The Dark Knight Rises reviews

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Re: The Dark Knight Rises reviews

Postby MovieWes » Tue Jul 17, 2012 5:53 pm

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Reviewed by Lisa Schwarzbaum | Jul 17, 2012

You say you want a revolution? Well, you know, there's a comic-book movie for you. The Dark Knight Rises concludes the trilogy of Batman movies so distinctively rebooted, reimagined, and reinvigorated over the past seven years by director Christopher Nolan at the helm and actor Christian Bale in the Batsuit. And the highly anticipated project arrives with outsize political and cultural ambitions. Theme-wise, Nolan tackles nothing less than societal upheaval, urban unrest, class warfare, personal sacrifice, and spiritual salvation, with some nuclear brinkmanship thrown in for timeliness. That's epic stuff, as grounded in serious social commentary as the literature of Charles Dickens that the director and his coscreenwriter brother, Jonathan Nolan, have cited as inspiration. This is a Batman narrative for a post-9/11 age of anxiety, morally split between the best of times and the worst of times.

Superhero-wise, though, The Dark Knight Rises is still essentially a fanciful corker about an unlikely billionaire named Bruce Wayne who lives in mournful bachelorhood with his butler Alfred (faithfully played by Michael Caine) and who, when fighting crime, zips around town in a cape and a black rubbery cowl. And as a result of the precarious layering of big philosophical notions (can the System be fixed?) over pointy little bat ears, Nolan's meticulously made, grand-scale tale caroms between a self-serious meditation on How We Live Now and an oof! pow! extended fistfight between a good guy and a bad guy, amped up by the insistent percussion of Hans Zimmer's relentless score.

The movie is built for greatness, not to mention a biggest-stakes-yet conclusion scaled to please fans who thought The Dark Knight was snubbed — snubbed — during the 2008 awards season. But this time the chief villain is a thuggish baldy named Bane (Tom Hardy) whose charisma pales in comparison with that of Heath Ledger's Joker — the super-est supernemesis in recent comic-book-movie history. Bane is distinguished mostly by his baroque helmet, with a clawlike mouthguard that is a kid's worst nightmare of orthodontic headgear. As the story begins, Bane (for that's what he is to everyone's existence) arrives in Gotham City, a metropolis now outwardly lawful-and-orderly but inwardly rotten: Since district attorney Harvey Dent was supposedly martyred in The Dark Knight, crime is under control, but societal malaise is rampant. (Behold the wardrobe differences between the rich and the tattered revolutionaries! To arms!)

Bane plans to upend class inequality with a grandiose, scorched-earth plan for destabilization because — well, because he's mad as hell, for reasons having to do with a really lousy childhood. But when not blowing up bridges and sports stadiums, this warped baddie specializes in dull, brutish, sustained hand-to-hand violence, much of it directed at Batman. Tom Hardy is a fascinating actor — and an alumnus of Nolan's twisty Inception — but he's virtually unrecognizable here. At times he's also unintelligible under his mouth muffler, with its resulting Darth Vaderish acoustics. When the fellow declaims his fortune-cookie philosophy — ''There can be no true despair without hope!'' — a cringing citizenry ought to respond, ''What'd he say?!?''

Amid the political positioning, meanwhile, comic-book conventions still pertain. Inconsequential female treachery is represented by cat burglar Selina Kyle, a slinky vamp played by Anne Hathaway with a surfeit of wide-eyed Liza Minnelli poses and red-lipped moues. Marion Cotillard provides additional feminine mutability as rich philanthropist Miranda Tate. (There are apparently two women in all of Gotham City.) On the side of good, Morgan Freeman returns as Wayne Enterprises CEO Lucius Fox, calm and handy with software programs. And police commissioner Gordon, once again embodied with subtlety and soul by Gary Oldman, proves to be a sensitive Charles Dickens lover himself.

Chaos reigns for much of The Dark Knight Rises, often in big, beautiful, IMAX-size scenes that only Nolan could have conceived. Yet when the apocalyptic dust literally settles on this concluding chapter, the character who lingers longest in memory is an average Gotham City cop named John Blake, wonderfully played with human-scale clarity by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It is, Nolan counsels, a far, far harder thing to do ordinary good than to steer a Batmobile.
"Young men make wars and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men: courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace, and the vices of peace are the vices of old men: mistrust and caution." -- Alec Guinness (Lawrence of Arabia)

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Re: The Dark Knight Rises reviews

Postby MovieWes » Tue Jul 17, 2012 4:51 pm

TIME's Review of The Dark Knight Rises: To the Depths, to the Heights
Make way, puny Avengers, for the grand tale of a superhero in emotional crisis, as Gotham City faces economic collapse and a reign of terror. Can Batman even come to his own rescue?
By Richard Corliss | July 16, 2012

(Warning: mild spoilers throughout — though the film has enough big surprises that you need not worry.)

A gang of thugs has just looted the Gotham City Stock Exchange and crashed out on motorcycles, hostages in tow. The police are helpless as they pursue the miscreants into a tunnel. Suddenly, the tunnel goes dark. A familiar vehicle with monster-truck wheels, driven by a man in black cape and cowl, has joined the chase. Batman is back. An older cop observes the action, smiles and says to a rookie, “Boy, you’re in for a show tonight, son.”

The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR), Christopher Nolan’s mesmerizing climax to his trilogy reboot of the DC Comics character, is a show, all right. But not in the way of the standard summer action fantasy. Although his movie contains elaborate fights, stunts, chases and war toys, and though the director dresses half his characters in outfits suitable for a Comic-Con revel, Nolan is a dead-serious artist with a worldview many shades darker than the knight of the title. The Avengers is kid stuff compared with this meditation on mortal loss and heroic frailty. For once a melodrama with pulp origins convinces viewers that it can be the modern equivalent to Greek myths or a Jonathan Swift satire. TDKR is that big, that bitter — a film of grand ambitions and epic achievement. The most eagerly anticipated movie of summer 2012 was worth waiting for.

Reuniting the core crew from his 2005 Batman Begins and the 2008 The Dark Knight — Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Michael Caine as his butler Alfred, Gary Oldman as police commissioner Jim Gordon and Morgan Freeman as the entrepreneur Lucius Fox — Nolan has created new roles for four of the actors from his 2010 hit Inception. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the resourceful cop John Blake; Tom Hardy is Bane, the monster who would bring Gotham to its knees; Marion Cotillard is the philanthropist Miranda Tate; Cillian Murphy, who also played the Scarecrow in Batman Begins, returns as a hanging judge as the city explodes in chaos. And Anne Hathaway creeps in and out as Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman.

Eight years after he dispatched the Joker (Heath Ledger) and took the rap for killing Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), the idealistic district attorney who had become the villainous Two-Face, Bruce lives morose and secluded in Wayne Manor, seen only by Alfred. Gotham appears at peace, with no organized crime surfacing. By there’s at least one gifted solo artist. Selina, in maid’s garb, manages to pick Bruce’s private safe, making off with his fingerprints and a necklace she has the gall and style to wear. The theft stirs Bruce out of his torpor, and he shows up at a charity ball hosted by Miranda. Selina, momentarily Bruce’s dance partner, tells him, “There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, cause when it hits you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.”

The form of the storm is a creature called Bane, an immense hulk with an air of courtly menace and, to reduce his pain, a tubular mask that looks like a small creature from the original Alien permanently leeched onto his face. Long ago, Bane escaped from a deep Asian pit where tough men were left to wither and die. Now he is the muscle, and possibly the brains, of the League of Shadows from Batman Begins. And he has a master plan to free — read: enslave — Bruce’s city, employing the ability to cloud men’s minds by lightly touching their heads and, even more effective, a four-megaton nuclear device. “I’m Gotham’s reckoning,” Bane proclaims. “I’m the borrowed time you’ve all been living on.” And to ensure that the debilitated Batman won’t get in the way, he leaves Bruce in the hellhole Bane grew up in.

To clarify some of the plot elements in TDKR, take a refresher glance at Batman Begins. That first movie begins with the young Bruce, in his garden with his lifelong love Rachel Dawes, falling down a deep well into a pit that, for a child, was as terrifying as the pit Bane consigns him to. Worse, because out of the darkness fly a flock of bats. (Hence Bruce’s fear; hence his creation of the Batman doppelgänger to conquer that fear.) As a young man he is drafted by the mysterious Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) into training for the League of Shadows, an elite cadre of militant do-gooders — anyway, doers — whose Shadow in Chief is Ra’s al Ghul. The first of many father figures for Bruce, Ducard appears again in TDKR. So do other plot strands: an ice pond that must be crossed, the sealing off of Gotham’s bridges, the jacket of Bruce’s dead father that Jim Gordon drapes on the shoulders of a poor little rich boy.

As a boy in Batman Begins, he saw his parents murdered by a street thief; those deaths triggered his vigilante vengeance. As a man in The Dark Knight, he lost Rachel in an explosion; that death sent him into his eight-year seclusion, devotedly tended by his servant and surrogate parent, Alfred. But Bruce is not the only TDKR character in a prolonged state of bereavement. John Blake’s father, also a policeman, was killed the night Harvey Dent died. Another character, the offspring of one of Batman’s earlier nemeses, tells him, “I could not forgive my father until you murdered him.” All these grownup children are members of the Dead Parents Society; all are emotional orphans.

Crippled by personal tragedy, then forged into something more durable and dangerous, Bruce, John and the rest express or repress their true nature by playing roles, donning masks. “No one cared who I was,” Bane says through his respirator, “until I put on the mask.” John, who feels a filial kinship to Batman, recalls his days in an orphanage: “You get to learn to hide the anger, practice smiling in a mirror. It’s like wearing a mask.” Selina hides in plain sight, wearing her Catwoman frock at a society ball. When Bruce says, “That’s a brazen costume for a cat burglar,” she asks, “Yeah? Who are you pretending to be?” He replies, “Bruce Wayne, eccentric billionaire.” When does the pretense become the persona, and the persona the person?

Nolan’s mask is his guise as a director of comic-book entertainments, when he’s really out to excoriate American greed and laziness and its citizens’ susceptibility to a demagogue’s threats and promises. Bane — who could be Osama bin Laden with Darth Vader’s voice in “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s body — convinces or cows virtually the whole city with his harangues. (He’s a very verbose dictator.) In TDRK, the mayor is smug, the deputy police commissioner is weak, the government eager to lock up suspects without trials, the Gotham rabble eager to loot the penthouses of the wealthy when Bane declares the city liberated. “This was someone’s home,” says Selena, briefly stricken by conscience as the mob trashes a Fifth Avenue mansion. Replies Selina’s giddy sidekick Holly (Juno Temple): “Now it’s everyone’s home!”

The film’s allusions to the Patriot Act and the decadelong incarceration of terror suspects in Guantánamo are obvious; and this time the connection of Gotham City to New York City is scarily explicit — at least to people who live or work in Manhattan — with scenes shot at the New York Stock Exchange and the specter of terrorism brought to the city’s streets not by airplanes but by in-person anarchy. The Occupy Wall Street connection is probably pure chance, since Nolan and his brother Jonathan wrote the script (from a story by the director and David S. Goyer) long before last September’s start of demonstrations in Zuccotti Park.

But the Occupy Gotham coincidence fits Nolan’s nearly Olympian misanthropy, his disgust with the corruptibility of both class and mass and his suspicion that the only salvation is in a nearly invincible hero — a rich man with the strength and altruism to save desperate America from itself. (Is Bruce Wayne Mitt Romney? Is Batman a Mormon?) Beneath that comic-book dream of the infallible fixer is an implicit warning that, in the real America, a superhero will never fly out of our dreams and into the night sky.

Occasionally the movie’s pulp and fantasy origins expose themselves. The opening set piece, in which Bane and his cohorts are rescued from captivity in a CIA plane by hitching a ride on a larger jet flying above it, is the kind that was more suavely imagined in several James Bond films decades ago. (Bane, through his apparatus, often sounds like a 007 villain; you wait for him to say, “No, Mr. Wayne, I expect you to die.”) You may also wonder why Bruce took ages to learn, even from Alfred, that his business empire is near depletion; why no Gothamite, police or civilian, thinks to shoot Bane in the leg or apply a kung fu kick to his respirator; why, in a street fight between Batman and Bane, none of the thousands of allies or adversaries joins in to take one or both of the men down; and why the thin frozen ice, on which condemned men in wintry Gotham are meant to fall through, miraculously refreezes for the next group of victims. (There’s another implausibility at the end, involving a plane and a nuclear bomb, that we won’t parse here. We’ll just say: if you live across the river from Gotham City, move.)

More often, though, the movie’s emotional gravity gives special heft to venerable Batman tropes. When, after all these years, the Bat-Signal illuminates the sky (Bruce has draped an unconscious villain on a searchlight to form the famous silhouette), it’s seriously thrilling, because so much more is at stake here. Batman Begins showed Bruce’s hellish preparation for his defense of Gotham, and The Dark Knight illuminated a skirmish with one charismatic Joker; those movies sounded the alarm for the all-out war movie that is TDKR.

Composer Hans Zimmer’s percussive score underlines the dovetailed themes of battle and death. The first sounds in the film are a heartbeat’s thump-thump-thump that grow ever fainter; and Zimmer proceeds with sounds mimicking gunfire and ticking machinery. The movie’s pace, both solemn and brisk, is a miracle of conveying reams of narrative — a hallmark of the old Hollywood masters, whose storytelling was typically more synoptic and coherent than that of today’s directors. TDKR is old-fashioned in two other ways: it renounces both the 3-D standard for big action pictures (though 72 minutes of the 160-minute movies can be seen in the IMAX format) and the tendency to make every movie digitally. A proud end credit reads: “This motion picture was shot and finished on film.”

This motion picture also boasts performances whose range and depth match the material. Among the series’ new recruits, Hardy eventually reveals Bane as a creature who inflicts no more pain than he has experienced; Cotillard makes Miranda a seductive plutocrat generous enough to fund a bold new society; Gordon-Levitt is so appealing as a straight shooter, a kind of junior-grade Bruce Wayne, that he could spin off a superhero series of his own. Only Hathaway doesn’t perform as if she’s wearing weight-of-the-world epaulets; Michelle Pfeiffer’s frosty-furious Selina, in Tim Burton’s 1992 Batman Returns, was closer in tone to TDKR. But Hathaway, for all her ripe smiles, also allows for the ambiguities that transform a poor kid into a Catwoman. And she, like Bale, looks great in black.

Caine’s Alfred, frequently on the verge of tears as he talks tough Cockney love to Bruce, imparts a depth of poignancy nearly shocking to viewers; they forget they’re in an action picture and recalibrate their sensibilities to accommodate Caine’s rich, naked portrayal. Bale, a boyish 30 when he first slipped into the cape and cowl back in 2004, has matured impressively in the role. For the first half of TDKR he is a gaunt, haunted wraith, so weary of life that he might have joined his beloved Rachel in the grave. Then he has to throw off what Miranda describes as his “practiced apathy” and transform Bruce, through the most arduous regimen, from a weak sister whom Bane can easily humiliate in a fight to the new, improved Batman facing his and Gotham’s direst challenge. When Catwoman warns the Crusader to forget about the city’s rabble because he’s “given them everything,” the whispered reply is, “Not everything. Not yet.” By the end, the actor has given everything, left every nuance and agony on the table for his big finish. So has his director.

Nolan has said he was inspired by Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities; he borrowed the novel’s setting in a time of revolution, its use of a storm motif and its proliferation of characters who are the doubles or mirror images of each other. (Bane, who literally went to the same school as Bruce, might be Batman’s evil twin.) At the end, Alfred reads the last lines from A Tale of Two Cities: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better place that I go to than I have ever known.”

That could be a summing up of Nolan’s Bruce/Batman, and of The Dark Knight Rises. The movie may not top The Avengers at the worldwide box office, but it is a far, far better thing — maybe the best, most troubling, assured and enthralling of all the superhero movies.
"Young men make wars and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men: courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace, and the vices of peace are the vices of old men: mistrust and caution." -- Alec Guinness (Lawrence of Arabia)

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Re: The Dark Knight Rises reviews

Postby MovieWes » Tue Jul 17, 2012 4:46 pm

The Dark Knight Rises
Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway
Directed by Christopher Nolan

By Peter Travers
July 16, 2012

Audiences will be arguing forever about director Christopher Nolan's capper to his Batman trilogy. Want to bitch? Start with the reactionary politics and that franchisefeeder of an ending. But the sheer scope of Nolan's vision – with emotion and spectacle thundering across the screen – is staggering. The Dark Knight Rises is the King Daddy of summer movie epics. For nearly three hours, Nolan juggles themes that took root in 2005's Batman Begins and reached doomsday perfection in 2008's The Dark Knight with the late Heath Ledger's masterful, Oscar- winning performance as the Joker.

The director and his coscreenwriter, brother Jonathan Nolan, pick up the story eight years after Batman (Christian Bale) took the rap for DA Harvey Dent. It was Dent who died going psycho as the evil Two- Face, but Commissioner Gordon (the reliably superb Gary Oldman) persuaded Batman to take the blame as an impetus for severe new crime laws in Gotham. This new era of crimebusting is built on lies, which is hell on Batman's alter ego, playboy Bruce Wayne, who's been living like a hermit in luxury – all his bat toys banished.

The final chapter in the Dark Knight saga allows Bale to move deeply into Bruce/Batman's troubled soul. Bale, up to every challenge in a tough role, gives a hypnotic, haunting performance.

What brings Batman out of his shell and back into his bat suit? It starts with his attraction to Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a cat burglar who teases Bruce wickedly while hiding a secret agenda. Hathaway – sexy, scrappy and fast with put-downs – is dynamite as Catwoman, bringing welcome humor to a movie about to be enveloped in darkness.

And no one is darker than Bane (Tom Hardy), a battering ram of a villain, his face covered by a grille that feeds him medicine to alleviate pain he's suffered from childhood. Hardy's face is covered for 99.9 percent of the film, but his physical and vocal performance is riveting. It's Bane who initiates the attack against Gotham and the stock exchange. Is Nolan equating the legit protest of Occupy Wall Street with Bane's terrorism? You be the judge.

There's no denying the visual pow of the film, more than half of which was shot with IMAX cameras. From the opening skyjacking to the blowing up of a football field and a nerveshattering prison break, the film shakes you hard and often.

Bruce/Batman finds support in butler Alfred (Michael Caine) and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), who builds all those wonderful bat gadgets. And beautiful philanthropist Miranda Tate (the remarkable Marion Cotillard) and idealistic young cop John Blake (a sensationally good Joseph Gordon- Levitt) spring surprises no one sees coming. I can't say more without spoilers, but a refresher in Batman Begins, the League of Shadows and evil genius Ra's al Ghul really helps. Otherwise, just let The Dark Knight Rises propel you into Nolan's carefully wrought maze. You may have to fight yourself out. But a movie this potent and provocative is well worth the battle.
"Young men make wars and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men: courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace, and the vices of peace are the vices of old men: mistrust and caution." -- Alec Guinness (Lawrence of Arabia)

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Re: The Dark Knight Rises reviews

Postby MovieWes » Tue Jul 17, 2012 4:44 pm

The Dark Knight Rises
By Justin Chang

Few blockbusters have borne so heavy a burden of audience expectation as Christopher Nolan's final Batman caper, and the filmmaker steps up to the occasion with a cataclysmic vision of Gotham City under siege in "The Dark Knight Rises." Running an exhilarating, exhausting 164 minutes, Nolan's trilogy-capping epic sends Batman to a literal pit of despair, restoring him to the core of a legend that questions, and powerfully affirms, the need for heroism in a fallen world. If it never quite matches the brilliance of 2008's "The Dark Knight," this hugely ambitious action-drama nonetheless retains the moral urgency and serious-minded pulp instincts that have made the Warners franchise a beacon of integrity in an increasingly comicbook-driven Hollywood universe. Global B.O. domination awaits.

Even without the bonus of 3D, a technology Nolan has resolutely avoided while continuing to shoot in 35mm and 70mm, "The Dark Knight Rises" should continue the writer-director's commercial hot streak following "The Dark Knight" and "Inception." Pic's B.O. reign will be sustained in part by repeat attendance and Imax ticket premiums; 72 minutes of the film (roughly 40%) were lensed using super-high-res Imax cameras, representing the most extensive and sophisticated use of the giantscreen format in a studio picture.

Once again writing with his brother Jonathan from a tale conceived with David S. Goyer, Nolan has more story obligations than usual this time around. The result is a nearly three-hour yarn that draws on key plot points from "The Dark Knight" before bringing the trilogy full circle, back to the origin story of "Batman Begins," even as it ushers in a motley crew of villains and allies (not always easy to tell apart) inspired by Bob Kane's original comics, and pushes the citizens of Gotham into new realms of terror and mayhem.

Initially, at least, the city is enjoying a period of relative peace eight years after the disappearance of the outlawed vigilante known as Batman, presumed responsible for the death of beloved law-and-order figurehead Harvey Dent. Yet the deception continues to weigh heavily on Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Bruce Wayne himself (Christian Bale), now a shut-in who spends his nights slinking, Hamlet-like, about the parapets of Wayne Manor.

While the ever-loyal Alfred (Michael Caine) supplies one of the series' emotional high points with a tender expression of love and concern for the man he's known since boyhood, it takes the intervention of several new characters for Wayne to return to public life. Two formidable women court his attentions: first Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), who's spearheading an important clean-energy initiative, then Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a wily cat burglar who skillfully robs the billionaire playboy, and later has the nerve to upbraid him for his obscene fortune. There's also John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a smart young cop who clings to his belief in Batman's goodness, and turns out to share some of Wayne's childhood traumas.

Yet the figure who decisively triggers Batman's re-emergence is Bane (Tom Hardy), a vicious mercenary introduced seizing control of an aircraft mid-flight in a bravura opening sequence (Hans Bjerno handled the stunning aerial photography). Wearing a steel-trap-like gas mask to neutralize the pain of unspeakable wounds, this bald, hulking brute is a former member of the League of Shadows, the same "gang of psychopaths" that gave Wayne his own basic training. For this reason, Bane is also the franchise's first major villain who turns out to be a physical match for Batman, something made brutally apparent in a pummeling scene of hand-to-hand, mask-to-mask combat.

The heavy artillery comes out just after the halfway point as Bane's men take advantage of a well-attended football game to turn Gotham into a terrorist stronghold. There's nothing particularly ingenious about their scheme (call it the Bane-ality of evil), which confronts audiences with the now-familiar spectacle of a city's apocalyptic destruction. Yet it's typical of Nolan's approach that his evocation of mass chaos feels so trenchantly detailed, so attuned to the crisis' human toll as glimpsed in the terrified faces of civilian onlookers.

As d.p. Wally Pfister's camera scans the war-torn island metropolis, viewers see not just buildings but social structures collapsing; anarchy ensues as prisoners are released en masse, and various legal, political and financial chieftains are made to answer for their alleged crimes against the underclass. All in all, the picture impressively conveys a seething vision of urban anxiety that speaks to such issues as the greed and complacency of the 1%, the criminal neglect of the poor and oppressed, and above all the unsettling sense that no one and nothing is safe.

Nolan's previous Batman picture tapped into a similar vein of post-9/11 distress. Yet while "The Dark Knight Rises" raises the dramatic stakes considerably, at least in terms of its potential body count, it doesn't have its predecessor's breathless sense of menace or its demonic showmanship, and with the exception of one audacious sleight-of-hand twist, the story can at times seem more complicated than intricate, especially in its reliance on portentous exposition and geographically far-flung flashbacks.

Perhaps inevitably, one also feels the absence of a villain as indelible as Heath Ledger's Joker, although Hardy does make Bane a creature of distinct malevolence with his baroque speech patterns and rumbling bass tones, provoking a sort of lower-register duet when pitted against Batman's own voice-distorted growl (the sound mix rendered their dialogue mostly if not entirely intelligible at the screening attended).

In a more gratifying development, the film reasserts the primacy of its title character and the general excellence of Bale's performance, forcing Wayne to reckon once and for all with the alter ego he's fashioned for himself and Gotham in the name of justice. If the point is that only a state of total desperation can push a person to greatness, Nolan movingly acknowledges the limits of lone-ranger justice, as Selina, Miranda, Gordon, Blake and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Wayne's old friend and gadgets expert, come to play crucial and sometimes unexpected roles in the twisty drama.

Hardy, Gordon-Levitt and Cotillard, recruited for duty after their stints in "Inception," are all on their game here, blending easily in a supporting cast anchored by old pros Caine, Oldman and Freeman. Perhaps the riskiest casting choice was that of Hathaway in the potentially problematic role of Selina/Catwoman, but although her kitty outfit reps a slightly more cartoonish touch than Nolan's neo-noir aesthetic typically allows (if nowhere near as campy as those worn by Halle Berry and Michelle Pfeiffer), the versatile actress nails the sardonic, hard-edged tone necessary to make this morally ambiguous vixen a dynamic foil for the Caped Crusader.

Production designers Nathan Crowley and Kevin Kavanaugh opt for a grittier, more working-class Gotham this time around, a fully inhabited city of rundown street corners, public-works offices, bombed-out bridges and fetid sewers. While Chicago served as a recognizable template in the earlier two pictures, the exterior city shots here were achieved in New York, Pittsburgh and especially Los Angeles, whose downtown serves as the backdrop for a thrilling Michael Mann-style street chase marked by the appearance of Wayne's latest vessel, a jet-helicopter hybrid known simply as the Bat.

Lee Smith's editing maintains tautness and energy over the estimable running time, and Hans Zimmer adds a few ivory-tickling grace notes to his magnificently brooding score, still one of the most striking and definitive elements of this altogether exemplary studio franchise.
Camera (Technicolor, Panavision widescreen), Wally Pfister; editor, Lee Smith; music, Hans Zimmer; production designers, Nathan Crowley, Kevin Kavanaugh; supervising art director, Naaman Marshall; art directors, Joshua Lusby, Dean Wolcott, Zack Grobler, Robert Woodruff; set designers, Martha Johnston, Theodore Sharps; set decorators, Paki Smith, Julie Ochipinti; costume designer, Lindy Hemming; sound (Dolby Digital/Datasat/SDDS), Ed Novick; sound designer/supervising sound editor, Richard King; re-recording mixers, Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker; special effects supervisor, Chris Corbould; special effects coordinator, Scott Fisher; visual effects supervisor, Paul Franklin; visual effects producer, Mike Chambers; visual effects, Double Negative, New Deal Studios; stunt coordinator, Tom Struthers; assistant director, Nilo Otero; casting, John Papsidera. Reviewed at Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank, Calif., July 14, 2012. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 164 MIN.

Contact Justin Chang at justin.chang@variety.com
"Young men make wars and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men: courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace, and the vices of peace are the vices of old men: mistrust and caution." -- Alec Guinness (Lawrence of Arabia)

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The Dark Knight Rises reviews

Postby MovieWes » Tue Jul 17, 2012 4:42 pm

The Dark Knight Rises: Film Review
11:59 PM PDT 7/15/2012 by Todd McCarthy

Christopher Nolan's Batman finale stars Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne and features performances from series newcomers Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

The real world threats of terrorism, political anarchy and economic instability make deep incursions into the cinematic comic book domain in The Dark Knight Rises. Big-time Hollywood filmmaking at its most massively accomplished, this last installment of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy makes everything in the rival Marvel universe look thoroughly silly and childish. Entirely enveloping and at times unnerving in a relevant way one would never have imagined, as a cohesive whole this ranks as the best of Nolan's trio, even if it lacks -- how could it not? -- an element as unique as Heath Ledger's immortal turn in The Dark Knight. It's a blockbuster by any standard.

The director daringly pushes the credibility of a Gotham City besieged by nuclear-armed revolutionaries to such an extent that it momentarily seems absurd that a guy in a costume who refuses to kill people could conceivably show up to save the day. This is especially true since Nolan, probably more than any other filmmaker who's ever gotten seriously involved with a superhero character, has gone so far to unmask and debilitate such a figure. But he gets away with it and, unlike some interludes in the previous films, everything here is lucid, to the point and on the mark, richly filling out (especially when seen in the Imax format) every moment of the 164-minute running time.

In a curtain raiser James Bond would kill for, a CIA aircraft transporting terrorists is sensationally hijacked in midair by Bane (Tom Hardy), an intimidating hulk whose nose and mouth are encumbered by a tubular, grill-like metal mask which gives his voice an artificial quality not unlike that of Darth Vader. What Bane is up to is not entirely clear, but it can't be good.

Although it's only been four years since the last Batman film, eight years of dramatic time have elapsed since the climactic events depicted in The Dark Knight Rises. Batman and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) have been in suspiciously simultaneous total seclusion, much to the consternation of loyal valet Alfred (Michael Caine), who, upbraiding his boss for inaction, accuses him of “just waiting for things to get bad again.” They do, in a hurry. But in the interim, Gotham has scarcely missed him, as he's publicly blamed for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent and hasn't needed him anyway since organized crime has virtually disappeared.

Bruce begins being dragged back into the limelight by slinky Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a spirited cat burglar who lifts his fingerprints and a necklace from his safe while pulling a job at his mansion. It was always a question how this ambiguous feline character (never called Catwoman herein) would be worked into the fabric of this Batman series, but co-screenwriters Jonathan and Christopher Nolan, working from a story by the director and David S. Goyer, have cannily threaded her through the tale as an alluring gadfly and tease who engages in an ongoing game of one-upmanship with Batman and whose selfishness prevents her from making anything beyond opportunistic alliances.

Commandeering the city's sewers with his fellow mercenaries, Bane begins his onslaught, first with an attempted kidnapping of Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), then with a brazen attack on the Stock Exchange, which, at the film's 45-minute mark, has the double effect of luring Batman out of hiding and bankrupting Bruce Wayne. The latter catastrophe forces the fallen tycoon to ask wealthy, amorously inclined board member Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) to assume control of his company to squeeze out Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn), who's in cahoots with Bane.

Nolan has thus boldly rooted his film in what are arguably the two big worries of the age, terrorism and economic collapse, the result of which can only be chaos. So when virtually the entire Gotham police force is lured underground to try to flush out Bane, the latter has the lawmen just where he wants them, trapped like animals in a pen waiting for slaughter. And the fact that Gotham City has, for the first time, realistically used New York City for most of its urban locations merely adds to the topical resonance of Bane's brilliantly engineered plot, in which he eventually takes the entire population of Manhattan hostage. Nolan has always been a very serious, even remorseless filmmaker, and never more so than he is here.

Inducing Selina to take him to Bane, Batman gets more than he bargained for; physically, he's no match for the mountainously muscled warrior, who sends the legendary crime fighter off to a literal hellhole of a prison, with the parting promise of reducing Gotham to ashes. Seemingly located in the Middle East, the dungeon resembles a huge well and has been escaped from only once, by none other than Bane, who is said to have been born there and got out as a child.

Here, as elsewhere, there are complex ties leading back to the comic books that link characters and motivations together; with Bruce and Bane, it is with the League of Shadows, which occasions the brief return of Liam Neeson's Ra's Al Ghul, last seen in Batman Begins (in 2005). A solid new character, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's resourceful street cop John Blake, is a grateful product of one of the Wayne Foundation's orphanages. Many of the characters wear masks, either literal or figurative; provocatively, Batman's mask hides his entire face except for his mouth, the very part of Bane which is covered. This is just one of the motifs the Nolans have used to ingeniously plot out the resolution to their three-part saga, which involves at least one major, superbly hidden surprise.

While Bruce Wayne languishes in the pit rebuilding his strength for an escape attempt, Bane spectacularly and mercilessly reverses the entire social order of Gotham City: 1,000 dangerous criminals are released from prison, the rich are tossed out of their uptown homes, the remaining police hide out like rats underground, and a “people's court” (presided over by Cillian Murphy's Scarecrow) dispenses death sentences willy-nilly. With virtually all bridges and tunnels destroyed, no one can leave the island, which is threatened by a fusion device, initially developed by Bruce and his longtime tech genius Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) as a clean energy source but now transformed at Bane's behest into a nuke, which he promises to use.

Some of the action scenes, such as multiple chases involving the armed motorcycle Bat-Pod (mostly ridden by Selina) and the cool new one-man jet chopper-like aircraft called The Bat that zooms through the city's caverns like something out of the early Star Wars, have something of a familiar feel. But the opening skyjacking, the Stock Exchange melee and especially the multiple explosions that bring the city to its knees -- underground, on bridges and, most strikingly, in a football stadium -- are fresh and brilliantly rendered, as are all the other effects. The film reportedly cost $250 million, but it would be easy to believe that the figure was quite a bit more, so elaborate is everything about the production.

But the fact that all the money has been put to the use of making the severe dramatic events feel so realistic -- there's not a hint of cheesiness or the cartoonlike -- ratchets up the suspense and pervasive feeling of unease. One knows going in that this film will mark the end of Batman, at least for now and as rendered by Bale and Nolan, but for the first time there is the sense that it could also really be the end for Batman, that he might be sacrificed, or sacrifice himself, for the greater good.

Needing to portray both his characters as vulnerable, even perishable, Bale is at his series best in this film. At times in the past his voice seemed too artificially deepened and transformed; there's a bit of that here, but far less, and, as Bruce becomes impoverished and Batman incapacitated, the actor's nuances increase. Caine has a couple of surprisingly emotional scenes to play and handles them with lovely restraint, while other returnees Oldman and Freeman deliver as expected.

Bane is a fearsome figure, fascinating in his physicality and blithely confident approach to amoral anarchy. With the mask strapped to his head at all times and his voice altered, Hardy is obliged to express himself mostly through body language, which he does powerfully, and at a couple of key moments his eyes speak volumes. All the same, the facial and verbal restrictions provide emotive limitations, and his final moments onscreen feel almost thrown away; one feels a bit cheated of a proper sendoff.

Hathaway invests her catlike woman with verve and impudence, while Cotillard is a warm and welcome addition to this often forbidding world. Even though Nolan and Bale have made it clear that The Dark Knight Rises marks their farewell to Bruce Wayne and Batman, the final shot clearly indicates the direction a follow-up offshoot series by Warner Bros. likely will take.

As before, the production values are opulent and sensational; nothing short of the highest praise can be lavished on the work of production designers Nathan Crowley and Kevin Kavanaugh, cinematogtapher Wally Pfister, costume designer Lindy Hemming, visual effects supervisor Paul Franklin, special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, editor Lee Smith, composer Hans Zimmer and sound designer Richard King, just for starters.

The only conspicuous faux pas is a big continuity gaffe that has the raid on the Stock Exchange take place during the day but the subsequent getaway chase unfold at night.

Nearly half the film, including all the big action scenes, was shot with large-format Imax cameras and, with both versions having been previewed, the 70mm Imax presentation that will be shown in 102 locations worldwide is markedly more vivid visually and powerful as a dramatic experience; the normal 35mm prints, while beautiful, are somewhat less sharp.

Despite all the advanced technology deployed to make The Dark Knight Rises everything it is, Nolan remains proudly and defiantly old school (as only the most successful directors can get away with being these days) when it comes to his filmmaking aesthetic, an approach indicated in a note at the end of the long final credits: “This motion picture was shot and finished on film.”

Opens: Friday, July 20 (Warner Bros.)

Production: Syncopy

Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman, Matthew Modine, Ben Mendelsohn, Burn Gorman, Alon Moni Aboutboul, Juno Temple, Daniel Sunjata, Chris Ellis, Tom Conti, Nestor Carbonell, Brett Cullen, Aidan Gillen, Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson

Director: Christopher Nolan

Screenwriters: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan; story by Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer; based on characters created by Bob Kane

Producers: Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven

Executive producers: Benjamin Melniker, Michael E. Uslan, Kevin De La Noy, Thomas Tull

Director of photography: Wally Pfister

Production designers: Nathan Crowley, Kevin Kavanaugh

Costume designer: Lindy Hemming

Editor: Lee Smith

Music: Hans Zimmer

Visual effects supervisor: Paul Franklin

Special effects supervisor: Chris Corbould

Rated PG-13, 164 minutes
"Young men make wars and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men: courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace, and the vices of peace are the vices of old men: mistrust and caution." -- Alec Guinness (Lawrence of Arabia)


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