Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard and Anne Hathaway
This film picks up eight years after The Dark Knight and while Gotham is seemingly at peace, Commissioner Gordon and Bruce Wayne are still feeling the psychical and psychological cost of attaining that peace. Following the implementation of the Harvey Dent Act, Gotham’s police force has been given the license to take a much tougher stance against crime, leaving Gotham in a state where it no longer feels the need for Batman, contributing to Bruce Wayne’s growing feelings of uselessness and isolation. However when terrorist leader, Bane and thief Selina Kyle enter the lives of Bruce and Gotham, the time may have come, for The Dark Knight to rise.
Despite this film’s flaws, this may be Christopher Nolan’s crowning achievement as a director. He has achieved what many predicted yet hoped wouldn’t elude him, delivering a trilogy that can stand alongside, if not higher than, the likes of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Lord of the Rings and Back to the Future. The Dark Knight Rises is viewed best, as those who constructed it viewed its conception, as the concluding part of a trilogy. This film‘s plot has many connections to Batman Begins, some overt, others covert, some expected and some unexpected. While the film uses flashbacks to keep those who may have missed the underrated gem of the trilogy in the loop, a recent re-watch, knowledge and appreciation of the previous two installments results in a much more rewarding and emotionally satisfying experience. In the second act (Where this film and arguably the trilogy it is within peaks), we are treated to some of Nolan’s best filmmaking to date, as he brings Batman and Gotham to their lowest points. Doing so with a darkness and intensity which makes a certain other superhero film this year look like child’s play. With this film he raises the physical and emotional stakes to such a level, that you cannot imagine him or any other director cinematically taking this character any further. What is perhaps most note-worthy however, is how Nolan makes two hours and 45 minutes fly by and if you’re a fan of this character and these films to date, there is not a dull moment to be had here.
However while the film feels shorter than it is due to how engrossed it makes you, it also feels much longer than it is due to the sheer scope and ambition of it. This is a film which spans months and subplots within this film could form the basis of entire films or TV series. It is both one of the film’s flaws and one of its achievements that it could have benefited from, and I would have embraced it, being even longer. There are certain characters you feel could hit the cutting room floor (Matthew Modine’s Foley and Juno Temple’s Holly) whilst other characters deserved a bit more screen-time and development (Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon and especially Marion Cotillard’s Miranda Tate) Also if you are a fan or knowledgeable of the source material and read the rumours and speculation that accompanied certain casting announcements, two of the big reveals in this film will lack the punch that they will perhaps give the uninitiated. As Bane says in the film, “Theatricality and deception...powerful agents to the uninitiated, but we are initiated” However there are a couple of twists, or more a reveal followed by a reversal of that reveal, which should surprise even those aware of who certain actors could in fact be playing. This film is also the most super-heroic of Nolan’s films to date, with it requiring much more suspension of disbelief than its predecessors. With leaps of logic that may annoy some, I merely let them pass, the emotion of the film is so real and earned and the rest of the film and trilogy so intelligent, that I can forgive Nolan allowing himself to stray into slightly more fantastical realms. The bombast is earned and believable. One of the film’s final flaws is that while expository dialogue is limited, when it comes it is rather clunky, with a character literally saying, “This is the important part” However despite such flaws that could sink another film, the need for more development of certain characters, the scrapping of others, predictable reveals, suspension of disbelief (Although this has only become an apparent flaw of this film due to Nolan’s ultra-realistic approach to date, towards films about a man who dresses up as a bat and fights bad guys named Bane) and clunky expository dialogue, these flaws fail to sink the glorious ship that is The Dark Knight Rises.
While the narrative may have holes of logic and Cotillard’s character missing one or two more scenes of development, thematically the film is deeply resonant and timely. Once again Nolan deconstructs the very nature of what a hero is, with some of Bruce Wayne’s most heroic and inspirational actions occurring when he is out of the Batman suit. One of the best lines of the film is from Batman to Gordon and along the same vein one of the best performances is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s (More on that later) as they both say that a hero can be anybody, something everybody needs to hear at any point but especially considering the human tragedy that this film and this trilogy will be eternally associated with. The film also has the guts to criticize and tear apart the morals behind the decision of Gordon and Batman that concludes The Dark Knight. Bringing up the themes of guilt and the importance of truth.
Christian Bale completes his three film performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman and he really is the underrated performer of this entire trilogy. Frequently overshadowed by the theatricality of his supporting players, Bale has been this trilogy’s anchor, consistently making us believe in the pain of Bruce Wayne. The scenes he shares with Michael Caine’s Alfred (Who is given less yet more significant screen-time in this film) are among the trilogy’s most real and emotional, with Michael Caine sure to be the source of many sniffles in cinemas around the world. Gary Oldman is once again a reliable presence as Gordon and while I wished to see some of the struggles of his character explored a little more, he has one of the film’s more emotionally satisfying and chilling moments and well realized arcs as the lies of The Dark Knight come back to haunt him. Morgan Freeman does his thing as Lucius Fox and is once again one of the few sources of fun in this dark world. However the primary source of fun in The Dark Knight Rises, is Anne Hathaway as Catwoman.
Anne Hathaway is my favourite actress and I was delighted when it was announced that she would be playing Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises. However many were appalled by such a decision, failing to remember that many had a similar reaction when Nolan elected to cast Heath Ledger as the Joker. People thought that Hathaway and the character of Catwoman itself was too cartoony for Nolan’s vision and that Hathaway would ruin the film. If anything, it is Anne Hathaway who makes The Dark Knight Rises and who will probably expand the film’s fan-base. Hathaway consistently livened and lightened proceedings with her charm and charisma. I never thought that Catwoman would end up being one of the most note-worthy parts of this film, and while Hathaway’s performance is a surprise for many I will resist saying I told you so. However to quote Alfred in The Dark Knight, “Although I did bloody tell you so...” Nolan creates a fascinating character that Hathaway augments with a fascinating portrayal, suggesting that she will now hopefully get the dramatic roles she deserves and escape from the slightly more hefty yet no less lightweight romantic comedy zone she was getting frozen into. Just as Ledger gave us the ultimate cinematic portrayal of the Joker to date, Hathaway has given us the ultimate cinematic portrayal of Catwoman to date. As far as the female characters in the big superhero films of the summer goes, Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman is leagues ahead of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, another one of my favourite actors and perhaps one of the coolest men on the planet, also gives a performance that reaffirmed my enthusiasm when I heard of his casting. He has a larger role than expected and the film could arguably in future viewings be looked at under the lens of being his character’s (John Blake) story. His character’s earnestness and idealism is portrayed in a likable, relatable and inspiring way by Levitt, whose performance makes an apparently “easy” role look much easier than it actually is, to portray such emotions so naturally within such a cynical world on and off the screen.
However of the new additions, it is Tom Hardy who may command and demand most of the initial attention. Following Heath Ledger’s Joker is a task that few actors would have relished, however Tom Hardy like Heath Ledger did, completely disappears into his role. There is no other way to describe Bane than as a beast. Physically he is a far superior villain to the Joker, as he pushes Batman to his very limits, leaving you in doubt as to whether our hero is not just going to save the day but merely survive another scene. While the can you or can’t you regarding the understanding of his voice is currently the main talking point of his portrayal, Tom Hardy’s performance and his character will in the future be regarded as one of the most memorable and menacing in modern film. Tom Hardy arguably gives the film’s most impressive performance as it is one done entirely through his eyes. Through his eyes we see his strength, menace, anger and pain. It is through his eyes that Tom Hardy makes us initially terrified of Bane and surprisingly come the third act, feeling genuine emotion for Bane.
Come the film’s final scene, some may feel slighted, my audience and I felt satisfied. As the title card came on screen marking the film’s end, it was the first time in a cinema where my audience applauded. I felt a rush of emotion as I psychologically stepped back and truly acknowledged what I had just experienced and what Nolan just accomplished. An epic chapter in my cinema going life has ended with this film. As noted earlier I have grown up with this trilogy and over the course of these seven years and three films I have grown from a child into somebody who is now almost a man. Meaning that despite the film’s undoubted flaws, despite what anybody says about it, when this film finished I felt something I haven’t felt in a cinema before. The applause was apt and an appreciative acknowledgement of a job well and truly done. This is a film and a trilogy which has left me well and truly satisfied. For the last two years, while everybody else had their epic, emotional endings with Harry Potter and Toy Story 3, I felt detached despite my willingness to join in, however this year, I have my epic, emotional ending and this is a trilogy I cannot wait to watch as one story on Blu-Ray and to show my children when they reach the appropriate age.
For me and many others, this trilogy like the lead character it portrays, has become something more than what it appears to be. Just how Batman is more than just a man but in fact a symbol, this film and this trilogy is more than just films. I do not expect nor demand awards attention for this film come the end of the year, as I personally believe it has acquired something more important and everlasting than a trophy. It has done so by elevating a genre, championing a format (IMAX), telling one story and telling it bravely, darkly, emotionally, intelligently and grandly. I have now written nearly 2,500 words for this review and if you are still reading, I thank you, however there is so much more I have to say and write about this film which I will address in a spoiler filled analysis/review of The Dark Knight Rises, which you can read by clicking here, where I will address specific scenes and details that became apparent on a second viewing. However, this non-spoiler review will end with an appreciation of two of the unsung heroes of this trilogy, Hans Zimmer and Wally Pfister. Wally Pfister’s expansive, grand, haunting and beautiful cinematography immerses you in a way no amount of 3D will ever do, especially when viewed as it is meant to, on an IMAX screen. While Hans Zimmer’s score makes the movie, with merely listening to his score in isolation reminding me of the movie’s menace and replicating the chills that the final scene gave me.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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