Dark Knight Rises Review Part 1: Shock and Awe

Probably going to end up seeing this one at least 2 more times in theaters

I’m going to preface this entire post by saying that at the moment I am somewhat sleep deprived and heavily caffeinated, both of which may amplify my current state of judgment a bit.  That being said, the number one cause of my present state of mind is not lack of sleep or the stimulants pumping through my system.  Rather, the guilty party in this case is the absolute cinegasm I have just experienced by the hand of Christopher Nolan’s latest and final entry into the Batman Saga:  The Dark Knight Rises.  With the gravity of this movie and the amount of expectations it carried with it, I feel that it deserves my first multi-part review and so it shall be.  This first installment will cover my initial reactions to the film in the broadest sense, while the following installments will delve further into Spoiler Alert territory.  For now though, I’ll start off with this:  it is an incredibly rare and magnificent thing when a movie, carrying so much hype into its release, manages to deliver on that hype, and The Dark Knight Rises is a shining example of that cinematic splendor.  As I watched the movie, I admit that I noticed several flaws and relative inadequacies at some points, but as I walked out of the theater I found myself not caring about any of them as I reveled in the absolute satisfaction of seeing a set of films I love so fully get the well-executed and incredibly powerful conclusion that they deserve.

Like me, Bruce Wayne also prefers spending most of his free time in a basement

As I said, I’ll keep things broad for the moment for the majority of you out there that don’t have the dedication to deprive yourself of a weeknight’s sleep.  To start off, I just want to address the factors that led up to The Dark Knight Rises release.  Most moviegoers are likely aware of the state of cartoonish decay that had befallen the Batman Franchise after such over the top critical and box office failures as Batman Forever and Batman and Robin (The Nipples, the Nipples…).  In 2005 however, along came a young up and coming director by the name of Christopher Nolan, and what he did with the struggling Batman Franchise has since made arguably the biggest impact on the movie industry of any director in recent history.  Nolan took the “camp” of the previous incarnations and darkened the tone to the levels of the 1989 film, yet grounding that darkened tone in a more realistic setting in a move we now know as “The Gritty Reboot”.  Add in a spectacular cast, complex story lines and a level of character depth previously unobtainable by the superhero genre, and you wind up with some of the most critically acclaimed and financially successful franchises in history.  After setting the bar even higher with 2008’s The Dark Knight, many questioned whether or not Nolan had hit his crescendo too early and left himself with an unreachable level of expectation for the final film.  Were that film in any other hands than those of Christopher Nolan, we might have ended up with a situation similar to the original Star Wars trilogy, in which the second, darker toned entry reaches such dizzying heights that the third fails to live up to regardless of any increase in scope or an added level of conclusiveness.  I myself shared that cautiousness in my optimism, but as more and more material was released I gradually threw that caution to the wind and joined in on the collective countdown.

Yes Lucius, Bowties are Cool

So here we are, the wait is over, and rather than the Ewok-laiden disappointment of Return of the Jedi I am left with the resounding joy of Return of the King.  In The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan has managed to truly bring his Batman Saga full circle and the result is something which stands on a pedestal held aloft by the sum of its already elevated parts.  One thing that The Dark Knight and Batman Begins managed to do exceptionally well was manage a fairly high volume of significant characters.  Between Batman himself, Alfred, Fox, Rachel, The central villain and all peripheral villains, they bring to mind The Avengers from earlier this year in that with a script so crowded with significant characters, it would have been easy for the movies to either leave people out or distract from other necessary central-character development.  This is an issue faced doubly by The Dark Knight Rises in that it takes the franchise’s already long list of characters and adds to them Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), John Blake (Joseph Gordon Levitt) and Commissioner Foley (Matthew Modine).  As a screenwriting team, John and Christopher Nolan have always managed to weave a lot of characters together in ways that establish everyone as an individual character while still managing to tie everyone together in various ways.  Nearly every character listed above has some sort of interaction with each other, and it gives a huge amount of opportunities to explore characters through those interactions.  While some of those interactions are definitely more compelling than others (I’d have to say the scenes between Alfred and Bruce were up there with my favorites)

“I am Gotham’s Reckoning”

Several quick notes before I wrap things up and accept the welcome embrace of sleep.  First off, a big source of concern going into this movie was the inclusion of Catwoman, a character which based on past incarnations didn’t quite feel in line with the sort of atmosphere Nolan has been building around the series.  I’m very happy to say however that, with a few small exceptions, Anne Hathaway does a great job of steering her character away from the image of Catwoman most of us had in our heads and towards a more grounded and believable portrayal.  While there are a few moments of taking sides, Selina is mostly motivated by self-preservation and her relative self-centered outlook actually provides a nice morally neutral foil to the Good Vs. Evil motif of Batman and Bane.  Speaking of Bane, you may be wondering how well he stacks up to Heath Ledger as The Joker, and while I have a special place in my heart for the crazed anarchism that Ledger injected into his role I still felt like Bane was at least very close to the same level as his predecessor.  We only once see Tom Hardy’s face in the film but he manages to convey a sense of menace through nothing but his eyes and impressive physique.   His voice was probably what set him apart for me though, and while the Joker danced around Batman, attacking everything around him rather than the Dark Knight himself, Bane is much more of a head on adversary for Batman and as we watch the two face off it feels even more like our caped crusader has finally met his match.

The Verdict:  9/10  Incredible

If I had to describe this movie in one word, that word will be Powerful.  This movie does everything to grab your attention and hold on as any other successful blockbuster would do, but it adds a sense of depth and complexity which make it truly stand out from any other movie I’ve seen in the past few years.  In any case, I can count the number of movies on my hand which I would give 10’s to and The Dark Knight is at the top of that list.  While I’m not quite convinced that Dark Knight Rises is at the same 10 level as its predecessor, it is pretty damn close.  Bottom line, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises are two films which are very different yet equally impressive.  The Dark Knight is more of a sprawling Crime Saga, whereas The Dark Knight Rises feels more like a Batman movie with James Bond DNA.  In DKR, the story starts off fairly slowly and builds to a breakneck speed which continues for the entire last 60 minutes or so of the movie, all amplified by the drastically increased stakes of Bane’s more concentrated brand of destruction.  Like The Dark Knight, I can understand some people having an issue with the long run time (about 2 hours and 40 minutes) but in both films Nolan has a lot of story to tell and I would rather take the time to watch it in full than have it be cut down to a palatable size in order to please of your average ADD movie viewer.  Bottom line, See this movie.  I can’t guarantee that you’ll love it as much as I did, but I can at least tell you that I felt more gleefully satisfied on my way out of the theater than I have since I got my acceptance letter from my Business school.  Nuff Said.

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About r361n4

I'm a student at the University of Washington Majoring Business. I've always loved movies and my goal is to work on the financial side of the film industry. Until then though, I figure I'll spare my friends from my opinions and shout them from a digital mountaintop for anyone who's interested. After all, if a tree falls in a forest and nobody blogs about it, does it really happen?
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20 Responses to Dark Knight Rises Review Part 1: Shock and Awe

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review my man. This movie just left me in total shock and awe, as you said, and I don’t think I could have asked for anything better. Yeah, there is the occasional mis-step in it’s story but that didn’t get to me because I knew that in the end, Nolan was going to pull-out on top with a superb ending, like he always does. Can’t wait to see what he does next with the rest of his career, but I can definitely say that I will miss him making Batman movies.

    • r361n4 says:

      Agreed, but Nolan has always had a preference for original material so I understand his wanting to retire from the series (for now at least…) Now I just hope he can inject the same sort of freshness into Man of Steel, then who knows, perhaps the Justice League will someday become a reality

  2. Shrey Khetarpal says:

    Great post! I agree about the earlier films failing to impress and Nolan taking the series to the next level. I am also quite impressed with TDKR and think it’s a fitting finale to the trilogy.

    • r361n4 says:

      Thanks, just to be clear though when you say the earlier films you mean the 90s versions right? not Batman Begins or Dark Knight, because I’m a huge fan of those two as well, lol.

      Anyways I’m curious to see where the franchise goes from here, I just hope they don’t hand it off to someone less qualified than Nolan any time soon.

      • Shrey Khetarpal says:

        Yes, I mean pre-Nolan films 🙂 I started liking Batman films because of Nolan only. I don’t know who will be able to do justice to the franchise now…

  3. Mark Hobin says:

    I highly support the invention of new words and “cinegasm” is my new favorite. I promise to use it frequently in my daily speech so that it may enter the English lexicon as an accepted word.

    I lament that the sheer number of characters worked a bit against the drama as I think Batman vs. Bane was the main focus and everything else kind of took away from that. In some cases (Catwoman) the distraction was more than welcome (Ahem!) but in others (John Daggett: Bruce Wayne’s business rival, and his assistant Stryver) the characters were an unnecessary addition. With all that out of the way…

    I LOVED THIS FILM!

    P.S. I love Return of the Jedi too.

    • r361n4 says:

      Lol, didn’t mean to totally hate on ROTJ, I was more referring to the general critical consensus than my own personal feelings. I first saw it when I was very young so I didn’t hate the Ewoks like a lot of people did, and the battle of Endor segment of our VHS tape was completely worn down after a while of constant rewinds and replays, lol. Speaking of ROTJ actually, was I the only one who instantly thought of Admiral Ackbar when the police were about to get trapped in the sewers?

  4. Corey says:

    Too many people are comparing TDKR to TDK, which I don’t think is fair. They are both integral parts to one dazzling story. This finale had a purpose, and as you pointed out, it more than fulfilled it.

    • r361n4 says:

      Agreed, its hard not to make the comparison just because of the nature of sequels, but I think once the dust settles itll be a lot easier for people to look at DKR as its own movie rather than just a follow up to TDK

  5. atothewr says:

    Great review. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of them based off of this movie.

    I’m still struggling with my own review of it. There is just so much to take in that its hard to figure out what to write about.

    Great movie from start to finish. I would agree with you, go see this movie.

    • r361n4 says:

      Completely agreed, especially if you’re a fan of the entire series like me its hard to sum up just the film itself in one post let alone its place among the trilogy as a whole. Let me know when you’ve posted your review 🙂

      • atothewr says:

        I’ll be dropping my review in two parts on Thursday July 26th. One in the morning, one in the afternoon. I found this to be a hard review to write because I was so close to it. Most movies I can step away from and give it my best opinion, but when it comes to the Batman world it is hard for me to look at it in a review way.

    • r361n4 says:

      Hey Tanuj,

      I’ll check out your review here soon but just a word of advice, it’s totally fine to post a link to your site on another blog but you should probably lead off with a bit more feedback on the review you’re posting on than “Hey Nice Review”. A lot of bloggers such as myself get spam quite a bit and your post actually got blocked by my spam filter at first.

      All that aside though, the blogging world is a wonderfully welcoming place and I’m glad to make your virtual acquaintance 🙂

  6. ddog13 says:

    Great review. I really like this blog. I didn’t think anyone else knew what the heck a Rorschach test was. I would love to have you on board a project that involves movie bloggers. Here’s the post that explains. http://gamerscene.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/a-big-idea-bloggers-stay-tuned/ I would LOVE to have you involved. Great review once again
    ~Ddog

  7. Haha “cinegasm”. 🙂

  8. Pingback: Rorschach Awards Part 2: The Categories! | Rorschach Reviews

  9. Pingback: Rorschach Awards Part 4: Top 10 Movies of 2012 | Rorschach Reviews

  10. DStarB says:

    Agreed across the boards. DKR is a truly superb entry into the Batman cinematic Lexicon!! I especially liked the way the new characters (Bane and Catwoman) were introduced and used for the flick. Some people did shoot bile for not being able to understand Bane, but I really enjoyed Tom Hardy’d choices for the character. And I saw Anne’s Catwoman as exactly the way I would imagine her to be. This flick brings the perfect close to a trilogy that was exactly the pure adrenaline shot that the Batman franchise needed.

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