By Botond Gergely (Cluj, Romania)
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Why did Burton and Schumacher fall? So that Nolan could teach the Batman franchise how to pick itself up again. With that out of the way, the cape crusader had to face his biggest challenge yet: fan expectations. Which wasn’t the case when the first 2 movies came out, but their individual and combined greatness, they’ve raised the bar. Also, Christopher Nolan is one of the best directors of this era. If you’re waiting, get a time machine and go either way.

I would like to state that Batman Begins was great and The Dark Knight is, to date, one of my favorite movies ever. They aren’t per say great Batman interpretations (like one of the best animated series of all time, Justice League, some DC animated features or the Arkham games), but Nolan accomplished to craft great character piece action thrillers that happened to star the dark knight himself. The all-star cast of Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne), Gary Oldman (James Gordon), Michael Caine (Alfred Pennyworth), Morgan Freeman (Lucious Fox ), Liam Neeson (Ra’s al Ghul), Heath Ledger (Joker), Cillian Murphy (Dr Jonathan Crane) with the compositional talent of Hans Zimmer didn’t hurt either. I just wish Bale’s Batman voice weren’t a Vin Diesel impersonation.

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One way or another.

This time around, the core remains and talents like Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotilliard – so the dream thieves – and Anne Hathaway are added. And this great piece of advertising didn’t ruin the movie’s chances.

Being an almost 3 hour long movie, at first I’ll talk about the first 2 acts and after give this review the ending it deserves needs. SO:

The opening – plane heist – scene was great. Bane (Tom Hardy) was introduced as the menacing and very quotable presence he’ll be until the very end. Seriously, this character keeps 9gag and other meme sites alive. There was much fuss about his voice and mask, but Hardy delivers via body language, eye movement and there isn’t a sentence he utters which isn’t understandable (or greatly written). After the greatness of the Joker (played by Heath Ledger) it was time Batman had a foe who could physically (over) match him. He’s the reason (and the basically nuclear bomb he stole) Batman will have to step into the spotlight again.

Also in the first 10 minutes of TDKR we’re informed about the last 8 years’ happenings in Gotham: Batman vanished, Bruce Wayne, now a cripple, basically has no contact with the outside world and criminal persecutions are high, because of the so called ‘Dent Act’ – spawned by Gordon and Batman’s lie at the end of The Dark Knight. We get a first glimpse of the good looking cat burglar, Selina Kyle and her first, of a few, interactions with Mr Wayne. Anne Hathaway gives surprising depth, ingenuity and playfulness to the character. She’s my favorite new element to the franchise.

As for the returning cast, Bale, Caine, Freeman and Oldman, what’s to say? Bale gives his best performance as Bruce Wayne, Fox, for what little he does, is entertaining, Gordon’s conflicted and rattled personality is believable.

I almost forgot about Alfred Pennyworth: overly attached butler who cries a lot and spoils the ending 30 minutes into the movie. He’s great!

A somewhat touching “side gag” is Lucious (Freeman) and Alfred playing a reverse game of “Have you met Ted Bruce?” with him and a certain Miranda Tit Tate.

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Yes, Mr. Wayne, Morgan Freeman does come in black.

Gordon-Levitt’s Blake character however is redundant. The movie would’ve worked better without him. His performance is serviceable, the lines he gets are good, but he’s there because he’s a talented young actor. Also, he figures out who Batman is (like Tim Drake, the 2nd Robin ), but from a look on Bruce’s face, then, later he’s told to throw a small explosive after 5 seconds… if I said 2 have past, I’d be lying. Also, he’s surprised by guns killing people and finds garbage trucks getting in the way of police blockades okay. That’s not very consistent.

And there’s Miranda Tate, played by Cotilliard. Remember her, she might be important.

The real highlights here are really the performances, character moments and the Bane scenes. You can feel the magnitude of when Batman finally returns to try and stop Bane. The action involving the Bat and the Bat-pod are awesome, those gadgets are just BAT-ASS while Bane’s plans are executed with visual flare (just look at the football stadium scene, it was a blast). Unfortunately the fight scenes are of the quality of Star Wars re-enactment lightsaber battles, yet watching Bruce and Selina fight together is still fun.

BTW Batman’s 8 year limp is cured by a magic knee brace. And if that was possible, WHY DID HE WAIT ALMOST A DECADE to make himself not limp?! I know he did this to be physically able to fight crime, but not being a cripple helps in other tasks also, like in not being robbed by maids. He must’ve been method training to play Keyser Soize in a Usual Suspects remake.

One fight scene achieves greatness, but because of its chilling atmosphere – finally a brawl without dub step in the background- and inevitable conclusion.

From here on the movie takes several time jumps and cuts from Gotham to the underground prison Bruce is thrown and kept in, with a broken back. No worries, however, all it takes is a friendly prison hug and the back’s good as new. And not killing the dark knight at the moment you can is the best plan ever! Said every Batman villain ever. This period illustrates how Gotham’s doomed without its protector, because all they do is talk about a resistance. It’s the movie equivalent of stoners’ “You know what would be great? This…that,” moments. Wayne’s recovery is at least interesting, while the other’s activities aren’t boring because, after a point they do try, it’s just that they have an efficiency rating worthy of the Three Stooges.

I don’t think that it shows, but up until this point, I was ready to love this movie, but then came the third act:

Fight scenes are even more ridiculous and firing weapons seem like laser tag guns. They have virtually no recoil and hit less people than storm troopers do. Also, one dude tries to hit Batman with his rifle, because shooting people is too mainstream.

They almost ruin Bane… TWICE. You’re kidding me that their plan was to be blown up with the bomb, right? And he’s a lovesick little boy… the problem was – sort of – solved by Selina.

If you think that death was out of nowhere, just wait until Talia al Ghul/Miranda Tate goes into limbo.

Lord of the Rings ending disorder. As a means of justification for Alfred’s speeches and Blake’s presence they have unnecessarily clean and overreaching endings. Don’t get me wrong, some moments had emotional resonance, but the private funeral scene paralleled with the public memorial was a more suitable closing moment, character and plot development wise.

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The should’ve been final frame of the movie.

To be fair, there were some really sweet moments, like Batman taking out thugs with some sort of thugs (which could’ve been useful against Bane, but whatever, bats are too macho for that), leading the police force to war, (seemingly) sacrificing himself for the city (it was very Batman-esque). The “everyone can be a hero” Gordon moment was inspired as well. So the problem isn’t with the execution, questionable decisions are exclusively to blame for the aforementioned shortcomings.

People also complain about Batman barely appearing on screen. Well, the costume per se got fewer screen time than expected, but at this moment of his life, Bruce Wayne was the dark knight himself, with or without the cowl. Plus he (thankfully) got to talk less in his Vin Diesel voice.

The Dark Knight Rises is a good conclusion of a great trilogy and remains the 3rd best Batman movie out there, after its direct predecessors. Despite the flaws, too much great individual greatness is put in here to not call this movie good. Just like Lost. Maybe not that good. Still, damn you, Lindelof.

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Batman’s the street artist Gotham deserves.

PS. For you “How did Bruce Wayne get back so quickly…” people out there: He’s Batman!

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