Movie Mom

Movie Mom

The Dark Knight Rises

posted by Nell Minow
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language
Profanity:Brief mild language (b-word)
Nudity/Sex:Brief non-explicit sexual situation
Alcohol/Drugs:Social drinking
Violence/Scariness:Extensive fantasy/comic-book violence with some disturbing images, torture, hostages, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues:Diverse characters
Movie Release Date:July 20, 2012
DVD Release Date:December 4, 2012

There’s a reason you never hear about “your friendly neighborhood Batman.”  Spidey may have some angst and guilt and abandonment issues but he is downright sunny-natured compared to the brooding soul of Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), holed up in Wayne Manor with only his loyal manservant Alfred (Michael Caine) and his tortured memories.  At the end of the second chapter of director and co-writer Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Wayne decided it would be better for the citizens of Gotham to believe that Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) died a hero than to tell them to truth about the descent of a once-honorable man into madness and vigilantism.  So everyone thinks that Batman is the villain who killed Dent instead of the hero who saved the city and Wayne is refusing to see anyone.

In Dent’s memory, legislation has been passed to keep dangerous criminals imprisoned and the crime rate is down so low that a policeman jokes they may be reduced to chasing people down for overdue library books.  But everyone in this story is tortured by secrets and shame, even Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldham), who carries in his breast pocket a speech setting the record straight but does not have the nerve to deliver it.  There is the lissome but light-fingered catering assistant who turns out to be the notorious Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway, rocking the leather catsuit).   And there is Bane (Tom Hardy), a terrorist who shows his contempt for humanity by cynically couching his atrocities in the idealistic vocabulary of social justice, trashing spirits as he trashes the concrete and social structures of the community.

It is overlong at two hours and 40 minutes but the action scenes are superbly staged, from the audacious plane-to-plane maneuver at the very beginning to the literally earthshaking attack on the city.  The “pod” motorcycle chases are sensational, especially with Hathaway at the helm.  She is never referred to as Catwoman, by the way, but when her goggles are up on her head, they amusingly evoke cat’s ears.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a standout as a perceptive young detective who understands Wayne too well.  Hardy does his best to overcome the daunting limitations of the masked role, acting with his eyes and body language, but the weirdly disembodied voice is unconnected to the action and at times seems like a bad dub job in a cheesy karate film.  Bale’s performance in this role (or, I should say, these roles) has always seemed thin to me, but fellow Oscar-winners Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine add some heft, especially Caine’s devoted Alfred, and it is good to see Tom Conti and Juno Temple in small but important roles.

The “Dark Knight Rises” title applies equally to both hero and villain in this story.  This is like a chess game where all the pieces are black.  Everyone has masks.  Everyone has scars and a soul corrupted by a bitter stew of anger, fear, betrayal, abandonment, and isolation.  Wayne says more than once he wears a mask to protect those he cares about, but he wears it to keep himself from getting too close to them, too.  Nolan continues his exploration of duality and untrustworthy narrators (though one logical inconsistency inadvertently telegraphs a plot twist).  Even the WMD at the heart of the action was originally designed for a benign, even heroic, purpose.  This is a thoughtful, ambitious story that explores the metaphor and heightened reality of the superhero genre to illuminate the fears and secrets — and potential for heroism and yearning for a clean slate — we all share.

Parents should know that this film has extended comic book-style action, peril, and violence, many characters injured and killed, torture, hostages, references to sad loss of parents, brief mild language, non-explicit sexual situation

Family discussion: Almost everyone in this movie has secrets and conflicts — how many can you identify?  Was Bruce Wayne right in thinking the risks of the energy technology were greater than the benefits? How are Bane and Batman alike?

If you like this, try: the Frank Miller “Dark Knight” comic books and the other “Dark Knight” movies

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Toby Clark

    I just got back from a midnight screening of this and have spent much of the last hour editing my various IMDb posts and lists – it’s already in my top 10.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment CStanley1028

    Eh. It was okay.

    Hard to live up to the last one, with Heath Ledger.

    It was too long, but the twist got me.
    Never saw that coming and I fancy myself to be on top of that kind of thing.

    With that said, my boys had fun. :)

    • Nell Minow

      Thanks, CStanley! I agree it was too long. As for the twist, there was a logical inconsistency in the backstory as presented that told me something was off, but I did not guess what happpened. Glad you and the boys had fun.

  • JD Moores

    I know I’m VERY late in getting here, but your service intrigues me, and for the most part, I agree with your assessments – even though I am a RABID Batman fan. I’m not a parent, myself, but I would say that if the intent behind strictly monitoring what your child watches after the age of, say… 7 or 8, is to protect the child’s innocence (as I read one person put it in a comment somewhere), then it might be a disservice to the child. The test of a true Christian and godly person is KNOWING what is out there, knowing what the temptations are, feeling those temptations and still having not only the knowledge of right and wrong, but the fortitude to resist. There’s a difference between glorifing immorality and simply portraying it to make a point, which is where I think a lot of so-called “family films” fail because it’s always been hard for me to see the protagonists as really strong, moral role models when they never seem to encounter problems or “evils” that reflect what’s really out there in the real world. Though I think the Bible advises against willfully dwelling upon evil or disturbing things, innocence has nothing to do with what one sees or hears or even knows. As both God AND man, Jesus KNEW about all sorts of evil and, yet, despite having the same temptations and feelings and desires as any mortal, human man (as we’re told in the Bible), he ultimately remained without sin, and it wasn’t because his godhood made him incapable of it because we’re told it did not.

    Innocence is about what a person DOES, and as dark as Nolan’s Batman films are, they are so for many good reasons (as I think you, the reviewer, would agree). I actually think they’re incredible accomplishments because they manage to depict believable examples of good and evil without giving themselves over to immoral exploitation. The design for Two-Face’s scarred visage, for example, was calculated and rendered in CGI to INTENTIONALLY be unrealistic because the filmmakers knew that a realistic depiction would be needlessly disturbing. Even so, the scarring is obscured in shadow most of the time, and physical scars are not, in and of themselves, evil anyway. That’s not what makes “Two-Face” a villain. It’s what that character and what every character DOES that makes them good or bad (as the Rachel character says in the first film), and it’s ultimately going to be whether or not a child can resist the temptation to do the bad things that he or she sees that determines his or her ongoing morality and “innocence.” It’s often not enough to know that something is bad and to be resisted simply because someone says so. From my perspective and experience as not only a Christian but a disabled person since childhood that was sheltered in other ways, we ultimately learn and gain the strength to resist evil and negative temptation because we know the consequences for ourselves, consequences which are not hidden or sugar-coated because they might initially be too disturbing.

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