The Dark Knight Rises Review or spoiler free thoughts from a real Batman fan after a first screening.

Thursday, July 19, 2012 Craig Grobler 0 Comments

Batman: Arkham Knight Cape & Cowl Exhibition London T he Dark Knight Rises the most EPIC of stories hampered by the format of film, it has an Epic first quarter, a saggy middle followed by the most Epic of Epic endings in the history of Epicness.

That’s what my FaceBook status said after seeing Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises his final chapter in his Dark Knight Trilogy. But of course that does not tell the whole story. Here are some light weight thoughts, that will be followed by a more in depth analysis when enough people have seen it for a proper post not to be considered spoilerish. Also bear in mind that I have only seen The Dark Knight Rises once typically Chris Nolan’s film need to be seen at least twice to absorb the detail.

The Dark Knight Rises Poster
Image: The Dark Knight Rises Poster
I am not the biggest Chris Nolan fan but I loved Batman Begins despite some of its flaws it the greatest comic to screen film we have. I loved Inception and it was a turning point for me as I really began to appreciate Nolan’s work but he has his work cut out for him with The Dark Knight Rises. In Batman Begins he had the untold story of Batman’s origin to fall back on, sure he brought a lot to it and it was a cinematic triumph. With The Dark Knight he had two Batman wildcards up his sleeve (The Joker and Two Face) to fall back on as Batman hits his golden period stride, but with The Dark Knight Rises Nolan has to cover way too much in a single 164 min film as it proves to be his most ambitious work yet. 

 I usually complain when studios split stories into two halves but here is a case in point where the story would have benefited from being split into two shorter films. The impact of trying to cover too much over such a short time really has detrimental effects, particularly on the middle of the film which cries out for more in-depth characterisation and emotion like a fatherless psycho on top of a bridge.

Bane on a bridge shouting father not in The Dark Knight Rises
Image: Bane on a bridge shouting father not in The Dark Knight Rises
More is the shame as the first quarter is absolutely awesome. If you have read my thoughts on Batman Begins I highlight some issues I had with the film that deflated Nolan’s great work somewhat.

Christian Bale Batman The Dark Knight Rises
Image: Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne Batman in The Dark Knight Rises
Watching the first quarter of The Dark Knight Rises addresses a lot of those issues with aplomb and Chris Nolan is the zone. I was loving it. I felt like a kid again completely swept away (I mean engaged by compelling film making) by someone else’s imagination. Hell I wanted to hang out with Bruce Wayne, Alfred and Luscious Fox and be part of their make believe world. The premise, the gadgets, the characters, the dialogue, the depth,  the wit &humour - it all just works and this is film making at its finest.

When Batman appears for the first time I wasn’t the only one who let out an audible signal acknowledgment of appreciation (cheered). Batman was back on screen kicking ass, taking names and blowing us away (and does so almost every time he appears).

I prefer my films like my coffee, dark and powerful so I was surprised at how entertaining The Dark Knight Rises is, it is more fun than both Batman Begins & The Dark Knight.

Video: The Establishing Shot: The Dark Knight Rises Trailer 3 - 20 July 2012

Before long though we crash into the middle bit where lots happens - too much too quickly and none of it is given sufficient depth to elevate it and it sags as we are unable to engage with it. As one would expect from Chris Nolan it is technically on point and beautifully shot but the impact of events is unfortunately completely lost and devoid of any feeling.
Anne Hathaway Selina Kyle Catwoman The Dark Knight Rises
Image: Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises 
In all fairness I felt fairly similarly about the comics that The Dark Knight Rises uses as the basis for the bulk of its story line. The story is epic in scope and had huge repercussions for Gotham and the Batman universe but DC didn't quite convey their intention with depth either - it always felt that they had planned an event across multiple arcs, multiple titles and characters and didn't really get into the characters or details sufficiently.Nolan tries to compact an Epic story line into a single film.

But comic readers that enjoyed the Batman tales of the late 1990s are going to love The Dark Knight Rises as withBatman Begins The Dark Knightit merges various characters, events, and story arcs into a very ambitious and epic tale of social revolution turning Gotham into a No Man’s Land. The plot and events are not the issue it is just the way they are handled. There is a lack of focus and detail that drowns any tension or emotion.The Dark Knight Risesshould really have been two films allowing the middle bit to be fleshed out with Christopher Nolan's trademark depth and symbolism.

Image: Tom Hardy as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises 
 Prior to seeing The Dark Knight Rises I had considered that it could be a story of events that take place and characters being small pieces in the story rather than major players - which is the case. In theory it could work but it doesn’t as key characters are reduced to cardboard personas and we are left to watch slightly confused when we should be rooting for the good guy and booing/terrified by the bad guy, leaving no tension between Batman and Bane. Which is staggeringly mind-blowing as these characters go through some major events and yet cannot be emotionally engaged

The Dark Knight Rises Batman vs. Bane
Image: The Dark Knight Rises Batman vs. Bane
The upside to this is that other smaller characters are empowered and given the chance to shine as they develop some genuinely great moment’s spring from this.Something you should be aware is that marketing has promised an epic spectacle you may be disappointed as The Dark Knight Rises is epic in scope but Chris Nolan keeps it real so don't expect 1000s of digitally created extras filling the streets of Gotham

Fortunately Chris Nolan jumps back to form towards the end with an absolutely epic finale that blew me away (as well as giving tragic depth to some disappointingly weak characterisation). I won’t dwell on but it is the most fitting end to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and one I did not expect as he again adds to the rich legacy and mythos of Batman beyond the films. I'll be seeing it at least one more time whilst it is on the big screen before analysing The Dark Knight Rises properly.

The Dark Knight Rises is more entertaining than the previous Batman films, it is also emotionally charged exploration of power, change & hope. In terms of scope it is Nolan's most ambitious film yet . So you see - it is the most EPIC of stories hampered by the format of film, it has Epic first quarter, a saggy middle followed by the most Epic of Epic endings in the history of Epicness.

Follow me on Twitter over here: @TheEstShot or Facebook > and interact. Comments and thoughts always welcome below.

My thoughts on The Dark Knight Rises trailer are here:

My thoughts on The Dark Knight Rises teaser trailer are here: http://www.theestablishingshot.com/2011/07/dark-knight-rises-teaser-trailer.html

My thoughts on The Dark Knight Rises Prologue are here: http://www.theestablishingshot.com/2011/12/establishing-shot-full-dark-knight.html

The Dark Knight Rises release date: The Dark Knight Rises will be released on the 20 July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises
Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ “The Dark Knight Rises” is the epic conclusion to filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. It has been eight years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive.

Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good.  For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act. But everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar with a mysterious agenda.  Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile.  But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane.

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Stars: Christian Bale, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Gary Oldman

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