There have been few films as influential on the superhero genre than Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga. Nolan seemlessly brought the Dark Knight into the real world in such a convincing light and it hasn’t been replicated to that success since in any other reboots. Now, we have reached the finale and there is a lot at stake, both in film and with the audience. Can The Dark Knight Rises close up the trilogy with the intensity of it’s predecessors?
This may just be the hardest review I ever have to write, mostly because avoiding spoilers for this film is like traversing a minefield without a metal detector – but as per usual, this review will once again retain it’s spoiler free label.
After the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne has been on an 8 year hiatus. But when the diabolical Bane shows up in Gotham City, wreaking havoc and promising chaos, Wayne must once again don the cowl and cape – the question is whether he is the hero that he once was.
Wow…that was easier than I thought!
Most notable of The Dark Knight Rises is the tone – whatever you may have thought about the previous films, Rises is grim, melancholic, and at times borders on depressing. That’s not to say that mood isn’t appropriate, and for a film that deals with real emotional trauma, the writing does well to take advantage of the setting
One thing that I noticed in Rises that was very different to the Dark Knight was the focus on actions defining character rather than building psychological profiles through dialogue. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of dialogue and that might have been why the first act was so incredibly slow in its pacing.
Another thing I noticed, and it in some ways bothered me, is that there wasn’t as much Batman as there could have been. Aside from the climactic battle that has been the focus of many trailers, he doesn’t get much action. Variety is the spice of life, that much is true, but when I go to a Batman film, I would expect less Wayne and more Bat. In terms of the story however, there isn’t really a problem and the balance still has a great flow where it could easily have soured due to the many characters Nolan stuffed into it.
Now I might be reading into this a little too much (it is a superhero film after all) but the plot seems like it would have been much more at home in Cold War era America as there is a strong emphasis on true equality (in theory of course) and it’s misused power. The themes seemed a little out of place for the emphasis placed on them, and in some ways can be tied into the Occupy movement that has swept the world in recent years…then again as I said, it’s just an underlying theme of the film that had political undertones.
In the end, as is the case with all movies of this genre, the film is really about characters and action, and in this respect, Nolan has outdone himself. Bane, while less iconic than the Joker, is in my opinion, a much more interesting character – the Joker describes himself as a dog that is out of control but Bane is far more calculating and what may have been the Joker’s idea to see the world burn, the menacing hulk of an extremist has conviction behind him. Tom Hardy as Bane adds a somewhat intangible ethereal quality to his character – he’s cold but not emotionless – Hardy sells a character that I had a lot of concern for and once again proves that a Batman film’s success is defined by it’s villain.
Another character who I felt wouldn’t convince me was Anne Hathaway’s Selena Kyle – boy was I wrong. Where I initially felt she was going to be shoehorned into the film as an unnecessary female lead, she was written in so well that the plot would not have been as powerful without her. That’s her character of course, but as an actress, I feel that casting could have been better as it seems she was picked due to her star power and not much else. It’s an adequate performance but not memorable.
It’s hard to deny that Rises follows a standard superhero formula and underneath it’s gritty realism and grim tone, the tale has been told numerous times through many films of the genre but it’s the entire production that defines this movie as the near perfect ending to one of the most awes-inspiring journeys in modern cinematic pop culture. Its combination of emotionally compelling dialogue and stunning action setpieces are complimented by the powerful score which booms with the fullness of the iconic Batman themes, to complete, nerve wracking silence in preparation for the final battle.
Many watched The Dark Knight due to the untimely death of Heath Ledger – this much isn’t disputed – but many walked out of that cinema with a renewed interest in Batman. If you were one of those many people that enjoyed Nolan’s second Bat film, you owe it to yourself to see The Dark Knight Rises. It’s length may be too long for casual viewers but the pacing makes this titan of a film a pleasant two and three quarter hours to sit through.
The Bottom Line
Creating an epic standalone film with a satisfying conclusion to an entire saga is more akin to the act of walking the white line after several beers – but Nolan pulls it off well and while he starts out rocky, we’re eventually treated to one of the most fulfilling conclusions ever caught on celluloid. Everything in The Dark Knight Rises is bigger than anything before and as always, there is a heart-stopping amount of tension throughout. Rises doesn’t change the game, in many ways it is superior to The Dark Knight but it doesn’t feel as well put together – however, Rises does join the league of trilogies that are finished off with pitch perfect precision and warrant multiple viewings.