Clap. Clap. Clap. I rarely experience people clapping in the movie house after the showing of a film. They must have really enjoyed watching the newest Batman flick - The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR).
It was scary! I am not talking about the movie. Not just yet. To think that death threats and website torching (?) can happen just because of a negative review for a film is something really scary. I read about the first negative review of TDKR by a film critic of rottentomatoes. I went to the film critic's website, read his review, and the hundreds of comments to that single post. I got the tickets to TDKR a week in advance. After learning about the review, I was excited to watch the movie even more and see for myself if the critic's point of view about the film is reasonable.
I will keep my thoughts about that critic's negative review, but let me start my own review by saying that the film is not perfect. It is however, immensely enjoyable! There were a few humdrum scenes, but can be overlooked because of the highly packed action and suspense in most parts of the more than two-and-a-half hour movie. I thought that being a two-and-a-half hour film would be tedious, but time seemed to have flown so fast. This is one key indicator for me that the movie is indeed, pleasantly engaging.
Cinematography is remarkable. The overall landscape as with most Batman films appeared darkly menacing. I liked it very much when the flashbacks were glimmeringly bright - a sharp contrast to the general dark visual tone of the film. Christopher Nolan is astute in employing this wonderful play of colors in representing timelines. My favorite scene is when Bruce Wayne, played by Christian Bale, successfully climbed out of the "pit". Forget about the taunt-like rhythm (that meant "rise") by the prisoners below; or the "hoorays", and the dramatic images of the prisoners' faces. The colony of bats that flew over him was the "deal sealer" of the scene. It's stunningly good! My heart skipped a bit. The scene silently expressed "triumph". It said, "rise above adversity". This could be the hallmark for this film.
Score is great in some parts especially in the action parts. I love it when my heart goes "thumpa-thumpa" over scenes with great musical accompaniment. Although Michael Caine as Alfred is superb in his performance in the scene where he said goodbye to Bruce Wayne, I felt that the scene would have been more effective with a light dash of crisp background music, say the music in the last scene of Tosca, to strengthen the message what Alfred is conveying to his master - his apprehensions about Bruce Wayne's inevitable demise (if he continues to pursue his goals) much like Tosca hurling herself over the edge (of a building). That would have been more cinematic and heartfelt.
Music is a weapon in films. It's sad however, that it is not used to its full advantage. Yes, the film is primarily in the genre of action, and melodramatic elements may be deemed "cheesy" and inappropriate for an action film. But I think you can agree with me in the fact that emotions are effectively built through music. Therefore, yes, even an action film such as TDKR should definitely have a "heart", with its most parts represented through music. Here's an example. Take Bane, the main antagonist played by Tom Hardy. Whenever Bane mangles heads, a few seconds of music that builds-up the audience's emotional involvement in the scene before the obvious cracking of necks would have been nice. No, cracking necks isn't nice (LOL).
The effects are impeccable. The first scene on the plane is breathtaking. I was waiting however, for an explosion, but it did not happen. I thought that it would be a "blast" before the opening credits are shown. Then the rest of the movie explained why. It's because the explosions in the other scenes were some of the highlights of the movie. The hover craft (it's called? oh, yeah… Fox, played by Morgan Freeman, simple called it as the "Bat") looks awesome although, to me it looks more like a dangerous winged black metallic cuttlefish. It's nonetheless impressive. Batman's motorcycle, the batpod, as always, spelled C-O-O-L. The "futuristic" tanks, the bat cave, the fabled fusion reactor, the cave-in of the tunnels, the collapse of the football field, the secret warehouse of Batman's "toys", and the motorcycle chase are all good!
"So, that's how it feels like." When Batman said this, there were chuckles from the audience. Perhaps mine was the loudest. This one comedic relief is outstanding - a visual oxymoron. Acting is hard when you are in a mask. Thus, actors convey emotions through their gestures, voices, eyes and mouth. Our three masked characters - Batman, Catwoman, and Bane, were all effective in their roles. Bane, was able to show real emotions when tears fell from his eyes while Miranda was recounting her harrowing story. I am sure that Bane's tears were not because of his bout with Batman. Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, is as I have expected, good in her character. Yes, her scenes were some of the highlights of the film. I love Hathaway's transition of facial expressions whenever Selina (a.k.a. Catwoman) is in a tight situation which effectively portrays Catwoman as a professional con artist slash thief. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne slash Batman is seductively good. He draws you into his pain and helplessness in those trying times as Wayne, as well as engages you in Batman's resolve. Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Detective "Robin" John Blake is top-notch. There's of course Gary Oldman who played Gotham's Police Commissioner, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine, great seasoned actors. TDKR is twice blessed to have these brilliant performers. Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate, the "surprise" antagonist, could do better. Her last scenes were off. For a person to have schemed and patiently waited for her plans to fruition, culminating to an almost successful takeover of Gotham City and climaxing to the stabbing of Batman, her reactions were anticlimactic. Oh, well… you can't have it all.
I won't discuss the "twist" (for you who haven't seen the movie yet… oh, but I have already given you a dead give-away clue, right?) but let me tell you that the story line is not bad. I just wished that a snippet of what to be expected of Catwoman is shown, similar to that of what the film has shown for the soon-to-become Robin. Also, when stabbed on the right side that probably hit the liver or worse the kidney, you'd wonder how on Earth did Batman fly the "Bat"? This is one failure in the suspension of disbelief, but I will forgive it, since the film has shown that Wayne's spirit was able to overcome whatever physical limitations he has. Another scene that the film critic who I mentioned earlier (remember him?) disapproved of is the fist combat between Bane's thugs and Gotham police squadron on the streets amidst the presence of firepower. Just by reading the review, I thought that it was quite ridiculous to have a hand combat when there are guns everywhere. I sort of agreed with the film critic on this one. After watching the movie however, I thought differently. The film did in fact, present a realistic take. Both squads were firing their guns when the combat started. But because the two groups were closely clashing in, you cannot just fire guns at will. The clash would definitely turn into a fist fight. After all, this is just a backdrop for the main fight fight between Batman and Bane.
Overall, the movie is engrossing. I surely would recommend you to take some time out to watch this movie. It's sad though that this is the conclusion of Nolan's Batman film series. But perhaps, it's the prequel for Batman and Robin (?). (Hopefully, soon...)