To watch my video review click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMkq1wf9OFQ&feature=youtu.be
The problems with “The Dark Knight Rises” ironically stems from its own high standards, namely the ones set by the franchise's first two films. This means that what would be great or merely good enough for another movie or series won't necessarily suffice for this one. This movie has some great characters, great acting, and an intense (but not quite good enough) story that will draw you in, but it isn't enough to surpass its predecessor, “The Dark Knight,” which will remain the best of the trilogy. And it's not often that the middle film has that honor. One could say that Batman has the same problem: he has been undone by his victory in the previous film.
The movie opens eight years after the the events of “The Dark Knight.” Bruce Wayne is still emotionally and physically wounded from those events, and has become a recluse. It doesn't help that Gotham seems to be enjoying a much-needed peace since that time that has also made Batman irrelevant. Of course, that peace comes to a crashing halt when Bane comes to town, played by an unrecognizable Tom Hardy. He is a joy to watch, and you firmly believe that he could wreak so must havoc with Batman and Bruce Wayne and reduce him to almost nothing. Like the Joker, he represents chaos. But where the Joker embodies random, meaningless anarchy, Bane is the rigid, planned, fascist type of chaos that is right at home in a failed city-state where only the strong and ruthless prevail.
Of course, the supporting talent is also amazing to watch. Gary Oldman still wows as Gordon, the grizzled veteran who has sacrificed almost everything to serve Gotham, and Anne Hathaway firmly leaves behind her adorable past to play Catwoman. She reminds you that she's the same actress who shone in “Rachel Getting Married,” and she gets to strut her stuff here and be playful, conniving, and sexy, with just enough of a conscience to make you a little doubtful about what she'll do next. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt is fun as a rookie cop with enough heart and grit to be the tipping point in the battle for Gotham.
And the filmmakers certainly do a very good job at imagining every worse case scenario of our time to bring to the battle for Gotham. In one film we have the threat of a nuclear explosion, fascism, anarchy, and other fun little surprises that represent the worst nightmares of our terrifying new world run amok. To all the residents of Gotham: you ain't seen nothing yet.
But onto the problems. I know this is a comic book movie, but this franchise has taken great pains to make Batman relatable and believable. Apparently, there is hardly any crime in Gotham after the events of “The Dark Knight?” Hmm. And some of the villain's motives are questionable, and don't make a lot of sense. So their goal is to wait a few months, then destroy the city? This makes some of the scenes that should be the most uplifting and cinematic fall rather flat.
It also doesn't help that neither Bruce or Alfred are really that sympathetic. After eight years moping around in his mansion, you just want to tell Bruce to suck it up already. And when Alfred argues with him, you keep thinking that they should've gotten past whether the city really needs Batman. And when Bruce Wayne is imprisoned, he does seem to get out and back to the city rather quickly and easily. Really? No one else would have figured out the exit from that prison? And how did this person figure out he was Batman? And in the big twist at the end, you don't quite believe that the villain is truly capable of something so powerful, and would take such a circuitous route to get revenge.
So with all the problems I seem to have with it, you might ask, why am I still inclined to look so favorably on this movie? Well, what it gets right it really gets right. The effects and action sequences are amazing, and the characters of Bane and Catwoman especially are compulsively watchable. The finale is pretty good too. But the main reason that the movie isn't up to par can be summed up in one reason: Heath Ledger. His portrayal as the Joker embodies every single quality that could have made “The Dark Knight Rises” the best film of the trilogy. His freewheeling anarchism could have added a much-needed humorous touch, as well as serving as a fascinating and enjoyable contrast to Bane that could have kept the film from sinking into self-importance. And obviously, his absence is no one's fault, merely a tragic example of a promising life and career cut short. And his performance became so essential that “The Dark Knight” felt slow and empty without him onscreen.
But if this is the best film they could do without him, it's still pretty good. I just wish they could've moved Batman forward, instead of rehashing so much material from the first film. We didn't need more backstory and old villains like the League of Shadows. We needed a whole new idea for the explosive finale.