The Dark Knight Rises (Cert 12)
1 Disc (Distributor: Warner Brothers) Running Time: 158 minutes approx
Late to the party as usual, I watch this film with an equal amount of anticipation and trepidation, such is the hype surrounding Christopher Nolan’s record breaking final film in his Batman trilogy. So often one hears how great a film is only to be personally disappointed by it; conversely the barrage of praise heaped upon a film can also prejudice an opinion, arguably the worse of these two concerns for a film fan – especially those of us who feel the need to share our opinions with the world.
I’ll keep the recap brief since I am sure practically everyone knows it by heart already: eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Batman and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) have not been seen in public ever since the Caped Crusader took the blame for the death of Harvey “Two Face” Dent. A business rival to Wayne, John Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn), who wants to take over Wayne Enterprises employs a dangerous masked mercenary Bane (Tom Hardy) to carry out his dirty work in the take over, but Bane then goes into business from himself and steals a fusion reactor belong to Wayne to turn into an atom bomb to blow up Gotham City, forcing Batman to come out of exile.
Obviously the plot is far more complex than that, with a large group of key players to fill out the subplots and threads all of which come together in the huge, literally explosive finale. They include Skilled cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), who is Catwoman in all but name, flits between heroine and villain as she steals from every unsuspecting schmuck (including Bruce) but has a thing for Batman, fighting alongside him one minute then betraying him the next for her own personal gain. Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) is a business associate of Wayne’s, upon whom he has to rely to act in his best interests in the boardroom while sharing other interests in the bedroom; John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a young cop who has an affinity with Batman, coming from a similar background thus he has a fair idea of his true identity. Reprising their roles are Alfred (Michael Caine), Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman).
Being the third film in the series, Nolan wasn’t just making a third film, he was making the last film, thus we have an incredibly self-referential story in which the viewer is asked to recall many important facts and faces from the two previous films as they are intrinsic to this story. Thankfully visual reminders and the odd aide-mémoire is on hand, but it is to Nolan’s credit that these are carefully interwoven into the plot and not shoehorned in for convenience sake. But there is a lot going on here, which means characters which would have benefited from some extra focus or a bit of development – Selina Kyle is a prime candidate – aren’t afforded enough to do them full justice, yet every one is compelling enough to pull you into the story regardless of this minor shortcoming.
Arguably the boldest move Nolan made was to limit Batman’s appearances to just three scenes – albeit three vital ones. The rest of the time he is either Bruce Wayne or completely off screen. But again, the script is telling the tale of a crime fighter coming out of retirement after eight years and the rust has set in. After an unsuccessful run in with Bane, Bruce is imprisoned by his new nemesis where he is once again forced to rehabilitate and restart his crusade as Batman from scratch. This brings not only the film series full circle but the career cycle of Batman too – from mere mortal to superhero to mere mortal again, a fitting and well executed allegory. And people say superhero blockbusters are just mindless entertainment?
That said, all of the trademark bombast and over the top set pieces prevalent within this genre are present and Nolan again tries to offer something different from the two previous films in these scenes. There is no Batmobile this time, just the Batbike and a flying machine simply called The Bat which proves equally, if more, effective. Aside from the collapsing football field the action scenes are very believable and by keeping it simple, Nolan creates some fantastic moments of heartstopping tension leading into the big denouement. Even with all the chaos and calamity, this is very much a story about human beings than superheroes and as remarkable as this sounds, one can’t help but be feel emotionally and psychologically overwhelmed by the time the end credits run.
The film isn’t without its flaws however. Bane is an odd choice of villain and while Tom Hardy pulls off the physical performance, he doesn’t exude the gravitas of a criminal leader, coming off more like a hired muscle, which he essentially is anyone. And his voice is a peculiar mix of Patrick Stewart in full Shakespeare mode and Stan Smith from American Dad! Plus the importance of his mask wasn’t highlighted or exposed to the lengths it should have. And there is the two and a half hour plus running time. Some tightening up in the first and second acts would have been welcomed I feel.
And so Christian Bale dons he cowl and cape for the last time and while one can nitpick over this and that, there is no denying that The Dark Knight Rises achieves what it sets out to – and that is to bring this series to its natural conclusion. Yes, a few carrots were dangled at the end to tease us but this was an emphatic closing of the curtains for Nolan’s run with the franchise. It was a heck of a ride and it ends on a real bang, so kudos to Nolan, Bale and everyone involved.
So, whither Batman?
English Audio Descriptive Service
English, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, Icelandic and Swedish subtitles
The Journey Of Bruce Wayne
Ultra Violet Version
Rating – ****
Man In Black