The Dark Knight Rises – spoiler free advice

The final piece of Christopher Nolan’s ambitious Batman trilogy has arrived. On friday I have watched the movie in glorious IMAX and I had to let it settle a little before making a review. Now I am pretty sure that right now no one wants to hear story details so this review will be spoiler free.

Much more, this is less a review than some advice to prepare when going into the cinema:

1. It is not The Dark Knight
Coming from the immensely positive reception that The Dark Knight had it was almost impossible for this movie to top its predecessor. And it didn’t. The Dark Knight Rises is a completely different movie. With a different feel, a different pace and a different editing-style. This is not repeating the formula that worked before but going a different direction.

Even though I knew this it was still strange to see this as a separate movie and not compare it to The Dark Knight. This movie is another facet in this three part story and should be seen as such.

2. It is the story of a hero
A lot of criticism of the second Nolan Batman film was aimed at the feeling that the villains dominated over the hero. This is definitely not the case here. If there ever was one Batman/Bruce Wayne movie here it is. Because this movie is not a walk in the park…

3. It is a dark movie
Out of all three Nolan movies this movie is just an abyss. A pit of darkness and incredible suffering. Yet…

4. It is an optimistic movie
A hero is only as strong as the force he has to fight and because this movie is so brooding and bleak the eventual light of ray shines even brighter. A lot of the power of this movie comes from the anticipation of certain events. There is a lot of tease, a lot of trial so that when he eventually comes to the challenge we cheer even louder. Much louder than in a movie that is happy and cool all the way through.
When characters in this movie overcome their struggles you are positively reliefed.

5. Bane is not the Joker
An extension of the first rule but something a lot of people seem to have a problem with. This is not the charismatic strangely hypnotizing anarchist. Bane is just evil. There is nothing to like about him. He is a monster and a very brutal one. A sheer unstoppable force crushing everything in his path to properly scare us – and what Hardy does with his eyes is just terrifying.

6. Michael Caine
You will know what I mean when you see the movie. He has a few monologues that are heart wrenching. This is the Batman movie that has the most emotion in it out of all Batman movies – maybe all comic book movies.

7. Every choice has a consequence
This is the first mainstream superhero movie where every single choice the heroes have made is important. Its possible to watch this without the two first installments – but why would you?

Everything Batman, Gordon, Alfred and the others have done in previous movies is carried into this movie. This is the climax of every single decision.

8. Scale and heightened realism
This movie is operatic in scope. While many people state that Nolan’s Batman is a realistic take this was never the intention of the director. He wanted to ground him as much in realism as possible. Compared to Dark Knight this movie goes on an even larger scale and there are a lot of orchestrated setpieces yet the punches and fights are always grounded in something gritty that we can relate to. When two people are fighting you feel the fight. This movie never gets lost in the spectacle.

9. Some problems
I will not say that this is a flawless movie. After The Dark Knight I had this bizare sense of having witnessed something executed with clinical perfection (a movie that flipped the truck).
With this movie I had two problems but even the things that bothered are not things that make no sense. There is one MacGuffin which I was not content with but it still made sense within the story and within the symbolism. So in a satisfying way the problems are just matters of opinion and not flaws in the storyline that stem from lazy writing.

Finally – and most importantly:

10. The movie is what you make of it
After the credits started rolling I was sure that this movie would not get the unanimous acclaim that The Dark Knight got. I am pretty sure a lot of people will be disappointed.
What is really interesting is the finality and how it affects us. How people are repulsed and angry with what Nolan represents in this finale. But still I have come around a lot of interpretations that are completely different to mine. The final minutes which seemed like a definitive statement to me have now become pretty vague and interesting.

This is a movie that – if you let it – can lead to a lot of fascinating discussions. The fact that it splits people is something I am looking forward to because I am interested in what they saw in this story as opposed to myself.

And after all – isn’t that why we watch movies?

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