Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) directed by Christopher Nolan

Now that I am probably the last person to see this movie in a theatre and to write a review of it long after all the hype, here's my thoughts on the latest Batman movie.

This sequel to The Dark Knight is set eight years later. Gotham City has been more or less cleaned up by the police force under the able direction of Commissioner Gordon, riding on the iconic value of Harvey Dent's post-mortem lionization. The Dent Act has been passed that allowed the police to imprison those suspected of organized crime. Harvey Dent Day memorializes the supposed heroics of Dent and buoys up the spirits of Gothamites across the city.

All this, of course, is built on the lie that Dent saved the city and The Batman killed him. Dent actually went on a killing spree after he became Two-Face and almost killed Police Commissioner Gordon's son right in front of him. Batman saved the son and Dent died. Gordon and Batman decided that Gotham's citizens need the "white knight" image of Harvey Dent or they would despair and keep following the vigilante example of The Batman. Batman chose to take the fall for Dent's crimes and the blame for his death. He has disappeared for eight years. Bruce Wayne has become reclusive and uninvolved, hiding in a wing of Wayne Manor while the world goes by.

Until events push him back into the public. His fingerprints and his mom's pearl necklace are stolen by sultry burglar Selina Kyle (who winds up as Catwoman, though she never goes by that name in the movie); Wayne Enterprises is falling apart; a new menace appears in the form of an enigmatic terrorist named Bane. Much like the Joker in the previous film, Bane seems bent on the destruction of all that is good in Gotham.

Like previous entries in Nolan's Batman films, the plot is fairly complicated and deals with larger political and moral issues. While the plot isn't hard to follow, a bit too much is thrown into the mix. Some points (both minor and major) fly by too quickly while others are dragged out too long. The political issues (like the mirroring of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Patriot Act) are interesting but may be too topical. Will this movie still seem relevant in 10 or 20 years or will it look like a product of its times? The Dark Knight deals with similar political and moral issues but they are handled with a more timeless feel, i.e. the Prisoner's Dilemma will still be relevant in the decades to come. I appreciate Nolan's large ambitions but the execution in this film can't support the dramatic weight. He's close but he doesn't quite hit the mark like he did with the previous Batman film.

The action sequences are very exciting and well edited. The score is too heavy-handed at times. Instead of underlining the emotion of a scene, it is blared at the viewer. The actors do a fine job, though poor Michael Caine is stuck with either moping or guilting. On the other hand, Anne Hathaway gives a great performance in a well written and well rounded role, something you wouldn't expect for Catwoman. The overall look of the film is great. And I did enjoy watching it and it has provided a lot of fodder for later thoughts and reflections.

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