Before I begin this review, it would be an opportune time to leave condolences to those who have lost loved ones during that brutal killings on Friday, July 20th 2012.
Towering above the likes of The Avengers and The Hobbit in the list of this years’ most anticipated movie is The Dark Knight Rises. To drive anticipation to the max director Christopher Nolan kept his cards close to his chest, very rarely revealing his hand to those outside until the final few months. The Batman franchise has found its place among the public and critics as one of the biggest trilogies of this current generation.
It is eight years after the events in The Dark Knight, and corrupt Harvey Dent is regarded as a hero of Gotham city, while Batman (Christian Bale) is blamed for the murder of this public hero. Bruce Wayne (also Bale, obviously) has been reclusive for the past eight years, but when Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) steals more than diamonds from a safe in the Wayne household, Bruce has to don the black suit and cape and again emerge as the caped crusader.
Throughout the trilogy, the unsung hero of Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise is cinematographer Wally Pfister, who is the major reason why the action sequences throughout the series are as exciting as they are. Without the use of shaky cam or stupidly fast editing Pfister’s capturing of the action contains the type of intensity that so many modern thrillers are lacking. Much of these modern day thrillers use such techniques as fast editing and shaky cam as a way to perhaps disguise the lack of tension. There is no issue with a lack of tension in The Dark Knight Rises as the film approaches its best and final act it feels, for the first time, that Batman may not make it to end.
It has to be said, the film contains a great cast, Bale delivers a performance with true emotional grit as well as maintaining a poignant and effective chemistry with Michael Caine (Alfred the Butler). It is perhaps somewhat surprising that Anne Hathaway is a major highlight in the film as she is suitably sly and sexy as Selina Kyle while Tom Hardy is great as the occasionally incomprehensible Bane. Bane makes for an ominous villain with a powerful and intimidating physical presence, but one must concede that Bane is no Joker. It seems that the Joker is far more cunning, far more of a match for Batman in playing mind games, while it seems that Bane is rather less cunning than his predecessor, but Bane's sheer brutal strength more than makes up for it. Tom Hardy is such a physical presence that Bane remains a terrifying villain who, just like the Joker, takes pleasure in causing mayhem and destruction. Meanwhile both Gary Oldman and Joseph Gordon Levitt give impressive supporting performances, however Marion Cotillard is less than convincing in the weakest and poorest written role in the film.
Nevertheless there are flaws, firstly Nolan has brought in a wealth of new characters (none of which we greatly care about, we are more invested in those who have been with us from the start of the trilogy), some of which are less interesting than others. The influx of new characters adds to the feeling that the film is bloated and overlong (the film is the longest of the trilogy at 169 minutes), especially in its first two acts when the film feels rather underwhelming and plodding in its pacing. On very rare occasions the screenwriting seems lazy, there is one human element, concerning Batman, which feels as though it was taken out of the handbook of lazy screenwriting, add that to some rather clunky dialogue, which makes Cotillard’s performance worse than it actually is, makes The Dark Knight Rises the weakest film of Batman trilogy.
Flaws aside however The Dark Knight Rises is a stunning visually spectacle, the dark, twisting streets of Gotham quickly feel menacing and uninviting. The film contains a number of majestic of set pieces (the plane hijack, the ground cracking in the football stadium and the charge of the policeman) as Jonathan Nolan’s mostly compelling story twists and turns in dramatic fashion throwing out the occasional surprise along the way, but perhaps going one twist to far. Much like the previous two films The Dark Knight Rises is politically aware, again, terrorism serves as a major theme for the film as well as being an attack on modern capitalism (strong enough for some republicans to feel this was a democrat conspiracy).
What Nolan has done with this franchise is mightily impressive, taking it from the campiness of the Clooney films to the serious, dark and violent nature of Christian Bale’s era as Batman. Undoubtedly, the Batman trilogy is Christopher Nolan’s trilogy as it his hand and strong directorial talent that has made the rebooted Batman trilogy one of the highest regarded and most popular comic franchises in history. The legend ends well, but with less of a bang than some would have hoped.