The Big Screen
3:00 am
Sun August 12, 2012

Review: The Dark Knight Rises

The main problem with all the remakes, retreads, and reboots on movie screens anymore is that, after a while, there’s nothing different that can be done with these films. Last month’s The Amazing Spiderman is a perfect example. Although I haven’t seen it yet, many friends have told me that it was the same story as the first film, just with a different cast. Where’s the joy in that?

Christopher Nolan’s third film in his Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, has a lot of the been-there-done-that feeling, but also has enough fresh touches to keep it a bit more interesting. The Nolan films have always benefited from a superior cast, including Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, and Michael Caine. They’re all back in their signature roles, with some nice additions to the supporting cast: Anne Hathaway as femme fatale Selena Kyle; Tom Hardy as the mangled and menacing uber-villain Bane; Joseph Gordon-Levitt is terrific as a Gotham City beat cop who becomes crucial to the action as well as the climax; Oscar-winner Marion Cotilliard plays an advocate for clean energy; and it was really nice to see Matthew Modine, one of the best young talents from films made in the 1980s, in a meaty role as one of Gordon-Levitt’s superiors.

As usual, Hans Zimmer contributes a dramatic, intense score that is pulse pounding without being overbearing. Wally Pfister’s cinematography is excellent, especially when capturing a couple of really jaw-dropping special effects.

But I still have a couple of real problems with The Dark Knight Rises. First and foremost is the length. At two hours, forty-five minutes, there are stretches that are so slow I found myself longing for the assistance of a fast forward button. And some of that length is attributable to lots of expository dialogue, some of which is just more proselytizing about the nature of good and evil, heroes and villains. Characters and situations come and go to the point that it seems almost necessary to make notes on who is doing what to whom and why.

Speaking of why…why is it that in these big-budget action films there is so little attention paid to sound design and recording. Characters with dialogue in action scenes are generally unintelligible as they are drowned out by the music, explosions, and fist fights. In less frenzied moments, many actors mumble or speak too softly. As I was watching The Dark Knight Rises, another assist I would have appreciated is the application of subtitles, so that the dialogue might be decipherable.

Die hard Batman fans should be pleased with this film, as it pushes all the right buttons, right down to giving screen credit to Bob Kane, the original creator of Batman. For those of us not into the legend, and all that goes with it, that makes for some twitchy moments at times in the theatre seat.

The PG-13 rated The Dark Knight Rises is still playing most everywhere, and if you are going to see it, you should see it on the big screen. And I don’t mean the one in your living room.