Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises- A Highly Technical Yet Overly Convoluted and Drawn Out End to a Fairly Decent Trilogy

Director Christopher Nolan is practically revered as a cinematic genius among the uninitiated of the movie world as everything his name graces gets praised to the point of excessive hype. Ever since Memento (notice no one starts with his first feature Following, which is lackluster) Nolan has moved through the ranks with very little scratches as to the questioning of his filmmaking prowess. There is no doubt that as a technician and strategist Nolan excels at putting his films together as if it was a high adrenaline puzzle but beyond that there is little to revere in the emotional plains of his stories. Take Inception for example, a heavily convoluted story that needed constant exposition to explain itself and left very little room to understand, care, or empathize with its lead characters because it was a world of assumptions and not of experience for the audience. This is the root problem of the Batman trilogy overall because ever since the beginning Nolan was utilizing the experience as technical practice for something bigger and better as the series went along. His newest and last installment to the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, will definitely please those returning for the adventure and were completely satisfied with the original two films. And while the film brings the trilogy to a roaring and epic end there is no doubting that it is the weakest of the series as it tries to excessively complicate what should have been an easy to tell plot influenced from the “Knightfall” comic. But this is typical of the Nolan brothers, Christopher and Jonathan, who have always adopted the philosophy that complex is always better than straightforward storytelling, which can be evidenced in the supernatural elements of The Prestige or the obnoxiously callous Inception. So while The Dark Knight Rises brings this trilogy to a relatively agreeable end it is still not as good as The Dark Knight, which they try desperately hard to mimic. The bottom line is that The Dark Knight Rises is just another film in Nolan’s filmography that is uncomfortably long, unnecessarily convoluted, and divided in its storytelling loyalties where Batman really becomes a secondary topic in his own movie. The film is pristine in its technical action strategy and tactfully executed, but inevitably lacks the true heart and vigor that is needed for a Batman movie and series.

Christopher Nolan hasn’t exactly been the most pragmatic of storytellers in Hollywood because all of his movies are always about the technical manipulations (Memento), the twisty reveals (Prestige), or the strategic spectacle (Dark Knight). Most of his movies place a huge barrier between the audience and the protagonist where emotional connection is rarely felt or established. The entire Batman trilogy operates on this callous strategy where Batman isn’t exactly relatable nor is he sympathetic most of the time. These are films that are built to showcase grandeur, action prowess, and dark themes, and there’s nothing ultimately wrong with that. But this does become a huge weight on the shoulders of storytelling when you are merely doing the largest possible spectacle you can instead of focusing intimately on why these events happen and for what purpose do they grow the main character. The Dark Knight Rises was put in an awkward situation to summarize the series because of how well Heath Ledger’s villainy was accepted by the audience at large. The next villain had to have a larger scope, a larger plan, a more evil plan and while that is succeeded in the film with an intriguing interpretation of the thug villain Bane it really just leaves behind essential character growth and that intimate connection with our supposed protagonist, Batman, who is left in the rafters. Nolan is the equivalent of later David Lean epics or the typical grandiosity of a Cecil B. DeMille film but has yet to really accomplish intimate storytelling. There was evidence of it in Memento and the first Batman Begins but the temptation for a larger budget, larger stunts, and larger appeal sacrificed that intimacy.

It’s not as though this Batman trilogy can be considered flawless on any level yet it seems there is a blind devotion to the pedestal that is given to Christopher Nolan (see death threats on critics). No matter how convoluted or nonsensical his plots end up people forgive the illogic, the convenience, and the plot holes because it’s a relatively entertaining experience. One plot convenience is when Bruce Wayne is able to enter Gotham even after the city has been locked down where the point is no one can get in and no one can get out. With The Dark Knight Rises there are also plenty of moments where character motivations begin to twist and turn, such as Alfred’s spontaneous character change to not want Bruce Wayne to be Batman. While miniscule to the scope of the plot this minor detail obfuscates Alfred’s entire character development from the first two films in the series. This is reminiscent of the similar jump Bruce Wayne himself takes in The Dark Knight where he somehow no longer wants to be Batman and is finding any possible excuse to change his predicament. This is where devoting yourself to characters should guide storytelling instead of fitting your characters into the story you want to tell. Nolan is a bit cold of a filmmaker because he sees actors as pawns on a chessboard or pieces to the puzzle he’s creating in the end. We witnessed this with Inception and how his characters were practically devoid of emotion and realistic grounding making the film an entertaining experience but also a pointless one. The same can be said for The Dark Knight Rises because it’s as grand and epic as one would hope for in an entertaining blockbuster but fails to live up to the dark themes and the essential point of what Batman should stand for in the end. The incredibly long winded running time, the strange character deviations, the unnecessarily convoluted twists, and the plot conveniences all make the film exhausting even though it’s still entertaining.

(still some more thoughts on the way)

Grade: B-

One Response to “Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises- A Highly Technical Yet Overly Convoluted and Drawn Out End to a Fairly Decent Trilogy”
  1. Kayla says:

    I guess while watching I was so caught up in the explosions and hoping for the safety of Batman I never really thought about some of the things that you mention here. I still liked the film and enjoyed watching it. Thankfully there were no shootings where we were so all in all it was a good time/experience. Most people buy into the hype of Batman and enjoy it just because of that. I actually enjoy Christopher Nolan films where there’s explosions and fast paced adventure. It’s like being a kid again and watching something amazing similar to a video game. Anyway, great review so far and I can see where you are coming from on all your points. Look forward to you intricate breakdown coming soon. 🙂

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