July 23, 2012
When the end of a legend rises
To put it simply, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises serves as a masterful end to a truly masterful trilogy.
This thundering finale of what can now be described as one the greatest screen adaptations from a comic book material (if not the greatest) works in the same way as its very theme and story. It faces its fear and embraces it with the guts and courage to ultimately rise to the occasion. From its screenplay to its execution, those working behind the production stand on a brave ground and accept the challenge to skillfully mount such an edge-of-your-seat treat that truly dares the conventions of commercial moviemaking.
Its significantly passionate and very timely story explores a 9/11 premise re-framed as an act of domestic terrorism that brilliantly pokes at Wall Street and the financial elite. At the same time, it revives the ponderous psychodrama of Batman Begins and the clever mayhem of The Dark Knight. It weaves its plot points with the elements of the first movie in mind. It matches the physical and psychological traumas of the second movie. Steeped in a self-contained mythology that truly rewards the hard-core fans and even the less invested viewers, it wraps up this three-part opus without becoming a slave to its past glories. It carefully works as a sprawling and crazily ambitious epic that builds on the franchise's first two installments, then it takes on genuine risks to establish a size and scope that makes it worthy to be called as "powerful filmmaking."
At two hours, 45 minutes long, The Dark Knight Rises takes its time to get things right. It is an elaborately constructed and tonally different type of superhero film that justifies its length with its courageously generous portions of bone-crunching violence and ironically dark and realistic drama. It raises its emotional stakes without shortchanging people's anticipation for dazzling action sequences and gripping characters. By its end, it sends its distinctively dark franchise out on a rousing note.
This thoughtful and visceral offering succeeds in packaging itself as an art film and a popcorn flick at the same time. It is the type that can best work when the viewer has a keen knowledge of the events of the past films. It aptly deals with a good vs. evil story with enough shades of gray to examine the physical and emotional ravages and consequences of its characters. Exhilaratingly grand in both ambition and execution, it transcends as a crucial chapter to a bracing and intensely atmospheric piece. As it brings the Batman canon down to Earth, its cyclical approach to its metaphorical tale further makes it a more provocative and entertaining material.
Its visionary sequences reverently bow down to its solid concept and title. Its story may not be as airtight as that of The Dark Knight, but it lays the groundwork to wield a dramatically and emotionally satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. It is aware of the fact that it is not a cliché-ridden flick that it never compromises its scenes with its all-consuming conviction. It covers so much ground without messing up its intricate storyline. More often than not, it subverts the audience's presumption on what happens next. At some point, the viewers kind of forget how brilliantly performed and photographed it is because they are ultimately hooked to its narrative.
This is what a superhero movie is supposed to look like in a master filmmaker's capable hands. For a director who comes off with the two pop masterpieces The Dark Knight and Inception, it impressively raises its own bar to keep up with people's expectations. It doesn't take the easy route to both rise with its emotional intensity and cut deep as a meaningful piece of entertainment. Although it has a complicated plot that could have easily fallen into the wrong direction, this third film of the saga impressively builds toward a sensational climax.
The film's comic book movie thrills and chills are full of towering shots, exhilarating sets, giant stunts, and finely choreographed moments. Starting from its heart-pounding opening sequence down to its cringe-inducing final act, it unleashes a worthy array of large-scale IMAX-size scenes rendered in spectacular fashion. Its maddeningly unrelenting percussive score by Hans Zimmer, intensely jarring cinematography by Wally Pfister, genuinely gorgeous production design by Nathan Crowley and Kevin Kavanaugh, and exceptionally zealous editing by Lee Smith blend together in a way that only Nolan could have crafted together in this approach. Its tons of cinematic ideas are almost crafted to perfection. Its thought-provoking storytelling leaves the viewers gripped to their seats long after the credits roll. As a harrowing drama, it inspires metaphorical reflections directed to these modern times. As an action-packed blockbuster, it pulls great moments from its source material, then gives its own immersive spin to it.
Nolan and his talented cast provide a disturbingly dazzling experience based on the film's grand inclinations in both form and content. Impressively, the sizzling performances work even with supporting and minor roles that don't have that much screen time. Character motivations shift every once in a while, but things often remain compelling. Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne/Batman gets really beat down to the character's very soul, then he suitably redeems himself to become the superhero he is expected to be later on in the story. Tom Hardy's Bane readily initiates himself as a creepy villain who creates his own menacing domain to keep up with the pressure of the late Heath Ledger's shockingly great performance as Joker in the prior film.
The rest of the cast including the major and supporting performances by Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Gary Oldman as Commissioner James Gordon, Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate, Michael Caine as Alfred, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake, Liam Neeson as Ra's Al Ghul, Cillian Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow, and Matthew Modine as Deputy Commissioner Foley all significantly contribute to what makes this very challenging material work on screen.
Despite its notable flaws including some logic gaps, a few twists that reveal themselves in a mediocre fashion, and a couple of verbose scenes that clearly stretch their way for the sake of the actors' grand moments, it is interesting to note how this film still manages to come together with enough intimacy and scale.
This epic final bow doesn't rely on technical grandeur nor star wattage to keep its audience engaged and jaw-dropped. It simply understands the values of its narrative and it knows itself up to its very core. It is aware of which shots could work and what kind of edit would keep up with the director's vision. Moreover, it proves that a blockbuster doesn't really need to surrender to a bombardment of flamboyant special effects. Essentially, it should utilize its intelligence and humanity, then combine these with storytelling talent in order to bring a cathartic close to such a broodingly artful trilogy.
The film takes a little while to fully grab the viewer. But when it does, it pulsates into a person's mind and body with utter conviction. Even for somebody who already knows its twists and turns, he or she can still benefit from the repeated viewings of this grave and satisfying finish to the operatic Bat-trilogy.
The Dark Knight Rises is undoubtedly a cinematic classic meant to be added to the pages of film history. It is a product of a genius mind and is implemented by a team of dedicated experts who are able to wrap the ambitious series with a fitting end. It is one of the rare moments when a production proves that bigger is better, that an already hugely successful franchise can still close with a very big bang beyond what its predecessors already offered before. This legendary final sequel really meets the ridiculously high expectations created by its fan culture and savvy marketing. It is indeed a worthy adversary to the expectedly fine roster of quality works by the time of the award season. It brings back the trust of the public to what a Hollywood blockbuster could really deliver—as long as there is enough passion, talent, and credibility given to the project.
The Dark Knight Rises is now showing in theaters nationwide.
About the writer: Exposed in the different facets of media including film, TV, advertising, theater, radio, print, web, and events, Rianne is an awarded filmmaker whose film works go beyond her productions. As a young and active soul, she immerses herself in various disciplines as a director, writer, educator, and production artistdriving her to further learn and experience love and life.