MOVIE REVIEW: The Dark Knight Rises… to Mediocrity

Seriously contemplating the bald masked look.


I have one simple request fellow Outlaws.  The next time I go to see a Batman movie in a theater, someone please remind me to pack a meal, overnight bag, and a colostomy bag.


Holy double-extended edition!  In the time it took to travel to the theater, sit through the previews, and reach the end credits of the Dark Knight Rises, I could have traveled across North America (and back)… on foot.


Believe it or not, the trailer is long enough to be a movie.


Ok, maybe it wasn’t that long, but I did feel like I had missed about 6 months of current affairs after staggering out of the theater somewhat dizzy and bewildered.


As a quick aside with regards to current affairs, I would like to take a brief moment to be serious and send out my condolences and prayers to those injured and the families of all those who were injured or lost during the unfathomable events in Aurora, CO during a showing of this movie recently.


Truly a Dark Night (& Day) in human history.


While, too many were lost, many more lives were saved due to some real heroics that went on inside that theater on July 20th.  To those, we appreciate your courage and will always remember those that were lost.  While we are all huge geeks in our own right, it’s unfortunate events like these that truly put the more important priorities of life back in perspective.


Now back to things I can be less serious about; like Christopher Nolan’s latest and final chapter of his Batman arc; The Dark Knight Rises.  Just a warning, when I say less serious I mean I’m going to make fun of it.


Awww, would ya look at that... they got the ol' band back together!


Now before you whip out and fling your mint condition homemade bat-erangs at me, know that it’s not because I hated the movie; but more so that I didn’t love it.  Confused yet?  Well, if you’ve seen the Dark Knight Rises then you are probably used to that by now.


I’ll use that semi intelligible segue to talk about the story.  I’m going to provide my usual spoiler alert, this time though with the caveat that it’s only really a spoiler if you can even remotely understand the words I’m attempting to string together below.  It also assumes I even understood what was taking place on screen for what seemed like the better half of a decade.


As the half-day theater experience begins, we learn Bruce Wayne has put himself (and by forced association, Batman) into hiding and on disability leave for the past 8 years.  Mr. Wayne is barely able to walk and more to the point, he is unable to move on with life after the events with Harvey Dent and his past love Rachel from the prior Dark Knight film.


Even Wayne Manor was hit hard by the slumpinog Economy.


In the meantime, trouble is brewing for Gotham as a ruthless gang of mercenary like terrorists is working in the sewers on a plan to take Gotham as their own, or blow themselves up trying.  This band of evil brothers is led by a mask wearing lump of muscle that goes by the name ‘Bane’, whom we find out has ties to Bruce Wayne and Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson) from the first movie of the Nolan trilogy, Batman Begins, which closely followed some of the comic book origin stories .


Suffice it to say, it’s a little more complicated than that – scratch that – a lot more complicated than that, and I wouldn’t want to spoil the confus… err, fun fest for you all.  Now, don’t go getting the wrong idea about me, I’m not an idiot – not a complete one anyway – but the story wasn’t exactly the most streamlined of plots.  It could also just be me getting old.  Take your pick.


Umm, what was I supposed to do next again?


Still, I do enjoy a good mystery or plot twist here and there, and I was able to generally follow along to most of the plot points (Bad things were happening in Gotham City, etc).  In general though, ‘Rises’ seemed – for my comprehension skills – to be too intricate for its own good.


No, it wasn’t Inception intricate, but there were enough different subplots and side switches taking place, that it prevents you from going to the bathroom for 30 seconds, out of fear of being completely lost when you get back.  (Luckily, my bladder held up… barely.)


To avoid wasting space on plot summaries that you can find plastered all over the internet anyways, I’ll give you some personal thoughts on the major Bat-players… which are also plastered all over the internet:



Christian Bale:  Bruce Wayne (Batman)


Note this image: this could be the first genuine Bruce Wayne smile in all 3 films.


Bale is definitely a more humble Bruce Wayne this go around, although part of that is forced upon him by going ‘partially’ broke during the movie.  I did enjoy the lighter more caring Bruce this time around, so a big round of bat-plause on that.


It's one thing to look the part, it's another to sound it.


His Batman on the other hand…. Eh.  Let’s just say I’m not a huge fan of the whole gruff-sandpaper-tenor voice that Bale uses when he dons his plastic black duds.  Yes, I REALIZE he’s trying to mask his voice to protect his identity, but I prefer Batman not sound like he’s been chain-smoking for 80 years.  I will say that at least I could understand him a whole hell of a lot better than in ‘The Dark Knight’, where in that movie he actually combined mumbling with his scratchy smoker octaves.




Tom Hardy:  Bane


A face even a mother can't see.


In the comics, Bane (played by Tom Hardy of Inception fame) is regarded as one of Batman’s most dangerous and ruthless arch nemesis.  Most dangerous, maybe… most comical without meaning to be?… bingo!  Was it just me, or did Bane sound like Sean Connery asking if I wanted to super-size my meal at a local fast food drive-thru menu display?  From the first moment he started talking, I couldn’t help but think of Mr. Connery working a Burger King window and laugh.


And for my next impression... see if you can guess this former 00-sheven...


If that wasn’t enough, the volume decibel of his voice compared to all the other sounds and voices in the movie was so amplified, it felt like it was coming out of every speaker in the theater (I saw it in IMAX) . I guess what I’m trying to say in more words than necessary, is it felt like the voice wasn’t connected to the character at all.  Especially since you never see his mouth move, let alone any facial expressions.   To add insult to more insult, I had a real hard time understanding half of what he was saying.  (Bane, I’ll take a Vanilla shake with that, thanks!)


What shtar in the Indiana Jones sheries did you say I shound like!?


Unfortunately, all this Bane voice nonsense really did take me out of the movie whenever he tried to talk and the Sean Connery squawk box effect made the character seem more comical than menacing.  Of course I can always just blame it on the IMAX 71.9 speaker audio experience, right?.




Anne Hathaway:  Selena Kyle (Catwoman)


That's already taken affect... literally.


I love you Anne – no really, I do – but you are no Catwoman.  At least not how I’ve grown to love the character over the years.  To me, Catwoman is a very seductive and sensual persona, not just someone who looks pretty and kicks ass in a tight black suit (which she looked awesome in for those wondering).


You can rob me of my life's fortune any day... unfortunately for you, $5.00 and an Optimus Prime collection isn't going to get you too far.


In my mind – and dreams – Hathaway just has to much of that big-eyed cuteness factor to her.  I just can’t wrap my head around her playing a character robbing people or helping out hoodlums.  I know actors like to test their range and expand their portfolio to play different parts, but this just didn’t work for her.  On a positive note, I did like how they used her night vision goggles to represent her ‘cat ears’ when not in use.  It was a very subtle and creative way to not make that aspect of her costume so cheesy.


Quite possibly my favorite scene of the entire movie...


Another bright spot: I would pay $20 to watch Anne Hathaway in a Catwoman outfit riding the bat cycle for 3+ hours.


... as was this one.




Joseph Gordon-Levitt:  Detective Robin John Blake


So do I look detectivey yet?


What’s with the 3 name thing Joseph?  Bygones… Levitt does a good job of the lone cop whom believes in Batman, and also knows of Batman’s true identity.  For most of the movie he does what he can to help the Dark Knight on the ground while also providing faith to a city under crisis.  While it wasn’t an overly special performance, he came across as a very likable character that you just couldn’t help but root for in the final stretch (60 minutes) of the movie


Joseph summoning his best Jack Nicholson 'Joker' impression.


For those with a keen eye, I’ve already hinted at what makes his character kind of cool in the end, but I will avoid spoiling that particular tidbit further so any outlaws that want to witness it for themselves can get the full effect.




Michael Caine:  Alfred


I'm going to miss this ol' 'Dirty Rotten' Alfred.


One of my favorite characters in any Batman movie, series, or show, has always been Wayne Manor’s trusty butler Alfred.  While always good for light-hearted comedic moments, this go around Caine delivers most of the human emotional wallop of the film, and he delivers it well.  There were several instances where he had me pulling out my bat-kerchief to clear my watery eyes.  If I miss anything from this trilogy, it will be him.




Gary Oldman:  Commissioner Gordon

This movie's still running? Someone pull my plug!

Solid performance.  This guy could do a hemorrhoid cream commercial and give an outstanding performance.  Nuff said.




Morgan Freeman:  Lucius Fox


"Really Morgan, you don't even have a VISA card?"


As per the first two Dark Knight movies, Morgan Freeman is here as the gadget geek and comic relief.  He is literally the ‘Q’ of Nolan’s Batman world. I’ve always enjoy Mr. Freeman’s work, and there is nothing in this movie that changes that.




Batmobiles & other Bat-Portation


Any guesses on what the hell kind of pose I'm holding here? On second thought, don't answer that...


It goes without saying that there is no Batman without the Batmobile… it’s become a character in its own right.  However, in this movie, the Dark Knight technically never even sets foot in it.  The Batmobile(s) in this movie are actually camouflage military style versions that the baddies end up stealing to create their own brand of mayhem (and no, not the guy from the insurance commercial).  Seeing as the Nolan style Batmobile was my least favorite of the bunch, I was actually ok with it.


I'm sorry, but this just doesn't get old... for me.


I was even more ok with seeing Catwoman blowing them all away with the Bat-Cycle, which is quite honestly the most bat-ass vehicle from the Nolan trilogy.  There was also a new “Bat” flying thing-a-majig which – get this – flies.  I know, exciting.


This scene had more than the Dark Knight rising.



Still, as of ths moment in time, my favorite Batmobiles remain from the classic Adam West TV series and the very first Tim Burton movies.  Here are some 2012 SDCC pics to enjoy…


A true classic...

... with another true geek classic.









BMBM = Best Movie BatMobile. Just look at those curves...


... seriously amazing curves! (The car fellow Outlaws, THE CAR!)






















If many of you are getting the sense that I may have been a bit underwhelmed by the latest installment of Nolan’s Dark Knight, then you might be smarter than I thought! (Kidding!)  However, despite what some of you may be thinking, it’s not for lack of being a fan of the Caped Crusader.



I actually grew up watching re-runs of the old ‘Bang’ ‘Pow’ ‘Zap’ Adam West Batman series when I was just a baby-bat, and was a fan of the first few Tim Burton movies (before the Bat suit grew armor nipples).  The soundtracks to those were epic and boy did Batman know how to make an entrance!  What’s more, one of my favorite cartoons of all-time was first run of Batman the Animated Series.


One of the best musical scores for a cartoon EVER! (Another Sweet Batmobile too!)



The beginning of the 'adult' super-hero cartoon era.



While there were indeed parts of  ‘Rises’ I enjoyed, there were just too many things that took me out of the movie that made it less enjoyable than it could have been.  Positively speaking, I did like the soundtrack (Hans Zimmer whips up a mean score) and I did like how they slyly included super-villain Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) from Batman Begins.  It also goes without saying that it’s always a treat seeing Liam Neeson (Ra’s al Ghul) on screen.  In addition, the sense of peril on a grand scale that Bane and his cronies put Gotham into was truly an epic sight to behold.  I really felt like they had the city by it’s bat-balls.


Unfortunately, how they got to that point leads me into a major negative.  Look, I know I’m supposed to suspend belief with regards to a movie about a guy that dresses up as a bat to fight crime, but since when does a city’s police department send EVERY officer of a 3000 person division into an underground sewer system to look for a crazy person in a mask with some thugs.  REALLY?  You’re trying to tell me there wasn’t one non-brain-dead officer that thought to mention; “umm shouldn’t we keep at least a couple guys on the surface… you know, in case bad things happen up there too?”  Like the running time of this movie, it was a HUGE stretch.


"Let's all go to the sewer, let's all go to the sewer... let's all go to the..."


This really stood out to me only because Nolan made his Batman movies out to be more of a realistic take on the Dark Knight, and in one fell swoop he made the police department look like idiotic buffoons as they are usually portrayed in most other super-hero action flicks.


If I had only opened that donut shop in the Gotham sewer, I'd be making bank right now.


Another odd thing with this installment was the time lapse between events.  It felt like the first 2 hours were taking place at a consistent pace ‘somewhat’ closer to real time, but then once Gotham was taken over, 5 months passed in 10 minutes.  One second, they are talking about the bomb going off in half a year, and then a few minutes later they only have 12 hours left to diffuse it. Huh?!  Sing it with me, “Let’s do the time warp again!”.


I'm not kidding when I say you see more of the suit off of Bruce than on.

Nonetheless, all of that is merely small bat-atoes (like that?) compared to my biggest gripe of ‘Rises’.  If I’m going to sit down for over 3 hours to watch a Batman movie, I want to see Batman on screen for more than 15 minutes!!!  Am I going crazy, or did it seem like there was literally three scenes with Batman in it, and they weren’t even that long by my watch!  I think I saw more of Batman in his costume looking at all the merchandise displays at entrance of my local Wal-Mart.  Maybe they blew the Batman costume budget on Bane’s Connery voice box.


Add everything up, and this just wasn’t the Batman movie it potentially could have been.  Looking back on the trilogy as a whole, it’s not horrible by any means, but for my money “The Dark Knight” was by far the best (not to mention one of the best super-hero movies in general).  While I’m sure some may consider me loco, I do take some solice in knowing I’m not the only one who felt this way.


Papa Outlaw (a.k.a. Homer), whom I attended the movie with, was also disappointed.  This coming from someone who wanted to see the this flcik even more than myself and basically dragged me to the theater (although technically I drove us… in my own truck mind you).


A better villain, and a much better movie. (R.I.P. Heath)


Alas, as is standard procedure with all of our favorite super-heroes these days, Batman will grace our screens once again with a potentially new look and new story arc that has been done already.


Only next time it will be, “Different Bat-time, Different-Bat Channel”.


Rise and ... get down!






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