Finally. After watching two of my favorite comic book movies of all time, I've been eagerly anticipating the conclusion to one of the greatest trilogies of all time. Ahh yes, after the shockingly realistic portrayal of the creation of Batman in "Begins", to the utterly impeccable performance by Heath in "The Dark Knight", "The Dark Knight Rises" couldn't have much higher expectations. Even in New York City, IMAX theaters had tickets sold out months before its final release. But after the arguably disappointing "Inception", my fears brought into question, would "The Dark Knight Rises" turn out like "Godfather Part III"? I could proudly say it doesn't, but not without its fair share of problems all due to Nolan's continuous advancement towards blockbuster-ized movie making.
To compare "The Dark Knight Rises" to its predecessor, "The Dark Knight" is extremely difficult. "The Dark Knight was a crime-drama epic, focused on delivering gritty realism and psychological tension at its finest; "The Dark Knight Rises" is fixated to be an emotional, character-building war-epic, built on desecrating everything we've come to know, physically. As a whole, "Rises" is a very different film compared to its predecessor. "Rises", much like its previous installments, has an interesting narrative, but simply fails to completely immerse viewers into the emotional turmoil and pain many of the characters are experiencing. It's blatantly obvious that its intention was to strive for dramatic storytelling, but unfortunately, much like "Saving Private Ryan", the characters' emotional pain is not the most riveting story arc -- it's the havoc that's being done on a wide scale. Yes, there are some heart wrenching moments like one specific dialogue scene between Michael Caine's character, Alfred, and Bruce Wayne, and the failure Batman faces, but as a whole, the tale of Bruce Wayne doesn't stir enough emotion to make it truly a memorable emotional epic.
"Rises"'s problems don't end there. As Christopher Nolan fully embraces Hollywood big-budget blockbusters, he also begins to compromise and accept conventional filmmaking and aggravating techniques. Hey, Hans Zimmer's a boss composer; his score's gripping, but it's blaring throughout the entire movie -- in the explosive action, emotional dialogue scenes, flashbacks, you name it. This same frustrating problem's found in "Inception", my least favorite Nolan film. And when the music is playing throughout the entirety of the movie, the score no longer intricately has a revealing impact on critical scenes; the power of music becomes limited. Easily the most problematic issues "Rises" has is the editing; it jumps around from one story arc to another, even during times of high tension or slower, emotional moments and this happens throughout the entire film. It's not a new problem at all; this persistent problem was found in post-"The Prestige" films, but wasn't as dominant in "The Dark Knight". However, the issue is accentuated to an all-high maximum due to the biggest lacking feature in "Rises" of all: It doesn't have a focused narrative or theme like the rest. It's not that there's too much going on within the narrative, but there's too much that doesn't do the story much good. There's too much that is unnecessary and simply plot devices to draw audiences in closer. There's too much that is unfocused that, in the end, "The Dark Knight Rises" is an airy and dizzying motion picture that has some spectacular moments here and there. Just when "Rises" seems to be leading down an original plot, Nolan begins to fall back on conventional storytelling near the end. He even retreats back to cheap plot devices like misleading twists and turns. C'mon, I thought you were better than that Nolan. Nevertheless, it was a good ending, but not as memorable as "The Dark Knight"'s finale, or even "Batman Begins"'s.
Seems like I'm bashing away, but there's a lot of good here to be found. Christian Bale gives his best performance as Bruce Wayne and it shows. His emotions are raw and real, exuding through even the obscuring mask of Batman. The same goes with Tom Hardy's performance as Bane, though not as eccentric as the late Heath Ledger -- hell, the entire cast is a win, but what certainly stole the show for me was Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle. Expectations were low and with a character that is simply characterized as a deceptive heroine or villain, it didn't seem too interesting in the first place. Boy, did she prove me wrong. Every scene she was in, she stole the show, dragging me around and seductively wooing me into her lies. Though the writing wasn't as sharp and didactic as previous iterations of the Batman franchise, "Rises" still manages to deliver mature and engaging dialogue. Cinematography is all-around gorgeous, consistently drawing similarities to Kubrick's style of camerawork. Regardless, a problematic issue I've consistently found throughout all of Nolan's films since "Batman Begins" was how Nolan seemingly uses incorrect types of explosives/effects for on-screen actions. For instance, remember the memorable truck scene in "The Dark Knight" involving the Joker, donning the RPG at hand and firing at cop cars? Didn't look like an RPG explosion to me -- more like a charge planted on the side of a cop car, unfit to match the ferocious power of a rocket. Same goes here in "Rises"; sub-machines are shot along computer screens, cannons are shot at Tumblers, and explosives are set off with a lack of a pow, withdrawing me back from the experience and giving me a rude awakening that this is a movie, not a thematic, immersive experience. I commend Nolan for going old school and using real explosives and practical techniques instead of using CGI, but make it cohesive at least.
"Rises" has its problems. It does seem like a rant on my part, but it's only because of my high expectations and praise for one of the most compelling universes put to film. "Rises" is not a bad movie at all -- in fact, it's awesome. The action's in your face and compelling; the narrative sucks you in (for the first hour), and the performances are absolutely stellar. Regardless, because Nolan has decided to lean towards Hollywood's style of filmmaking, "Rises" ends up regurgitating a lot of conventional and broodingly annoying techniques that mainstream Hollywood movies has adapted into their films. Not only that "Rises" is by far, his most unfocused narrative he has put onto film. Nolan, you did a great job portraying an entertaining film, but please, turn back; go back to your roots! As for the movie, what a stylish finale to one of the greatest movie trilogies of all time. I'm gonna miss you Batman. You delivered the best and most fitting comic book trilogy I've always dreamed of seeing and experiencing.