The Dark Knight Rises Review

I’ve now seen The Dark Knight Rises twice and taken some time to digest it. Though it is not without its flaws, I loved it. I enjoyed it more than its predecessor, though it is a small margin. Nolan’s trilogy of Batman movies is one of the few I can think of where the ending is just as good as the buildup. The Dark Knight Rises wears its themes on its sleeve and is more than willing to sacrifice realism for the sake of thematic appropriateness. The end result is a movie that strains credulity at times, but also a film on a grander scale than any in recent memory.

When I said TDKR sacrifices realism, I mean that it kills it execution style in the opening minutes and proceeds to do terrible things to its corpse for the rest of the film. The movie starts with a crazy midair hijacking and doesn’t let up, with amazing helicopters and the biggest supervillain I’ve ever seen on the screen. It is not, however, wholly inconsistent with the rest of the series. The Batplane is only marginally more outrageous than the Battank or the motorcycle. How exactly the Joker managed his villainous feats is somewhat less justified than Bane’s takeover of the city. The Dark Knight Rises is not a realistic movie in many ways, but it does still maintain a human realism. The characters are still very real, very relatable. Bruce is headed toward the only end a realistic Batman could ever come to, and the motivations of the various villains are all human. Whatever the movie lacks in plot realism, it makes up for in character realism, resulting in a film that is both outrageous and very human.

One place TDKR shines is in its uses of the Batman mythos. There are numerous references to seminal Batman stories evident throughout, most notably to Knightfall, the story of Bane defeating Batman, and The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller’s much loved story of Batman coming out of retirement, among many others. Bane himself is well presented on screen, rivaling Heath Ledgers outstanding take on the Joker. Unlike the atrocious Batman and Robin’s take on the character as a muscle bound thug, TDKR’s Bane is an intelligent, charismatic muscle bound thug. Yes he sounds like Darth Vader by way of Sean Connery, but it works beautifully. He is as terrifying as the Joker was, though in a very different way. The scene where he deals with sent chills down my spine. (Do you feel in charge?) Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman was basically a perfect take on the character, the ultimate femme fatale. The returning cast is as good as always.

It lacks some of the gravitas of The Dark Knight, but a more perfect telling of the hero’s journey you won’t find in a film. Batman is figuratively killed, literally cast down into the underworld and must pull himself back up. It perfectly ties the previous two movies together. Bane’s whole motivation is tied to the plot of the first movie, with a return of the League of Shadows. Again he must turn to the advice of his father, that we fall to get up again. But also the lie that Gordon and Batman built their peace on plays a large role. They are unable to keep hiding the Joker’s greatest triumph.

The Dark Knight Rises is pure fun. It is a movie where anything can happen, and the wilder it is the more likely it is to occur. But unlike the faceless alien invasion of The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises conflicts all tie into a central theme. It may be faulted for beating viewers over the head with them, but at least it has themes, unlike most other superhero fare. I hope tentpole movie makers look at this film and it predecessor and learn the right lessons. Not that gritty and supposedly realistic is the way to go, but that theme and structure matter. But I’ve lived too long to believe that Hollywood will ever learn the right lessons.

What I Read in May


I know I’m way behind on these. I’ve been writing at them on an off, but I just wasn’t able to get any finished. The same goes for just about anything I’ve tried to post lately. I have a hard drive rapidly accumulating half-finished blog posts and various reviews. But with some time off work, I decided to hunker down and acutally get some work done. Luckily, or not depending, the change in work schedule that left me with less time to write also left with less time to read, so I don’t have as many books to review as usual after May.

Shades of Milk and Honey

Mary Robinette Kowal

Shades is a fantasy version of Jane Austen, which sounds like a great thing to me, at least. Unfortunately, when adding magic Kowal somehow managed to lose all the wit and vitally that Austen characters generally possess. What is left is the unremarkable romantic plotting and a fairly interesting magic system.

Protagonist Jane has a talent for glamour, the magic of this series, but doesn’t really possess any real vitality one the page. She faints through the plot until it comes to a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion. Her sister Melody never rises higher than being a nuisance. Jane’s biggest dilemma stems from her needing to choose between the largely decent Mr. Dunkirk and the ill-mannered artist Mr. Vincent.

The plot plays out with a readable slowness that Austen got away with due to her wit. Kowal focuses on the magic, and it is a well-thought out, interesting magic system, but there is no life in the narrative. Shades of Milk and Honey isn’t precisely bad, but it does show the dangers of hewing too close to a classic source.


Jane Austen

Reading this just after Shades of Milk and Honey made me more aware of Shades’ flaws. Persuasion isn’t Austen’s best, but there is certainly more going on here than in that read alike.

This feels like a novel that Jane Austen wrote for herself, where a somewhat older woman, by those times’ standard, ends up writing the wrongs of her life and living happily ever after. Plus, the supporting characters spring right off the page, with amusing faults and larger than life personalities.

Persuasion is a little more straightforward in the plot department than most of Austen’s other novels, with no big surprises along the way. It really shines on the strength of the incidents it contains. Weak Austen is still better than the best facsimile.

Something Rotten

Jasper Fforde

This is the big final to the first section of Fforde’s Thusrday Next novels, tying up all the loose ends from the previous three books. I loved those books, and I love this one.

It really does tie the whole series together, even the sections that seemed entirely superfluous on my first reading. It is still kind of messy, but that is where the charm to this series is. The rules, for better or worse, are pretty well established by this point, but Something Rotten still manages to have some fun. Hamlet is great, as are the book visits. I don’t know what to say other than I like this books a lot and want to keep reading them forever. The Thursday Next series are books for people who love books, and I am one of those people.

The Thin Woman

Dorothy Cannell

This is a book I have some history with. My mother had a beaten to death old copy of this and I happened to pick it up and start reading. Unfortunately, it was beaten up enough that it was consigned to the garbage, and I was unable to finish it. So with my new Kindle in hand, I used the internet to find the title, my mom’s copy was short a cover, and found the book. While it isn’t one of my favorites, it was pretty good and finally being able to know how it ends was worth seeking out.

Hefty Ellie hires an escort to go pose as her fiancé at a family get together and in an absurd turn of events must play out the ruse, as well as lose weight, in order to get an inheritance. She also must solve a mystery involving the house left to her. Once past the ridiculousness of the premise The Thin Woman is a good mystery.