The Dark Knight Rises

As probably most people out here at the moment, I feel the need to at least jump onto the bandwagon quickly and write down some thoughts regarding The Dark Knight Rises. In fact, I’m happy that I actually get to review a film on time, only a few weeks after it came into the cinemas; normally I’m not so lucky or motivated. So on Monday, a friend took me to the movies to watchthe latest addition to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy in probably one of the most awesome cinemas that we have around here because it feels so much like a theatre. We even got a chance to watch it in the original, English, version, which I was grateful for, and as I already mentioned, it takes some time to find those showings in Germany. I took good care not to get any spoilers beforehand and watch as little trailers as possible because I wanted to be completely surprised and unbiased, and I think I quite succeeded in this. (And for that reason, I won’t give many specifics about the plot here; I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum.)

dark knight risesThe film in general has quite an interesting pace, I thought. On the one hand, there were enough epic action sequences to catch your attention, but on the other hand, there were also long rather quiet, but more emotionally intense moments. The combination of the two was really well-done and led to a rhythm that was neither too slow nor too fast, but gave the film just the right flow. It didn’t even feel like 165 minutes and I could have sat there for much longer if necessary. What I liked in particular was that the main focus was not the action and explosions or deaths along the way, but rather the characters’ internal struggles, the slower pieces, that made it most suspenseful. The plot as such was nicely developed too; obviously there were some plot holes every now and then, but overall, that wasn’t too disturbing and fit well within the general feeling of it. There was only one moment/turn that completely threw me off and left a somewhat bitter taste for a few minutes, but that was soon forgotten, too. Because the film wasn’t mainly centred on the action moments, it wasn’t so bad that quite a few things were quite predictable. After all, there were many moments that gave you a nice surprise, too. On the other hand, there were a few things that you could definitely figure out if you were acquainted well with the comic books, which I’m not too much. But it probably (definitely) contributes, as I’ve realised when I discussed the film later on with my brother. Some things were also so obvious that it made me even more excited because I was trying to figure out exactly how certain characters or situations would develop.

The characters, both the recurring and the new ones, were really fascinating and got more than enough depth, which the actors managed to communicate extremely well (except for maybe two cases, in my opinion). They really completed one another, and they weren’t flat at all. Their actions were clearly motivated, their struggles were obvious, and you couldn’t really help feeling for and understanding most of them – and this coming from me, who normally shuns the “good guys” and settles comfortably in the “bad guys” camp. This is not to say that I didn’t this time; to the contrary, the bad guys were extremely fascinating, too, but I didn’t feel forced to choose between any one of them. The character concepts were quite fascinating. On further note, I’d also like to marry Anne Hathaway because Cat Woman in that outfit is just… meaow. This time, I didn’t even mind Bruce Wayne or Batman too much. In the previous films, at least Batman always got on my nerves, and I still had to quietly make fun of him at first, but in this film, I didn’t need to too badly. Indeed, I thought that the way of presenting Batman here was refreshing and more understandable than in the others – and seeing Bruce Wayne’s suffering of course added to that as well. It was quite revealing and enlightening to see other characters’ reactions to him, hear their opinions and think: “Well, yeah. They’re kinda right, aren’t they?” But I also liked that the other characters were focused on quite a bit as well – and in-depth, too. From what I could see in the people sitting around me, not only my tears were shared with Alfred’s, and his speeches were simply beautiful. He was definitely the character that I empathised with most; that I understood best.

Even though I’ve been told that I mustn’t compare the two, I think that on the whole The Dark Knight Rises was even better (or, well, not better but different – but I liked this way a lot more) than The Dark Knight. Of course I am also biased when it comes to The Dark Knight because I didn’t like it at first, which was not because of the film as such, but because of the horrible date during which I saw it. The plot was a bit more focused whereas the other was more chaotic, but of course that was the respective films’ messages, too. Speaking of the villains, both excel in style and character concept. In fact, they’re quite similar in their basic messages (and I’m afraid I may ramble if I focus more on this; after all, I spent about 140 pages of my Bachelor thesis on popular villains and gave the Joker a whole chapter, too). Both have similar aims and even a similar message that they’re supposed to bring across, although their methods, perspectives and motivations are obviously different. Bane was the perfect villain for this whole situation and presented the spectator with a stand on life and death, good and evil that is based on base instincts much rather than an intellectually motivated moral standpoint; the Joker focused more on the latter, and strangely enough his approach seemed much more structured. Seeing himself as “the necessary evil” (oh, how I loved that scene), Bane did a great job showing that this is a part that everyone carries inside. Essentially, it seemed to be Joker’s basic social experiment applied on a very large scale, with a very different perspective and a very specific aim. The larger scheme behind this didn’t contribute much to this though, I thought. (Both are what I have classified as ‘philosophical villains’ by the way, although Joker is probably more of a ‘core villain’ than Bane, whom I wouldn’t call a complete core villain although he probably fits most of the criteria.) Depending on your viewing habits, it may either contribute to your experience, or ruin it when you compare the films. I’m a film student and this is what I do, and it’s never done me any harm: as long as you’re able to see both films as separate works as well, and don’t have the need to justify one over the other. Both are amazing films, but they are very different, and that’s a good thing.

The film couldn’t avoid some strange “what the hell?” moments of course due to either strange  events or some unnecessary exaggeration, and neither was it in every aspect perfect; technically speaking there were quite some transitions, for instance, that disturbed me quite a bit. But those are only minor aspects and didn’t diminish the film experience. The magnitude of the film made up for it: beautiful cinematography, amazing characters, great dialogue, gripping rhythm, and even though it was overall quite dark and emotionally challenging, these parts were perfectly intertwined with the both action and some great humour – “So that’s what that feels like.” The film is definitely worth seeing more than only once, and will probably be one of the few BluRays that I’ll buy at the moment. (Normally I’m happy with ‘just’ DVDs, but in this case, I’ll wait for the BluRay.)

I’m sure I’ll watch it many more times, too. It was challenging, creative, inspiring and really quite epic. I cannot quite remember the last time that the whole cinema started clapping as soon as the film was over, or so many people crying getting something in their eyes at once. Quite an amazing atmosphere…

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