Review: The Dark Knight Rises

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In brief: Smashing!

In depth:

When Christopher Nolan brought his unique vision of the Dark Knight to the big screen in 2005, he brought us a down to earth, super hero film, that focused more on the how it would really work and why a man would choose to dress in the cape and cowl; now he brings this chapter of cinema history to a close in epic fashion by focusing on bringing his version of Bruce Wayne’s story (which in comics will never end, check out “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader” graphic novel to see my point) to its natural end.  Coincidentally, you can catch up on Nolan’s Batman films, and other free movies online, by signing up to LOVEFiLM.

Batman Begins established the setting and the believability, and then The Dark Knight followed by furthering the concept as whilst Bruce became Batman to combat crime, The Joker (stunningly realised by Heath Ledger) rose to combat the gauntlet that Batman had put down. With triumph in his hands, the previous film inevitably ended with a hollow victory, as Bruce had to allow the legend of the Dark Knight to become one swallowed in murder.

So where can the final chapter take us on the back of such a critically lauded film? How can it possibly hope to eclipse its predecessor?

The answer is, of course, it cannot beat the middle chapter of the trilogy, but it can end the series and it does fantastically.

Picking up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, this is a Gotham City now virtually free of crime and corruption (key to that sentence is virtually); Bruce Wayne is now a recluse, battered and bruised after years of successful fights, and his Batman is more of an urban legend than before, not seen in years as this is, as one characters notes, peace time.

And it’s all built on the lie of the Harvey Dent Act made to honour the White Knight of the city, one that the audience and precious few characters in the film know the reality of which allows trepidation to build quite nicely beneath the surface.

The tension and unease beneath the surface is nicely underpinned by Commissioner Gordon’s guilt and unease (a continually stunning portrayal by Gary Oldman; I doubt there will ever be a better depiction); but we know this is only the calm before the storm as the international terrorist known only as Bane (Tom Hardy) has already effected a mind blowing action sequence/plane hijack with a twist. Unlike the often considered just a muscle bound brute from the comics, Bane has been placed as a true physical and mental opponent for this Batman, seeking to break the spirit of the man as much as the body,  by unleashing an underground army contained by a lie.

Bruce is invigorated by the challenge, seeing no future without the love of his life, Rachael Dawes, and perhaps too readily rises to meet it; inevitably old friends such as Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) provides the gadgets (Batwing. Finally) and Alfred (Michael Caine) assist where they can and it is the latter that breaks your heart in two of the films most poignant moments.

New characters are thrust in the narrative as well (easily done when much of the first portion of the film has Bruce getting back into the swing of things) such as Wayne Enterprises board member Miranda Tate, tough street cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway).

Both Levitt and Hathaway are given more than enough character and the moments to go with them to drive their individual stories forward; Blake is the original character and so represents the blank slate that Levitt easily slips into and makes his own, smart, driven and with a pure moral code that both Gordon and Bruce Wayne have let slip.

Kyle, as presented by Hathaway, represents the other side of that coin; a true comic icon in her own right, many fans and critics were concerned at both how such as character would fit into this grounded Batman, and how Hathaway would portray her. Frankly I consider her one of the best parts of the film; determined, selfish and Hathaway simply exudes seductive charm. Part cat burglar, brawler, and con-woman, a true 21st century cat woman who can believably hold her own.

Nolan inevitably manages to bring all of these concepts together to create a cohesive whole which thrills and continually makes you ask the question just how on earth are they going to resolve all of this?

The film keeps you engrossed for the full running time (just shy of three hours including trailers) as Nolan takes his time setting up the details of this new world (remember it is 8 years later, a lot has changed) but underneath the surface we know there is something waiting to burst out between the secrets, lies and hidden truths, but the story itself echoes back to the beginnings of the trilogy where Bruce must inevitably confront the dark path he followed that made him into the man he is today (can anyone say the League of Shadows?) and ensure that no matter what, Batman must rise again.

Perhaps this is why the previous film, The Dark Knight, stands apart from the others, a true stand alone Batman film, whereas this final offering must tie all the strands together and provide a definitive end point for this film legacy; what Nolan has created, and indeed Christian Bale has presented, is a fully realised and definitive tale of a Bruce Wayne and a Batman, the circle is now complete. This is no comic book film (please see The Avengers for a definitive version of that!) but it is a piece of cinema history, truly deserving of being considered both more and less than that.

The Dark Knight Rises is the final chapter of an epic piece of cinema history, collect them all and watch them in order, it’s one story all the way through that builds upon itself but finishes in spectacular style. I dare you to leave the cinema without a grin on your face: I dare you.

What the others said…

[tabs slidertype=”top tabs”] [tabcontainer] [tabtext]Chris’s Opinion[/tabtext] [tabtext]Mark’s Opinion[/tabtext] [/tabcontainer] [tabcontent] [tab]A more than worthy culmination to the trilogy. Nolan plays to his strengths, ups the ante, and finds a villain whose performance is so inherently different, that comparisons to Heath Ledger are made difficult. That in itself allows The Dark Knight Rises to break away from its predecessor, and stand in its own right. It’s a polished, tidy and far more complex film than The Dark Knight. It rounds off the Batman Trilogy, and leaves it – almost certainly – as one of cinema’s great series.[/tab] [tab]A great end to the saga, but weaker than The Dark Knight.  For all Hardy’s efforts, he cannot stand up there with Ledger’s Joker in terms of charisma and sheer watchability.  As a result, TDKR attempts to compensate with an overtly complicated storyline.  You can easily get muddled in the details over three hours.  That said, if it weren’t for its immediate forbearer, it’d probably be the standout film of the series.[/tab] [/tabcontent] [/tabs]

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