REVIEW: The Dark Knight Rises (Frank's take)

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We live in a world full of hype, opinions are formed well in advance of the film even hitting the theater. Fanboy fanaticism rules the day, and we are all subjected to countless hours of speculation, conjecture, and outright fabrication, as things are built from a single ember to a full blown conflagration. As the flames rise, and the day of release gets closer, things stop being subjective, and turn toward the superlative. That was the atmosphere, when I finally got to see “The Dark Knight Rises.” I rode in on the waves of “This is going to be the greatest movie ever”, and when I left the theater, was it on those same waves, or had the tide gone out? Find out, after the jump.

I try to avoid the superlatives, granted I am not above having my own fanatical moments, and I am not above superlatives, but I try to avoid them. When I hear people claiming that any summer movie (summer movie being defined here as one of the tent pole blockbusters, made to prop up the studios year end dividends... Or, more simply, the big budget popcorn flicks that fill the theater from may until august) is the “greatest movie ever” I cringe. The sole purpose of the majority of summer fare is style over substance. These movies are created to be bombastic sensory overloads, a plethora of explosions, gratuitous violence, and very often some raw sexuality. Those are not the ingredients to a good movie, those are the ingredients to a lengthy amusement park ride.

This is not to say that these movies can't be good for what they are, I'm just saying that “The Amazing Spider-Man” should never be held up to the same standard as say... “Citizen Kane”. I will not lie, I love summer movies. I love an opportunity to shut off my brain, and soak up some mind-numbing endorphins.

“The Dark Knight Rises” is the third in Christopher Nolan's dark re-imagining of the Batman story. The movie is far removed from the campy good times of the Adam West Batman, and equally removed from the neon eyesores of the George Clooney Batman. These are dark films, that strive to be deeper set in reality, and try to very hard to remove themselves from the campier more unrealistic aspects of the Batman comics. Nolan gives us a Batman that is almost plausible, with only slight amounts of suspension of disbelief. He even offers the Batman villains that seem mostly real. In the latest installment we are offered up what should be the crowning achievement of the series. The capstone to a series that was able to rinse the bad taste left by the Joel Schumacher films (which by the way were still better than Green Lantern... Just saying.)

But, like Bruce Wayne, in a scene that I can't mention due to my vow to avoid spoilers, the film repeatedly falls short.

The character of Bane, is quite possibly the one thing I will turn to, to point out my issues with the movie. He was a physically imposing character. Ruthless, cunning, a true killer with intelligence enough to match the Batman himself. Sadly, when it came to the audio portion, they decided to give him all the vocal inflections of Yoda, without the poor sentence structure. It seemed to me that every time he spoke, he must have thought he was on Jeopardy, because everything sounded like a question. Really Bane, are you Gotham's reckoning or aren't you? That is something you should be TELLING us, not something you should be asking us.

Before the fanboys start frothing too much, I should say I did enjoy the movie, but I found the primary villain to be lacking. He did not have the pitch-perfect delivery of Heath Ledger's Joker. Nor did he have the suaveness of Liam Neeson's Ra's al Ghul. He was an imposing man, with the voice of a Muppet.

I honestly found Anne Hathaway's Catwoman to be a more interesting villain. She offers Batman a nice female foil, while simultaneously sexing things up ever so slightly. She offered up a decently complicated character in the little bits of screen time she was given. And she didn't spend half of her screen time holding onto the collar of her shirt, or jacket, or whatever she happened to be wearing in any given scene.

The real star of this movie, is a character I don't want to say too much about. However, I will say that Joseph Gordon-Levitt's John Blake character deserved more screen time. He was by far the most interesting character the story had to offer.

Visually, the film lives up to and surpasses the previous flicks in the series. In this third outing it seems the desire was to go big, or go home. The fights are bigger, the action is bigger, everything just feels well... you get the idea. It offers up the standard summer movie fare of explosions, but attempts quite valiantly to back that style up with substance that I believe adequately closes out the story. It offers some twists that while not particularly shocking, are interesting, and make nice nods to the comic fans.

Recommendation: Check this flick out. It's fun, and has enough weight to it to set it apart from a standard summer flick. And check it out in IMAX if you can afford it. That is not a recommendation that I make lightly.

Is it Theater-worthy: Naturally I'm going to say yes, especially after I recommend that people see it in IMAX. It simply boils down to this, the film was made to be seen up on the big screen. To see it at home, or to pirate grainy footage would be doing the film a huge disservice.

Final Thoughts: This was the ending the series needed, but not necessarily the one it deserved. After the amazing second entry in the series, this film had some huge shoes to fill. It made a valiant effort, but never quite managed to pull it off. There are thrills aplenty, though. And this film will eventually grace my Blu-Ray shelf. In the end, it was a good finale, just not a great one.

Frank's Final Score: 8.0 out of 10  

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