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The Dark Knight Rises (review) 8/10, spoilers abound.

Patrick and I saw this movie on Sunday afternoon (finally), and while I didn't hate it, I don't think I'm in much of a hurry to repeat the experience. I'm going to include the main body of the review after a jump so that no one gets unwanted spoilers inflicted on them. If you have not seen the movie and want it to be a surprise, do not follow the link below! I myself got semi-ruined on the movie by a site that didn't clearly mark spoilers, so far be it from me to do the same.
Like most people who have enjoyed Christopher Nolan's two previous Batman movies, I was in a state of frenzied anticipation for quite a while before this film premiered. Then I started hearing little tidbits about it. Nothing that would really spoil it for me, just depressing snippets that made me wonder if I really wanted to see it after all: Batman gets his back broken! Is Batman gone forever? Bane's invincible! And so forth.

Let me say this right off: I do not enjoy watching people get hurt. I just don't. Some of it I can understand, like in The Hunger Games, where the violence isn't glorified, but I can't watch things like bullriding. I know, a lot of you will think this is rather pathetic. But I have a problem with getting too emotionally involved with things I'm watching. I sort of live them, and this makes it horrendous when the character I'm identifying with goes through tortures physical or mental. I always fast forward through scenes of awful emotional trauma, when I remember they're coming. As you might imagine, this rather limits the types of visual media that I can enjoy.

Anyway, putting my doubts aside, I finally did see the movie. It was not terrible. It was incredibly loud, but that has more to do with the theater we saw it in (fortunately I had two pairs of earplugs in my purse). I do not by any means think it is on par with the previous installment in the series, The Dark Knight, but it wasn't bad. Allow me to explain this less-than-ringing endorsement:

1. Dialogue. I don't know if it was because The Dark Knight Rises is the last hurrah for Nolan in this particular franchise or what, but the script seemed peppered with attempts at humor that really didn't fit. Like Catwoman disappearing mid-conversation with Batman and him saying, "So that's what it feels like." I don't know. Maybe I'm being too picky. But while the dialogue in its predecessor felt painstakingly crafted letter by letter, this felt like it was thrown together in an attempt to make the audience laugh knowingly at weak in-jokes and one-liners. Fortunately this business started dropping off about halfway through.

2. Relationships. WHY does Batman sleep with Miranda Tate? Why do they even kiss in the first place? There is zero background for this. I guess one could go with the old "well, he's a guy and she's an available girl, they just broke into his mansion and it happens to be raining with no electricity, so why not?", but that seems like a copout. That relationship seemed completely random and just thrown in so there'd be a bit of sex and love interest (also a good reason to show the audience a suspicious-looking scar on Miranda's back), given that Rachel Dawes was spectacularly offed in the last film. The Catwoman-Batman hookup at the end makes more sense, since she actually ended up helping him and there was some sexual tension beforehand.

3. Depressing. This movie is LONG. Like, Lord of the Rings long. It's 2 hours and 44 minutes, and it feels like 2 hours and 43 minutes of it is Batman getting thrashed. Bad things happen almost continuously for the vast majority of it, and after about 2 hours of this I started getting apathetic. Why even try rooting for the good guy if your hopes are going to get smashed time and time again? Obviously in this film the bad guys are so much more powerful. They have everything, including all of Batman's money, helpers, and himself locked up and broken in a jail in the middle of God Knows Where. They even get Batman's stash of secret crap and use it to rule Gotham. Batman can't beat Bane in hand-to-hand combat (until the end). We're just watching him get tortured. I don't know about you, but I require some hope here and there if I'm to continue having the emotional strength to keep caring about what happens. Maybe I'm just American that way. (European movies, in my experience, are incredibly depressing. Bad stuff happens, then more bad stuff happens, and everyone dies at the end.)

P.S. Does EVERYONE know Batman's secret identity now?! Good lord. I started wondering that in my head about 3/4 of the way through.

4. All of that aside, the acting is pretty good. Anne Hathaway is funny and seductive as Catwoman. Christian Bale is a very stoic, determined Batman. Michael Caine is, as ever, a very believable Alfred Pennyworth, and Gary Oldman returns as the exhausted yet tough Commissioner Gordon. I couldn't really decide if I bought Bane's voice in the movie, since it seems a little at odds with his massive presence, but then I guess that the incongruity was really what Nolan had in mind. It makes the viewer just a little more uncomfortable, not knowing what to expect from this masked stranger.

5. The twist was actually surprising. I admit I didn't see it coming, and obviously Batman didn't either. Having Miranda Tate turn out to be the villain after all really caught me off guard. Fortunately this isn't the part that was spoiled for me by that internet page (that was how Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character John Blake becomes Robin). The Robin workup was believable, I thought. It made a lot of sense how someone with the police would decide, upon seeing the relative incompetence and blind adherence to rules present in the police force (3000 of them get trapped underground despite Blake's efforts to help them; another bunch of them blow up a bridge in spite of his assertions that the bomb is going to go off whether they do or not, so they might as well try to get the kids off), that Batman's route of semi-vigilante was the way to go. Batman at least manages to eventually save the city, and soon-to-be-Robin watches him do it. I'd be kind of motivated to ditch the normal route and go all Dark Knight Helper myself if I was in his shoes.

Overall, the movie had some issues, but it was still considerably better than a lot of what you see in theaters these days. A large part of why I felt so let down by aspects of it was based on the gigantic shoes it had to fill after the last installment, which isn't fair, so I'm adjusting my score from an initial impression of 7/10 to 8/10.

What did you think about The Dark Knight Rises?
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