Posted July 19, 2012 by Mikael Angelo Francisco in Movies/TV

MOVIE REVIEW: The Dark Knight Rises

Note: This review is spoiler-free, unless you count screencaps and information from trailers as “spoilers”.
Warner Brothers Pictures
Philippine Release: July 19, 2012
Rated PG-13
164 minutes
Check out the official trailer here.

Perhaps my favorite thing about The Dark Knight Rises is that it’s an absolutely terrible Batman movie.

…JESUS! Okay, put the gun down, buddy, put the gun down, let me explain, please don’t hurt me…

It’s not so much a Batman film as it is an action-packed blockbuster that happens to star Christian Bale in a Batman suit. Picking up eight years after The Dark Knight‘s conclusion, The Dark Knight Rises wastes no time in establishing the effects of the previous film’s conclusion on Gotham City and on Bruce Wayne himself. The choices Bruce Wayne made in the span of time between TDK and TDKR have taken him to a very dark place, literally and figuratively, and the arrival of both Bane (Tom Hardy) and Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) poses a challenge that threatens to shake the very core of the city itself.

Hell, the movie doesn’t even really revolve around the titular hero.

Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman return to reprise their roles as Alfred Pennyworth, Commissioner Jim Gordon, and Lucius Fox respectively. All three deliver strong, solid acting, especially Caine. Additionally, there’s a very good reason why John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) features heavily in the trailers and promotional materials for the film. It is easy to root for Gordon-Levitt’s character, and the actor proves that he has come a long way from his 3rd Rock From the Sun days.

Anne Hathaway’s performance as Selina Kyle is satisfactory, and may perhaps be the best portrayal of the character on the big screen. Now, for people who were worried about the way Bane was portrayed in this movie, fear not. He is as fearsome, unpredictable and legitimately villainous as the late Heath Ledger’s take on the Joker in TDK. They even found a way to work around the limitations presented by Tom Hardy’s mask: the audio was re-dubbed, and now Bane sounds like a terrifying, otherworldly monster. Combine that with Hardy’s calm, half-singsong, half-threatening voice, and we have ourselves a villain who only needs to speak to make us fear for our hero’s safety.

Despite him looking like this.

This time around, Batman has a cool new toy to add to his arsenal: the Bat, which is what you’d get if you put wings on a tank, painted it black, and laced it with a combination of Chuck Norris’s DNA and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ridiculous accent. It understandably gets used a LOT in the film, and plays a crucial role in several key scenes. Also seeing much love in TDKR is the fan-favorite Batpod (which I am rather fond of, myself). As depicted in the trailers, both Batman and Selina get a shot at riding the formidable gun-on-wheels, and seeing it in action is just as much of a treat as it was in TDK.

Since this is the end of the critically-acclaimed trilogy of Nolan Bat-films, theories about how it ends have been rampant ever since the movie was first announced. The nagging, burning question on people’s minds, one which I will not address in this review, is if Batman survives. The actual answer might surprise some, but the journey towards that answer is one that already makes the film well worth the price of admission. The plot is full of twists, and there are a lot of things that will only make sense near the end in a style that socks you squarely in the jaw. I also think fans of the comic book will be pleased. While the entire franchise clearly tells a different story from the one in the comics, I can say that the film itself is based on at least three major Batman storylines, and weaves them together masterfully. Key moments from the comics are depicted here, albeit given a slightly different spin.

Sadly, the very thing I love about this film may be its biggest flaw. It’s a terrible Batman movie because it attempts to toe the fine line between “Nolan film” and “superhero film”. It lacks a certain punch; it doesn’t hit as hard as I thought it would. I can’t help but feel that a lot of what was originally intended for the film was vetoed out of an understandably tight grip on the integrity of the Batman brand. Also, this movie’s Batman is *still* a very different Batman from his comics counterpart, and, for reasons I won’t mention here in this spoiler-free review, almost on a level that I find disappointing. This is NOT the Batman I’ve known for years, and there were important points in the film that made him seem really out of character to me. However, I guess this works because this isn’t your daddy’s (or your, for that matter) Batman. This is definitely Nolan’s Batman, and it’s a somewhat surprising take on the character.

NolanBats: Not taking Strepsils since 2005.

While I feel that we could have gotten a much better film than the one we ended up getting, it is by no means a failure. The film is light in as far as Nolan movies go, which is a surprise, since some early reviews have criticized it for its supposedly strong political message. In spite of this, it doesn’t detract from the overall entertainment value of the film. I think it’s the attempt to create a compromise between the two directions this movie could have gone that makes it easier to ideologically digest than the previous installment.

There are, however, some things in the film that don’t seem to make sense. In fact, there is a crucial scene at the end of the film that completely baffles me. It’s not something that automatically becomes apparent, though; I had to sleep on it to realize the inconsistency, which was so simple that I almost wanted to kick myself in the groin for missing it. To its credit, though, TDKR resolves pretty much all potential dangling plot lines from the previous two movies, and makes sure that the Nolan trilogy does indeed come full circle.

Despite these minor gripes, The Dark Knight Rises is an ambitious, explosive, and ultimately fitting end to the franchise.  It was a wise decision to end the story of the Nolanverse Batman here, because I’m certain that at this point it would be very difficult to come up with a sequel of satisfactory or equivalent quality.

It’s a terrible Batman movie…but it’s an awesome *movie*, period. I give it an 8/10. Ah, who am I kidding? I could give this film a 1/10 and you’d ALL still watch it anyway.

And watch it, you should.


Thank you, Warner Bros. Philippinesfor the invites to the special IMAX screening of The Dark Knight Rises!

Mikael Angelo Francisco