Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Lady Chocolat and I went to see this on Friday, shortly before jumping in the car for a long drive down to England. The short version of my review: it's an outstanding film, and you should go and see it now.

The film is exceptionally well-made. The cast is universally excellent, the special effects are seamless, and all in all it's just about perfect. There are a couple of issues with the sound - firstly, the score is so loud that both LC and I left with headaches that took quite some time to subside; and some of the dialogue from Bane can be hard to follow at times. Which is a shame, because this Bane is very different from the one in "Batman & Robin", and actually has significant dialogue.

Some of the early reviews of this film have claimed that the film is almost incoherent. I can only presume that the reviewers weren't paying attention, or perhaps didn't realise that this was a film that actually has a plot, beyond the standard action-movie excuses for blowing things up. Either that, or they just didn't like it, but wanted to dress that up in fancy words. But actually, the film hangs together extremely well, with characters having actual motivations, with the twists being both surprising at the time and yet obvious in hindsight, and with the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

"The Dark Knight Rises" is very much a piece with "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight" (such that if you didn't see those films, don't bother watching this one). It's also very definitely the conclusion of a trilogy - this film picks up dangling plot threads from the first and second film, resolves some and continues others, but it also generally comes to an end. I can see a way for them to continue the story if they so wished... but if they never do then it will remain entirely satisfying and complete.

Now, about that plot... (I'm going to avoid spoilers, so feel free to read on.)

I found the first half or so of the film almost unwatchably painful, but in a good way - the director and actors did a marvellous job in setting the scene, in gradually stripping away all the comforts that normally surround Bruce Wayne/Batman, and in generally taking things to a very, very dark place. It's rough, it's horrible, and it made me want to run screaming from the cinema. I don't think any other film has ever had quite that impact on me (even "The Descent", the only film so scary I had to pause it and take a break).

And then there's the Rise. Because, of course, this is a superhero film, and the end of a trilogy - it's just not done to drop down into Hell and then stop there (though that would be awesome). Without going into spoiler territory, I can't say much more than that, but I can say that I found the conclusion of the film to be suitably epic, to be extremely satisfying, and to make a lot of sense within the context of the film. Good stuff.

I do have three nitpicks with the plot, but I can't go into them without spoilers. So if you want to know, ask me about it some time. They are really nitpicks, though, and don't have too much impact on the whole.

The big question remains, though: is this better than "Avengers Assemble"? And the answer is yes... and no... and yes... and no. Basically, it's like asking which is better: a hammer or ice cream - they're so fundamentally different, and each so excellent in their own way, that it's really not possible to pick a winner. I enjoyed AA more... but found DKR more satisfying as a whole.

Ultimately, I'm just glad we have both. Truly, fans of superheroes have been spoiled this year.


Chris Brind said...

And "Man of Steel" and "Justice League" coming next year(?)

Steph/ven said...

"Man of Steel" is an interesting one. I had thought I'd just skip it entirely - in my opinion, there are two things you cannot mess with for a Superman film, being the costume and the music, and they've done both. However, the trailer before DKR was very intriguing. So maybe I will go see it.

I have very little hope for a "Justice League" film being any good, at least at this time. Basically, DC/WB have yet to persuade me that they can make a good film about any single superhero (except Batman), never mind juggling seven disparate heroes. Besides which, the Bale Batman just doesn't work for a group film of that sort, and I don't think an alternate Batman will work at the moment - they'll need to wait a few years, reboot to a more 'fantastical' Batman, and then do JL. (It also doesn't help that Bale doesn't want to reprise the role again, so any JL must have a 'new' Batman.)