The Dark Knight Rises is Christopher Nolan’s epic conclusion to his Batman trilogy. This is a thrilling and fitting end to the tale of Bruce Wayne.
It takes place eight years after the previous film ended. Batman has hung up his cape and is in a bad way. Gotham is safe but he no longer knows what his purpose is. He has become a shadow, a recluse. That is, until a new evil “rises” in the shape of Bane (Tom Hardy), a terrorist with Gotham on his sights. So Batman returns, along with his regular allies and a few new ones in the shape of Marion Cotillard’s business woman, Joseph Gordon-Levit’s cop and Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman.
As usual with Nolan the cast is exceptional. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman bring their usual gravitas as Wayne’s father figures, with Caine especially effective in the more emotional scenes. Gordon-Levit gives the film a sense of hope and represents the next generation of Gothomites well. It is however the female characters that really stand out, bringing some much needed femininity to a mostly male driven world (Rachel Dawes from the previous two movies simply didn’t cut the mustard). Hathaway’s Catwoman (never actually referred to by her alias) isn’t as flat out sexy as Michelle Pfeiffer’s but is a more complex and layered character. A femme fatal out for herself but not without a sense of guilt. Marion Cotillard brings a wonderful atmosphere of romance and sensuality to her character and while she isn’t given much screen time she leaves a lasting impression.
The main new character is Hardy’s Bane; the villain of the piece, who unfortunately is a little bit of a let down. While he is very good, he pales in comparison to Heath Ledger’s Joker. This was always going to be the case, for Bane (in any format) simply isn’t as much fun as the Joker. Hardy is physically menacing and does wonders with his eyes, making his masked character really quite frightening but the odd muffled voice and his bizarre clothes simply didn’t do it for me. Imposing, certainly but not very memorable.
The centre of the piece is of course Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne. He has saved his best performance till last. A troubled, confused man who refuses to give up. I was always a little dubious about Bale in the previous movies, mainly due to the gravelly voice while in costume. Here the voice is turned down a little and the multiple layers of Wayne that he shows in this film let alone the previous two is astonishing. A great performance of a classic character. Wayne’s story arc is wonderfully well constructed here, with the consequences of Bruce’s decisions in both the previous parts leading to some surprising areas.
As well as the brilliant cast The Dark Knight Rises’ the crew too do spectacular work. Hans Zimmer’s thundering score works perfectly with the beautiful imagery shot by Wally Pfister. Half the film is shot on Imax and I thoroughly recommend you see it at your nearest Imax screen. The experience is far more immersive than any 3D film could ever be.
Aside from Bane I have only two problems with the film: it is too long, sagging in the middle; and the continuity of Gotham from film to film is all over the place. The orange city from the first gave way to the far Bluer Chicago and here we have what is basically New York, Empire State Building and all. This is a small problem but it does cause a little friction between the films making them link together slightly less successfully.
But with a film as well crafted as this it is not fair to concentrate on what doesn’t work when so much of it does. I got goose bumps watching a lot of it and was very satisfied when I left. It doesn’t hit the heights of The Dark Knight, but then I don’t think many of us expected it to. Nolan has created a hugely enjoyable conclusion to a magnificent trilogy.
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