstream (dominant) cinema a good name—domestically and globally.
Unlike Nolan’s previous feature, “Ïnception,” which might have been too complex (and convoluted) for its own good, with dreams within dreams and often uneasy transitions from the conscious to the subconscious and unconscious levels, “Dark Knight Rises” has a simpler, shapelier, and more grounded narrative.
The screenplay, credited to Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, based on the story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, is a darkly satirical film noir, rich with ideas and characters.
For a Hollywood movie, especially one based on a comic strip, the narrative contains an extraordinary number of characters—over a dozen–most of which are individually developed and fully realized by the talented ensemble, which includes three generations of actors, from vets like Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman to newcomers to the series like Marion Cotillard.
For those who need a reminder, the last words spoken by Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) at the end of 2008′s “The Dark Knight” were: “Batman is the hero Gotham deserves but not the one it needs right now.”
The last, truly scary chapter, in large measure due to Heath Ledger’s seminal performance, which revolved around the Joker, set in motion a fateful conspiracy that labeled Batman a murderer and Harvey Dent—who died, unbeknownst to the public, as the vengeful Two-Face—a crime-fighting crusader who paid the ultimate price. As a result, Gotham City enacted tough new laws that put criminals behind bars or drove them beyond Gotham’s borders.
Which raises the politically relevant question, especially in this presidential elections year, of what kind of heroes society needs and deserves (it’s not the same thing, as the story makes clear), and also how heroes are created and then embraced, trusted, and supported by ordinary citizens.
The new tale is set almost a decade after “The Dark Knight.” More precisely, it’s been eight years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive.
Guilt-ridden, he assumes the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent. He’s frustrated too, for the cost and price were high: Dark Knight feels that he had sacrificed everything he had—and his considerable talents and skills–for what he and Commissioner Gordon hoped was the greater good, the collective welfare of the citizenship.
But, alas, the rewards to the hard work were only felt in the short run. For a time, the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act. However, things change dramatically wit the arrival of a cunning cat burglar, committed (in more senses than one) to a mysterious agenda.
There’s more bad news: Far more dangerous to Gotham and its populace is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans finally drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. Bane is a considerable foe, and Bruce is aware that even if he dons the cape and cowl again, he may be no easy match for Bane.
Despite the large number of characters, the focus of the story is on one haunted, angry, flawed man, Bruce/Batman, and his continuous, shifty journey, which often throws his life out of control.
The right actor for the right part: With his soulful eyes (when you see them), Bale plays the role as a tragic hero, a man who wants to feel “useful” again, and in the process find out who he really is, and realize his full potential.
As noted, when the story begins, he has lost the one thing that gave him a purpose and a meaning—that is until a new threat facing him and the whole city in the form of the ruthlessly merciless, also masked Bane, who makes his presence known to the citizens of Gotham with an explosive display of power.
As far as villains of the “Batman” series go, while the Scarecrow was an incredible madman and the Joker a frightening anarchist, Bane is a terrorist in both his mentality and his actions.
Strong, intelligent, and handsome, Tom Hardy plays Batman’s arch-nemesis in a way that’s both physically and psychologically intimidating, thus making the menace that he represents all the more realistic and dangerous.
Despite risks (and temptations) to turn the final chapter into a massive special-effects driven spectacle, the filmmakers maintain an admirable balance between thrilling action set-pieces and more intimate emotions, which are a result of the various interactions among the characters.
Brilliantly crafted and meticulously edited (shot by shot, bric a bric), “Dark Knight Rises” is a savvy, mature entertainment by filmmakers who know that, ultimately, what matters are not the number and size of explosions, but the moral, professional, and personal dilemmas of the protagonists.
Serious minded but not pretentious, morally urgent but not preachy, “Dark Knight Rises” is a rare summer blockbuster, one that provokes viewers of all ages, not just children and teenagers, to reflect on broader social problems of post-modern society.
By comparison, “The Avengers” (and other Marvel comic strip pictures) seems frivolous, childish, and sill, even though it’s well made and vastly entertaining. When you watch “The Avengers,” you felt as if the characters and actors who play them didn’t take themselves seriously–they were winking at the audience.
“Dark Knight Rises” asks the viewers to be taken more seriously, and it surely deserves it.
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