Wednesday, July 25

REVIEW: The Dark Knight Rises

Directed by Christopher Nolan
Action Crime Drama
2 hours 44 minutes
From Warner Bros

Christian Bale
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Tom Hardy
Anne Hathaway
Marion Cotillard
Gary Oldman
Morgan Freeman
Michael Caine
Matthew Modine
Tom Conti
William Devane
Liam Neeson
Cillian Murphy

Ah summer movie fare... what the studios look forward to as do all those giggly teens.  I don't.  It's usually not exactly great movie-making (except for special effects) and often has a roman numeral at the end of the title.  I often avoid them, of course, but if I am going to be swayed, it will usually be because of an exciting cast.  That was the case for me here.  Perhaps more importantly this is the final installment of a trilogy and I had seen the first two.

As the lights went down, one of two bubbly young things behind us gushed OMG, could I be more excited?  What?  I was excited that it was free popcorn day at my local movie palace and I thought the movie would be perfectly fine.  And it was.  Maybe a little better.  I gave it three stars, didn't I?  If it had been great, it would have been bestowed four stars.

Of the three in this series by esteemed director Christopher Nolan, my take is this was the least compelling.  The first, Batman Begins, had the excitement of being the first and reviving the comic book hero with more drama and yes, darkness, than the former pow, zow and kazaam versions.  The Dark Knight, featuring the electrifying, Oscar-winning performance of Heath Ledger as The Joker, just couldn't be beaten and The Dark Knight Rises did not rise to knock the former off its lofty perch.

After eight years of R & R, Bruce Wayne goes dark again, donning his shiny drag, and sets out to discover why some terrorist named Bane wants to take down Gotham City with some powerful explosives.  That's it.  All you need to know.  There are quite the visual sub-stories along the way that will keep you in your seats and your jaw slackened here and there.  That's good, isn't it, if you want to like, really like, your latest Batman movie? 

There is a scene where a football stadium is seriously rearranged. I couldn't help but notice that my eyes were hanging out of the sockets.  This was one of those scenes why the masses go to these types of movies.  Truth be told, I was impressed.  I was impressed by the finale, too, formulaic as it was, though dazzling with heart-racing sequences.

As is often the case with action films, I am adrift now and then with a convoluted storyline but the other side of the coin is I don't think it really matters.  Explosions matter.  And I couldn't understand what some of the actors were saying here and there but again, it's the visuals.

There won't be Oscars for these actors, although they all did the job they were supposed to.  Bale as the man himself actually rather disappears for the middle part of the story which I found odd.  I would say Gordon-Levitt, as an earnest young cop, was more or less the star.  Hathaway was fun as Catwoman.

Tom Hardy was all but unrecognizable as the bad guy.  And I mean bad.  Lordy.  His face had this garb on it, probably appropriated after seeing The Silence of the Lambs.  I think that garb takes away a little something for me with respect to how I react to the character.  I would be more involved in seeing an evil face, a seething angry one, than stuff covering the face up.  It seems to distance me from the character and that's not what is wanted, I shouldn't think.

I've heard director Nolan has some happy film sets.  It's certainly old home week for him.  This is the fourth time he has worked with Bale (include The Prestige in there).  Caine, Cotillard, Hardy and Gordon-Levitt were all in Inception.  And of course there are a few who have appeared in one or more of the previous incarnations of this franchise. 

An aside to one of the finest actresses working today and arguably the most deserving actress to ever win an Oscar, Marion Cotillard.  I would love you to get back to an English language film or two that would showcase what you're capable of in the acting department.  With Nine, Inception, Contagion, maybe even a little with Midnight in Paris, you have been part of an ensemble.  Fine.  It puts the crusty bread, cheese and wine on the table and keeps you in the public eye.  I get all that.  But I miss seeing what those acting chops of yours can really do.  Do a small film that is about your character.  Knock our socks off.  I'll forfeit the free popcorn.

So there you go.  I liked it.  Didn't I say I liked the damned thing?  So there. 


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