Movie Review: ‘The Dark Knight Rises’
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Marion Cotillard
Plot: Eight years after the death of Harvey Dent the politicians and police of Gotham city have cleaned up the streets. Batman has hung up his cowl and Bruce Wayne is a widely speculated about shut-in. Spurned back into the public life by an opportunistic cat burglar he learns of a new threat in town – Bane. In infamous and vicious mercenary is in Gotham and preparing to stage a coup.
Review: It’s hard to imagine a movie having higher expectations. Batmania has reached a peak not seen in decades. The Dark Knight became the rare sequel that eclipses the original, leaving people expecting something bigger and better. The cinematic debut of a new Catwoman and, for comic fans, Bane. The faint promise of this being the final chapter, meaning anything could happen.
Nolan promised that this would be the closing chapter to his Batman series, and we can sincerely hope that this will hold true because it is a damn fine way to cap off the story.
Unlike The Dark Knight we don’t get dropped straight into the Bat-action on this outing. We re-enter the life of Bruce Wayne after he’s retired as a vigilante. His health is on the wane after the multiple injuries suffered fighting crime, his business is failing and he can’t face the public. Commissioner Gordon is also plagued with demons, being forced to sing the praises of the man who threatened his family, no longer as secure in his job and now without his family. In all we begin on a low point for the characters and we’re only to see them sink lower before the promised ‘rise’. Nolan continues to make this a character driven piece by exploring the motivations behind such an unusual character and their impact on the world around them, so at times the film feels as though we’re not seeing all that much of Batman himself. Not that this is a bad thing, as his influence is still felt in every scene and every character throughout this movie.
The action begins in full with the arrival of Bane. Introduced in the opening scene as vicious, brutally strong and deadly intelligent, Tom Hardy plays the part with a screen presence that few actors can muster. Not only is he a hulking giant in this film (a combination of camera work and his rumoured 2000 push-ups a day work-out…he looks like it’s true) but he’s fascinating to watch. When he fights he’s as quick as he is powerful, and when he speaks it’s a cold, calculated ideology he espouses. Bane is a character who made an unforgettable debut into the comics, but has been largely misused as a hulking brute since then. For the first time Bane is done justice and it comes as little surprise when he faces down Batman and simply pummels him.
Catwoman (although she may not be referred to as such) is the other big character draw in the film and this is without a doubt the finest Catwoman ever seen on screen. Burton and Pfeffier produced a memorable character but her bizzare proto-feminist attitude didn’t gel with the character from the comics. Also, fuck you Halle Berry. Nolan and Hathaway have down with Catwoman what Noomi Rapace did with Lisbeth Salander in that she is brought directly from the page to the screen. Selina Kyle is a strong, independent character who doesn’t need to shun others, is willing to protect weaker people but ultimately looks out for herself. She’s a thief due to circumstances, but isn’t a villainous person. More than anything she’s a brilliant foil for Bale’s Batman whether swapping punches or jibes.
Christopher Nolan’s direction continues the immensely high standard already by his previous films. From Memento through to Inception he’s carved a reputation as the leading working director today, creating blockbuster movies that challenge the viewer and pushing the boundaries of what can be accomplished on film. He experiments with his style a little more this time around, such as when he drops the musical score during Batman’s initial fight with Bane to allow the impact of the attacks to be fully felt, but this is pure brilliance in every scene.
Scriptwise, with duties again shared between the Nolan brothers Christopher and Jonathon, things aren’t quite as strong. It’s a huge story with the characters backgrounds playing a large part while the coup of a major American city is set up, executed and tackled within the running time. In addition to the usual players plus Bane and Catwoman, we have Joseph Levitt’s beat cop Blake playing a major part. An orphan who has worked his way through the police ranks he represents an important part of the other character’s arcs (Batman and Gordon) and has his own path to follow. On top of all that Bruce Wayne has a new love interest in the form of Ms Tate (Cotillard) and problems rising between him and his loyal butler Alfred. Once you put everything together there simply isn’t enough running time to have all the plot threads run smoothly and in the final act we see the action jump ahead weeks at a time in a slightly clunky manner.
Whilst the story is an immensely satisfying conclusion to the Dark Knight trilogy one can’t help but wish for more time spent with the new characters. Catwoman’s story is all on the screen, but getting more time to explore her character and relationships with the others is something we’d love to see. The same goes for a number of the main characters, but as it’s hard to imagine how it could be justified in an already stretched to bursting running time.
Ultimately this movie serves as the perfect finale to the perfect Batman trilogy. It’s narrative is as smooth as it might’ve been, but it’s one of the worlds most fascinating characters done on the highest possible level. Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises can be watched one after the other and they make up a brilliant three tiered story (trust me on this, I just watched them back to back). We begin by watching the man become the hero and we finish with…nah, I won’t say it.
Result: TEN outta TEN
P.S. Ok, we can understand what Batman was saying, but why’s he always got his mouth open this time?