‘The Dark Knight Rises’ Stuns With Epic Storytelling

by Eric Melin on July 19, 2012

in Reviews,Video Reviews

This review originally appeared in shorter form on KSNT-NBC, KTKA-ABC, and KTMJ-FOX, Kansas First News.

Christian Bale returns to theaters today portraying Bruce Wayne, the playboy billionaire with a double life as the caped crusader, in one of the most anticipated films of the year.

Writer/director Christopher Nolan brings his game-changing tenure on the Batman trilogy to a close with the epic 2-hour and 45-minute The Dark Knight Rises. After eight years of exile, Batman is lured back into action by Bane (Tom Hardy), a hulking beast of a man who wants to finish what Bruce Wayne’s mentor Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson) started in Batman Begins—the societal and literal destruction of Gotham City.

The Dark Knight Rises suffers its biggest problem early on. After a bravura opening action sequence in the air, the story is bogged down by tons of exposition recapping the events from The Dark Knight and laying the foundation for the current story. Here’s the catch: The screenplay is so densely plotted and thematically rich that this setup is needed.

Once the engine is cranked into high gear, Nolan takes scary real-world issues—the gap between classes, fear-mongering tactics, and absolutism—to their terrifying physical realization in The Dark Knight Rises.

By tapping into these current fears, Nolan also blurs the line between good and evil. There are moments where audiences may find themselves cheering for monstous bad guy Bane the same way they secretly egged on the clever anarchy of Heath Ledger’s Joker.

Anne Hathaway’s cat burglar Selina Kyle is way better realized than she had any right to be and provides a much-needed sense of humor to the film, and Tom Hardy’s alternately menacing and campy take on Bane is gutsy and inspired.

I’m going out on a limb here: I actually think the movie might work well as a dark comedy on subsequent viewings. I certainly laughed at all kinds of “wrong” moments, mostly because of Hardy’s outrageous accent.

Superhero movies usually involve a personal journey and a battle to save a city from destruction. There are lots of similarities between The Dark Knight Rises and other superhero films (even the final act by Batman in its finale is eerily reminiscent of The Avengers), but the difference here is that Batman isn’t just fighting for the survival of Gotham’s residents, he’s fighting for their souls.

It’s the very fabric of society at stake, and Nolan’s script (co-screenplay credit to his brother Jonathan Nolan and co-story credit to David S. Goyer)  throws barbs at both the left and the right, arguing perhaps that any extreme sway to either side is dangerous. Even Gary Oldman‘s principled Commissioner Gordon has compromised his ideals, which may be one of the chief reasons officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) steps up to take his upstanding mantle.

If the current issues tickle the intellect while the plot and action keep us busy, then its Michael Caine who provides the heart of the movie. Wayne’s loyal butler and longtime friend of the family Alfred has a couple moments that bring all of his past actions into focus and is genuinely heartbreaking.

After The Dark Knight and Inception, Nolan proved himself to be the master of mature, thought-provoking blockbusters. The Dark Knight Rises continues that tradition and wraps up all of the loose ends from the previous Batman films in a satisfying way while providing the audience with visceral thrills and some serious issues to chew on.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 tall man rises July 19, 2012 at 2:04 am

” throws barbs at both the left and the right, ”
What right do they have to even do that ?


2 James July 19, 2012 at 2:26 am

Would this go on the top 10 superhero movie list? If this is as good as at least Batman Begins, I’ll be happy.


3 Eric Melin July 19, 2012 at 6:34 am



4 Aaron Weber (@dadsbigplan) July 24, 2012 at 2:20 pm

No. It’s almost as good as Batman Begins, but far, far messier and with no cohesive narrative theme beyond Sturm und Drang.


5 Cody July 19, 2012 at 5:01 am



6 Eric Melin July 19, 2012 at 6:34 am



7 blip July 19, 2012 at 5:23 am

Which is one reason, dear Cody, among about a million others (honestly, I’d rather be crushed in a cement mixer than sit through another one of Nolan’s bloated, pummeling “epics), that I won’t be wasting my money or my time on this thing.


8 Trey Hock July 19, 2012 at 7:39 am

“After a bravura opening action sequence in the air, the story is bogged down by tons of exposition recapping the events from The Dark Knight and laying the foundation for the current story. Here’s the catch: The screenplay is so densely plotted and thematically rich that this setup is needed.”

This sounds almost identical to your defense of Inception at one time. Building plot heavy cinematic glass houses is not by a long shot Nolan’s only problem as a filmmaker, but one that consistently shows up in his work. It is also why unlike Cody, this film won’t make me “cum buckets.”

It could however prevent me from ever getting an erection again.


9 Jon Sholly July 19, 2012 at 8:17 am

Yikes! Explosive sex, impotence or violent & horrible deaths! Maybe you guys should realize these are just movies. It’s healthier that way.


10 Trey Hock July 19, 2012 at 8:56 am


When you’re an artist yourself it’s probably never a good idea to undercut the value or importance of art, whether its popular form or in a museum, high or low. Nothing is ever “just a (insert art product here).”


11 Jon Sholly July 19, 2012 at 9:50 am

I do understand that. However, invoking orgasms, being crushed to death or having sexual disfunction because of __________ seems fairly ridiculous when you’re talking about something that amounts to a brainy roller coaster ride. It’s in the same realm as saying “This is the BEST burrito EVER!” Hyperbole. Anyhow, I’m sure everybody involved in making “The Dark Knight Rises” has higher aspirations than it being a brainy roller coaster ride, but I assume you’re picking up what I’m laying down.


12 Trey Hock July 19, 2012 at 10:56 am

Haha, of course, Jon. Metaphors can sometimes be helpful though. You should have seen my comments to the recent Klimt Google Doodle. You would have been repulsed.


13 Chad Toney July 19, 2012 at 10:49 am

That Bane voice! What the heck were they thinking? Ridiculous. Not only was it silly sounding, they mixed it loud and almost stereo? Like it was in our heads and not coming from an actor on the screen. Dumb.


14 Aaron Weber (@dadsbigplan) July 24, 2012 at 2:23 pm

It also sounded like Darrell Hammond doing Sean Connery.


15 Jimmyrhall July 20, 2012 at 4:31 am

Okay, just got out of the midnight showing and I’m gathering my thoughts on how it was as a movie and how it fit in with the whole Dark Knight universe.

My main quarrel with this movie was the exposition, had a lot of build-up but the pay off at the end was excellent.

What impressed me about BB was the theme of fear and with TDK the issue of chaos. With this movie it wasn’t as overtly establish a theme; if I had to give it one I’d say anarchy. More commentary on that would have been great.

Lastly, the story arc of Bruce Wayne was a little underwhelming for me, he actually “rose” twice. It could have been more interesting if he had the choice of give up and die or rise to fight. It seemed that he took up the cape again because that’s just what Batman does.

I pointed out my negatives with it but there are just as many positives.


16 Cody August 1, 2012 at 10:18 am

Wow. So much pretentiousness among all these comments. (Aaron, blip, Trey). I can’t believe my hyperbolic comment was taken so seriously. Hahahaha.

Also, Chris Nolan is the best film writer/director currently making them. Haters gonna hate. Have you guys written or filmed any movies? I’m sure there all SOLID ROCK FISTS WAY UP, right? lol.


17 Trey Hock August 1, 2012 at 5:48 pm


You call it pretension, I call it a bunch of folks who are passionate about films and are well spoken.

Your contributions to the comment stream get the HUGEST ROCK FIST UP EVER.




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