The Dark Knight Rises (TheByteScene Review)

3 Caped-Crusaders-Returning-From-Eight-Years-of-Retirement-to-Stop-a-New-Foe out of 4

It begins with a CIA operative tracking down a doctor and learning that he’s also been delivered three more men. He phones his superiors on the plane and informs the crew, the doctor, and the men that he only has clearance for one of the bagged characters. He threatens their lives while asking for information on their boss until one of the bagged men speaks. The operative instructs his men to remove the bag and the audience sees Bane, the man who will eventually lead Gotham into it’s darkest moment in history, for the first time.

In all actuality, Christopher Nolan’s final foray into the Batman mythos begins with the six-minute clip that was attached as a trailer along with IMAX prints of Mission Impossible 4.

The scene is the exact same, with the only difference being that the synthesizer on Bane’s voice is reduced, if only slightly. Scenes shift from Bane’s reveal, and the audience learns that the death of Gotham City’s once district attorney, Harvey Dent, has allowed the passing of the Dent Act insuring that the city’s violent and organized crime have been all but eradicated. Moving to a reception in the honour of Harvey Dent, at Wayne Manor, characters slowly fill in the details of the past eight years; neither Batman, nor Bruce Wayne have been sighted in that entire time, leaving Wayne Enterprises in the difficult position of operating without one of the most vital members of the board of directors. The next few scenes introduce the integral characters to the film, including Alfred Pennyworth, Police Commissioner and the closest ally to Batman during his active time James Gordon, Police Officer and orphan John Blake, Cat-Burglar Selina Kyle, Wayne Enterprises CEO Lucius Fox, Wayne Enterprises Collaborator Miranda Tate, Wayne Enterprises Rival John Daggett and, of course, the enigmatic Bruce Wayne – the recluse who apparently spends his time holed up in Wayne Manor, refusing to accept visits from anyone and everyone, especially the lovely Miranda Tate.

The film spends the first half of its run-time introducing new characters, conflicts, and subplots to varying degrees of effectiveness, and a considerable amount of time is spent with the non-costumed characters attempting to build an effective plot. In terms of success, much of this is accomplished, with a few setbacks along the way. I have to say it immediately: this film has amazing dialogue, some of the best cinematography Wally Pfister has ever produced (rivalling his previous foray with Nolan, Inception, at certain points), absolutely stunning special effects, CGI used to great effectiveness while genuinely complimenting the plot, brilliant sound effects and an absolutely Earth-shaking score by long time Nolan collaborator Hans Zimmer, and fantastic set pieces that not only make sense but also allow the story to be told in a better way. Immediately, one will notice that any mention of the plot is vacant, but only because it’s the weakest aspect of the film, and I must make another point of stating that the plot is very good, great at many points in the film, but almost never fantastic.

My issue with the plot isn’t the direction it takes, or even the choices that the writers made – it makes sense and it flows incredibly well, but there are certain attributes that are difficult to accept, and others that didn’t seem necessary. The romantic sub-plots being some of the weaker aspects of the film, especially since the strong romantic connections created by Wayne with Tate and Wayne with Kyle seemed out of place.

Of course, another issue is the time spent out of cape-and-cowl; for a film about Batman, Bruce Wayne seemed to have been the star. Considering the franchise built, and thrived in the question of which personality dominated which, it seemed odd to have so little time spent with the caped crusader. From an analytic point-of-view, this can be explained and almost hand waved by assuming that Bruce Wayne won the battle, and dominated his alter-ego, allowing him to overcome his personal trauma. However, Christian Bale’s performance as Wayne reveals a massive amount of lingering hurt, all while being surrounded by characters who goad and beg him into reclaiming the mantle and trying to save Gotham City yet again. Wayne is scarred, and hurt by his time during and away from the mantle, and it’s evident that his feelings regarding justice and morality have remained even if his time has been spent away from the proverbial, and literal, line of fire. Bale does a good job, as he has always done as Bruce Wayne and Batman, but the film doesn’t give the latter enough time, as if to say that his development ended long before the film began.

Disregarding the decision to have a Bruce Wayne focused film, a significant amount of time is spent with Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, the self righteous Robin Hood like Catwoman (who spends no time having the name assigned to her). I say self-righteous because she steals from the rich to give to the richer, and herself. For all the time she spends discussing the finer failings of capitalism, her equipment is so advanced and well-engineered that one wonders if she understands the hypocrisy in claiming that the rich have stolen from the poor while she herself provides little to the proverbial 99%. Of course, despite a few qualms with her characterization, her development is believable and her portrayal by Anne Hathaway is remarkable.

Kyle’s convictions are the opposite of Wayne’s where, instead of having to hide her identity to protect those around her, she simply hides her identity to avoid being arrested again – a major subplot involves Kyle seeking a program capable of erasing any and all information about her, allowing her to start fresh or begin with a “Clean slate,” as characters in the film call it. Hathaway almost flawlessly breathes life into Selina Kyle and while I don’t want to make the comparison, she was a far better Catwoman than either Michelle Pfeiffer or Halle Berry, the latter of whom managed to remove all of the character’s vitality regardless. Hathaway gives Kyle somehow manages to perfectly bring to life a character that is tormented, tortured, seductive, and opportunistic, all while maintaining the self serving philanthropy that the character is known for.

Additional attention should also be paid to Michael Caine’s Alfred, Wayne’s butler and closest advisor, who confronts Wayne when he makes the decision of returning to his life as Batman. Caine’s scenes are touching, and more than a little heartbreaking as his character is the only one that truly knows of Wayne’s suffering, sadness, and deep pain. Disregarding his screen time, Caine manages to provide a breathtaking performance as a man who truly cares for Wayne and who truly wishes for the character to find some kind of comfort in a city that has needlessly and pointlessly rendered him vulnerable and damaged.

Finally, I must address Tom Hardy’s role as Bane, though I regret to say that I was joyously disappointed in his performance. On the whole, he was the perfect Bane, and he managed to produce a character that was physically, mentally, and more than psychologically intimidating. He portrays the character as vicious yet eloquent, vulgar but cultured, venomous but provocative, and horrifyingly violent. He casually chokes a man to death to use him as bait, and barely flinches in doing so. Despite certain brilliant moments where Bane is given centre stage to cause all the catastrophe and mayhem his heart desires, he’s lacking a kind of finesse and integrity that a villain of his magnitude deserves.

In short, he’s portrayed as nothing more than a violent anarchist attempting to bring dissonance to an otherwise orderly city. Bane, instead of being Batman’s physical and mental superior becomes nothing more than a terrorist, and his motivation is almost non-existent; he claims to want to return Gotham to its people, but he produces an ultimatum that will desolate the city in a certain time frame anyway. I don’t want to go as far as calling him hypocritical and contrived, though his plan to give the power back to the hands of the common man would be swallowed better if the sugar he was using didn’t involve killing the common man anyway.

In summation, the film excels in its dialogue, effects, direction, cinematography, editing, and sound, but fails at points when it comes to its main antagonist, protagonist, and the finer points of its plot. It’s not a bad film by any means because it’s good overall, and even great sometimes; it’s just not fantastic. I regret to say that it’s the good film we all needed it to be so it could end a superb franchise, but it’s not the amazing “bat-tastic” film we all wanted it to be so it could mark the end of a superb and masterful era of superheroes in film.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

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