Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Movie #235: The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises is the final film in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, and stars Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Morgan Freeman, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Gary Oldman.

We pick up 8 years from the events of The Dark Knight. Batman hasn't been seen since the night Harvey Dent died, but the city used his death and the manhunt for Batman (Bale) to pass the Dent Act. The parameters of the Act are never explained, but it's insinuated that it's a kind of Patriot Act sort of thing and was used to destroy organized crime. Commissioner Gordon (Oldman), still acting like a cop, is looking for absolution, feeling guilty for allowing the city to demonize Batman.

At a charity ball, a thief named Selena Kyle (Hathaway) breaks into Bruce Wayne's house, steals his mother's pearls, and her real target, his fingerprints. She also kidnaps a Congressman, and takes him along when she delivers the prints to Stryver (Burn Gorman), the evil assistant of evil business man Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn) who's trying to take over Wayne Enterprises. But then things go horribly pear-shaped, Gordon chases the bad guys into the sewer and finds Bane (Hardy) and his secret army doing evil things.

Batman gets back into the game, but manages to fuck everything up - he drives away Alfred (Caine) who tries to convince him he could do so much more for the city as Bruce Wayne than Batman. He has some support from a uniform named Blake (Gordon-Levitt), who susses out his real identity through Magic Orphan Senses, but winds up biting off more than he can chew chasing down Bane, and winds up broken and thrown into a prison in some other country.

Bane, meanwhile, takes over Gotham, and plans to nuke it, because he's following up Ras Al Ghul's work. Batman manages to escape, returns to Gotham, discovers that the woman he trusted with his company is actually Ras' daughter Talia (Cotillard), and escapes in the Batwing with the bomb, seemingly to die. Even gets a statue in his honor, except he totally didn't die, because autopilot.

Whew. Long summary. It's a long, dense movie, with a lot of characters. It's also a lot less busy than it seems to be. Like, it seems like there's a lot going on, but really you don't see a lot of the behind the scenes stuff, and Bane must occupy Gotham for months (and in fact, the Russian scientist who arms the bomb says it'll take 5 months to decay to the point of explosions). This makes Batman's recovery and return to Gotham a bit more believable, but how did he get back into Gotham, much less get access to his stuff? Why did Bane bother bankrupting Batman at all? He didn't need the money by that point. Was it all to get access to Daggett's stuff, or just to break him? Weird.

There's a lot to like about the movie. I like the reimagining of Bane as the leader of the League of Assassins, and I like Hardy's portrayal. I think the movie is generally very well cast, actually. I like how the theme of pain (same way Batman Begins was about fear and The Dark Knight was about chaos). And I'm actually fine with the end; yes, escaping Gotham is something most portrayals of Batman would never do, but this has never been the usual portrayal of Batman.

I think, though, that this one is dour and grim from start to finish, to the point that when it tries to be funny, it's just awkward. The first movie had a few moments that felt comic-booky, the second one less so, but this one is pretty relentless.

Beyond that, I think it's a good end of the trilogy. It's not the most watchable thing in the world, but Nolan definitely made the movie he wanted to, and I think it gives Bruce Wayne, if not an entirely happy ending, an ending. And I'm OK with that.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: Dredd