Published on July 21st, 2012 | by Matthew Gammond7
The Dark Knight Rises – Review
In 2005, the landscape of superhero films changed forever with the arrival of Batman Begins. It showed us a new take on the caped crusader’s role in the world and freed us from the over-the-top, neon-coated and pun-filled shackles that previous Batman movies had forced us into. Then in 2008, things got even better with The Dark Knight. This movie took things to a whole new level; amping up the action, intrigue and general sense of scale as the Joker’s dastardly plans began to envelope the city of Gotham.
How then, you might ask, does Christopher Nolan follow up on these two great films? It was never going to be easy; The Dark Knight Rises arrives under a crushing weight of expectation; anything short of perfection would be a deemed a failure by those chomping at the bit to see the billed “epic conclusion” to Bruce Wayne’s tragedy-filled story.
Things get underway eight years after Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) took the fall for the appalling crimes of Harvey Dent in the previous movie. He has become a crippled hermit, living out a walking stick life in the bowls of his mansion. The Batman appears to be gone forever and has become something of an urban legend among Gotham’s younger population.
But the bizarre agenda of a cat burglar and the terrifying plans of a masked mercenary force this old hero back into his old life as a masked vigilante in an effort to protect his beloved city. A city that is caught wonderfully with the camera, expect some breathtaking shots of every setting within this film – Gotham by night is beautiful.
Amazingly enough, throughout the entire film (which clocks in at just under three hours), Batman is on-screen for much less than half of the running time – but this is because it is Bruce Wayne’s story, not his alter-ego’s. A more personal touch has been given to The Dark Knight Rises, the audience are forced to empathise with Gotham’s unstable and distraught billionaire as a swirling mass of mixed emotions take hold.
One of the highlights of the film is the constant toe-to-toe discussions between Wayne and his loyal butler Alfred (Michael Caine). Both actors put on brilliant performances, and some of their conversations lead to the most emotional moments of the entire trilogy – this is definitely the story of a man’s life, rather than a hero’s life.
Plenty of people pop up during the story, some welcome, others not so welcome. Familiar faces put in a good shift (Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman especially), though Matthew Modine as the bumbling Foley provides the film’s obligatory ‘why is he even here’ character. Even so, all of the characters fill their roles properly and all play a huge part in the overall narrative. You’ll grow to care for them all, especially as their world begins to crumble around them at the hands of Bane (Tom Hardy).
Ah yes, possibly the most controversial part of this film. Bane is a villain that some may struggle to understand due to the menacing kitchen appliance that’s strapped onto his face. But if you have functioning ears you will clearly understand 95% of what he is saying, realising that this is someone that can challenge Batman on a physical and mental level. Hardy is brilliant; he brings a level of physicality and menace to the role, with Bane appearing more than just a brute – he is intelligent and dedicated to his cause, and some of his quotes will live long in the memory. His eyes tell more than words ever could, keep a look out.
With this collection of characters and a story that, whilst a little cliché, is compelling enough to keep you entertained for 165 minutes, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any negatives. But they do exist.
The plot is littered with gaping holes, clunky exposition and some unsavoury editing spoils many a scene. A handful characters are annoying and/or underused and the conclusion may leave you a little chilly inside. You’ll spot exactly what they’re trying to do, you’ll get that message loud and clear, but the way they go about it is rather confusing.
Still, The Dark Knight Rises is fairly epic, though it falls short of the greatness achieved by its predecessor. This is a movie that’s more about people and redemption, the physical hero is an afterthought. Whether or not that is what you wanted to see is the million dollar question, but make no mistake… this film is littered with memorable moments and quotes and serves nicely as an epic conclusion to one of the greatest trilogies in recent memory.
Summary: Arriving under such a heavy weight of expectation was always going to damage The Dark Knight Rises. No, it is not perfect and could be viewed by certain eyes as the worst of Nolan's trilogy. But strong performances from almost all of the cast, engaging action sequences and brilliant cinematography keep it far from being a failure.