It’s been four long years waiting for Christopher Nolan’s return to Gotham City. A wait that has held in the balance where exactly he would take the series in the wake of Heath Ledger’s death and rather or not the expectations could possibly be met without the vice grip of a villain like the Joker to anchor the film. THE DARK KNIGHT set an incredibly high bar for comic book movies and in my opinion if anyone was up to the task it would be Nolan. So then, was Nolan able to follow up the masterful THE DARK KNIGHT with the concluding chapter in his series, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES? Read on to find out.
The film takes place 8 years after the events in THE DARK KNIGHT, where Batman shoulders the blame for the actions of Harvey Dent/Two-Face and has exiled himself. While Batman’s absence is obvious due to the allegations, the man behind the mask, Bruce Wayne, has also secluded himself from the world. Wayne still sulks about the loss of Rachel and has also let his company slide into financial trouble. Meanwhile, a new madman, Bane (Tom Hardy) has his sights on breaking Gotham into rubble and has forces Wayne’s hand to once again dawn the cape and cowl to attempt to take control of the city from Bane’s grip.
Wow, that was my first reaction, not necessarily to how incredible the film is, but first and foremost about the amount of story and set up this film has to sift through in order to come up with a finale and ending that does indeed invoke the wow factor. A handful of new characters that all have quite a bit to contribute to the plot, so much so that I can easily see how overwhelming and seemingly clunky it all can seem. During the extremely deliberate buildup I too had my worries about everything tying itself up, but in my opinion it all comes to an incredibly satisfying end, one that justifies its slow plodding first hour or so and rewards those who have patience. For some, I have no doubt it will test their limits of patience as well as how well hearing is due to some of the audio for Bane’s character.
If you’ve seen the film and are reading this and are livid about how much of the story I’ve left out of the premise, it is for good reason. For all the marketing material it felt like maybe we had seen far too much of the film. I am here to say that most of everything in those trailers is only the tip of the iceberg. I wrote about and speculated what may be going on in the film and while I did call out a few things that I’m sure a lot of other people probably also deducted, I also couldn’t have possibly predicted all of the different plot points and turns it takes throughout as well as the final hour. This is an extremely ambitious film and any suspected flaws in its storytelling might hinder certain folk’s enjoyment, it did not deter me at all- this film had me riveted from beginning to end.
Not to be outdone in creating a formidable foe for Batman, Tom Hardy as Bane really does command the screen. His presence is undeniable and in a moment where he asks a to-be victim if he really believes he is in control it is almost like Nolan asserting his own control over the audience. Bane is most certainly am overwhelming force that really makes you fear for the well being of Batman, let alone anyone else in his path. Hardy owns the role in a way that couldn’t be more different from Ledger’s role as Joker. Theatricality is what separates them, which is something Bane audibly voices his displeasure of and because of that and his physical presence and sheer brute force is almost just as memorable as the Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT. Bane’s voice will no doubt be a point of contention and I will admit to having trouble understanding every single word- but man oh man when he speaks does it resonate and demand attention. The dread and intimidation I felt at his presence was really what started to endear me to the whole experience.
So what of all those other huge names that returned or were added to the cast? Well in fear of giving away too much for how involved they are in the plot, I will keep it vague. Bale is just as good as in the previous films, although now people will have all sorts of new jokes to spout off in the gravely Batman voice. Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine all do their part well enough, but it’s the newbies that had the bigger question marks. Anne Hathaway is surprisingly great, given I wasn’t excited one bit about the idea of Catwoman in Nolan’s Batman universe- plus she’s never once referred to as Catwoman, but she is Selina Kyle after all. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a great actor and with all the mystery surrounding his role does a great job of bridging some of the emotional arcs surrounding Bruce Wayne and Batman. Finally, Marion Cotillard- used little in the marketing, is perfectly adequate, though I don’t feel like she’s fleshed out well enough- then again that may very well have been the point.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES once again makes incredible use of a thumping score that make all the action scenes pop and create a tense and exciting tone that really takes hold for the last half of the film. Nolan again makes scarce use of CGI, but when he does they look phenomenal and nearly seamless. The film is overall just shot magnificently, with shot after shot of beautiful cinematography, wonderful set pieces and action that has improved quite a bit since BATMAN BEGINS.
I’m not here to sell anyone on the idea of the perfect movie- or to defend any type of bias I have to the franchise. I am here to do one thing and that’s express my opinion on how well this film worked for me and how it made me feel. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is a near perfect end to a legend that is more emotionally satisfying and groundbreaking than any other comic book franchise I’ve seen to date. Christopher Nolan has put together a film that’s so ambitious and epic in scope that some may not be able to stomach the immense buildup and storytelling. In the end, when everything comes crashing down and the dust settles THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is dark, emotional and incredibly heroic.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)