The Dark Knight Rises DVD

As promised, here is the review I didn’t write when The Dark Knight Rises came out.  Unfortunately we are now under the shadow of another horrific incident like the one that marred the opening of this film.  Once again, I ask the question:  How many more times does this have to happen before we do anything about it?

But I promised a review, so here it is.

The main danger in the Raimi-Nolan model of superhero films, where, if you’ll remember, the studio will lock in an interesting director for three films and let him do whatever he wants with the franchise, is fatigue.  By the time the third film rolls around, the director is bored with the characters and rushes through the process just to get on with the next project that’s captured his imagination.  The pattern (working from Raimi’s Spider-man, the only other example so far) is that the first film is good enough to get people excited; the second will be great and the third will be a disappointment. 

Nolan’s Batman has followed the pattern through the first two films.  But while The Dark Knight Rises is the weakest the three, I can hardly call it a letdown.  It’s an ambitious film that falls short of the mark but it still lands in a very good place.

When I first saw the film I was troubled by Nolan’s apparent abandonment of any kind of verisimilitude.  The first two films relied on existing technology or at least reasonable extrapolations of present day tech.  The two major elements I’m referring to are Batman’s seemingly miraculous recovery from a broken back and Bane being able to take over and hold a major American city for three months.  A second viewing cleared some of this up and I wonder if they cleaned up some of the dialog tracks because I caught a lot more of it watching the DVD.  The man who fixes Batman’s back by punching him clearly says that they have to get vertebrae back in alignment, implying that the spinal cord was undamaged.  Now can you recover from something like that in less than three months?  I’m not a doctor but I’m thinking no.

As for the other thing, it is established that the presence of the fusion bomb is what’s staying the government’s hand from retaking the city.  The bomb is placed in a constantly moving truck that is shielded and there are two other identical trucks. The plot establishes that the bomb’s radiation can only be detected from the ground.  This is probably good enough for a comic book plot and indeed both these elements echo two popular story arcs from the last twenty years of the comic book.  But given the tone of the first two films, they’re a little out there.

Happily other elements of the film are all in place.  I have problems with Christian Bale’s portrayal of Batman but those are more his and Nolan’s choices than the execution.  Michael Caine is terrific as Alfred who makes a terrible sacrifice to move Bruce along.  Morgan Freeman is terrific as usual even though he doesn’t have much to do and Gary Oldman is great as a conflicted Jim Gordon.  Chief among the newcomers is Anne Hathaway who steals the movie as Catwoman.  It’s hard to tell what Tom Hardy is doing behind that mask but his physicality comes as close to the comic book version of Bane as is possible in a live action movie.

The end of the movie suggests a definite way forward for the franchise even though Christopher Nolan has made it clear that he’s done.  I’ll say right here that I don’t like it.  My hope is that they stick with the Raimi-Nolan model and reboot.  It’s hard to imagine another director topping Nolan’s accomplishment but I’m eager to see the next iteration.

//

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