The final installment in Chris Nolan’s trilogy of Batman films is a worthy ending to the series. It’s eight years after the events in The Dark Knight, and Bruce Wayne has become a recluse, with The Batman in retirement. He is dragged back into the world due to a plot against Gotham that unfolds via Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle (they don’t actually call her Catwoman). Kyle leads Wayne/Batman to Bane (played by Tom Hardy), a brilliant mercenary with a plan to destroy Wayne’s beloved city. Taking plotlines from Batman comics (like No Man’s Land and Broken Bat) worked really well. The plot is also an interesting comment on the Occupy and Tea Party movements.
I was lucky enough to see it in the IMAX --- special props to Collette Parks and the gang at the Regina Science Centre for inviting me down to see it for review. I especially liked when the manager came out before the show and told the crowd that they’d be periodically checking the theatre for lit up phones, and that they’d eject anyone disturbing the audience. It’s bizarre that people these days bring three-year-olds to a movie that’s not for kids, and then hand them smart phones to keep them quiet. It isn’t your living room, and the other theatregoers aren’t your babysitters, morons. And as a side note, in respect for the crowd in Aurora, Colorado, we all took a moment of silence before starting the film.
And seeing this movie in IMAX was remarkable. Nolan is my hero; his hate-on for 3D is as legendary as his embrace of the IMAX format, which is much more immersive than a cheap money-grabbing 3D conversion. Wally Pfister’s cinematography was insane and shooting much of the movie in IMAX meant that the big actions scenes were vast and stirring. There were even a few dialogue scenes that benefited from a screen that fills your field of vision. It felt like you were in the room with them --- at one point I noticed a character talking, and had to turn my head to see the next character’s response. So cool. The sound is also magnificent, and the way Nolan played with images vs. sounds (and Hans Zimmer’s score) brings some class to the action scenes --- no cheesy Michael Bay zooms and cuts to show us we’re watching an ‘action’ movie.
It is a pretty excellent cast --- Christian Bale is stellar as the tortured Wayne and the determined Bat. I would have liked to see more of Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon, and Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox mostly takes a back seat. Joseph Gordon Levitt is awesome as Detective Blake, but without giving you a spoiler, they take this character somewhere really cheap in the last few minutes. There may be a few too many characters milling around there, but it doesn’t fall into the ‘too much going on’ trap of other comic book sequels. And there are some amazing character driven scenes, especially conversations between Bruce Wayne and his butler Alfred (played to perfection by Michael Caine). It all added up to an emotional heft that most movies don’t hit, let alone comic book movies.
It’s not perfect, but it’s damn good. I liked The Dark Knight better, perhaps because the villains were stronger (I mean, how can you beat the Joker for an all around good time). This movie is also a lot grimmer, and while that is part and parcel for the Batman mythology, the second movie had a bit more life to it. Bane is cool, but Tom Hardy, a great actor, is somewhat constrained by the mask covering his face, and some people have commented that they couldn’t understand some of his lines.
It’s long, but never feels overly long (2 hours 44 mins). In fact, it was well paced and edited. While the movie goes bigger than it’s predecessors with the plot, rather than succumbing to the law of diminishing returns, action-wise, it didn’t do anything the first two movies didn’t already do. Wait…except when the Bat-pod does crazy turns, and the wheels flip around under it. I actually squealed when I saw that. My wife shook her head at my nerdiness.
All in all, The Dark Knight Rises is a very satisfying ending to a series of movies that proved that the best comic book movies are the ones the filmmakers take seriously. And that doesn’t always mean making it realistic and gritty. It just means they treat the characters and the material with respect. These characters endure for a reason. Fans love them for a reason. And if you can stick to those reasons, the masses will follow in their enjoyment, because you’ll have a first-rate movie.
4 and a Half Dorks out of 5 on the Geek-o-Meter.