Friday, 20 July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

"You don't owe these people anymore. You've given them everything." "Not everything, not yet..."

The quote above applies to this film on so many levels. At whatever angle you come from with this film, it just has that sense of finality about it. After plunging fear into Gotham's criminal underbelly in Batman Begins, and saving the city from the unhinged chaos of a madman in The Dark Knight, Batman himself owes it to the cinematic world to go out with a bang and book himself in the pantheon of great cinematic trilogies. Furthermore the saga's visionary director, Christopher Nolan owes it to himself to end the story he so magnificently started in 2005. It's the most anticipated film of the year. It's the film fans have been waiting for since they walked out of seeing its predecessor in 2008. So the question, quite rightly, is; does it live up to its phenomenal hype? 

The story picks up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, the Batman has vanished and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) now a recluse after taking the fall for the crimes of Harvey Dent and in turn Gotham has become a much more peaceful place because of it. Of course this is only the calm before the storm as a new evil force named Bane (Tom Hardy) arrives in Gotham along with the mysterious Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), forcing Batman out of retirement, hellbent on dragging the city down into the tenth level of hell. 

Christian Bale's portrayal of Batman has probably been parodied to death over the years for the ostentatious voice in dire need of a cough drop. Nevertheless his journey as Bruce Wayne has been nothing short of cinematic brilliance, and in TDKR he gives arguably his greatest bow as the estranged billionaire. Channelling Wayne's old wounds from the past two films on top of the suffering he faces over the course of the final film, especially in the mesmerising second act, Bale's tender moments he shared with Michael Caine's Alfred were every bit as wonderful to watch as the heart to hearts with Hardy's monstrous Bane.

One does perhaps wonder how Nolan's vision for the final film would've differed had the late, great Heath Ledger had still been with us (he was contracted to appear in The Dark Knight Rises in some capacity), and though his unforgettable turn as The Joker is never referenced, his ghost looms large over the feature with the sense of dread and spirit for complete anarchy he invoked so often previously. 

Which brings us nicely to the main antagonist of the feature, Bane. Tom Hardy encapsulates the character that was grossly misrepresented in Batman & Robin as one of the few of The Dark Knight's rouge gallery who can match him on both a mental and a physical level. Like Bale's Batman voice, Hardy's muffled sinister voice will be a source of great amusement to many YouTube videos, but it doesn't matter as his actions speak far more coherently and with much more impact than any of his speeches ever would.  

Anne Hathaway's Catwoman is probably the best version of the character ever seen on screen and at times steals the show away from both Bale and Hardy. It's the first version to fully understand the multiple shades of grey Selina Kyle has beneath her catsuit, without the supernatural nonsense of Batman Returns and whatever the hell that was Halle Berry was trying to pull off in her redundant spin-off film. In TDKRs Catwoman is a beautifully realised femme fatale, sexy and deadly, hero and villain and both friend and foe to Batman.

The supporting roles were littered with probably the greatest ensemble of actors I've seen on film since, well probably Christopher Nolan's Inception. Gary Oldman's tired and jaded journey as Commissioner James Gordon is the definitive version of the character, Michael Caine shines bright and will make audiences shed tears as Alfred Pennyworth, Morgan Freeman lends his cool class as Bat-gadget supremo Lucius Fox while newcomers Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's only reaffirm the conclusion that Christopher Nolan can assemble any actor he so chooses. There are also a few cameos from past characters of the film's series to help it come full circle, but those reveals won't be spoiled in this review.

Was it perfect though? Truthfully - and please no death threats - its story was too guilty of doing what many final chapters of the great cinematic sagas are often accused of doing and that's cramming far more than was entirely necessary resulting in at times a messy story and slightly muddled character development. It maybe could have benefited from losing 15 minutes off its running time, but then when you've got near three hours of the biggest Batman film ever attempted, yeah you'd forgive these shortcomings. And for every time I want to roll my eyes, I found myself smiling more and more or my emotions heightening to the brink of tears

Christopher Nolan's evolution since his first Batman film and his eye for the grand spectacle came to its pinnacle with TDKR, perhaps just eclipsing the heights he reached with Inception. The opening scene of the film itself, which felt partially influenced by the opening scene of the previous Batman film, where the audience is introduced to Hardy's Bane is worth the admission fee alone, especially when you realise how little CGI is used in the creation of it.

Invoking the fear of a post 9/11 world, along with the extreme right wing reaction to it in the fallout, in his previous two Batman films, Nolan goes to great lengths to set his dark, gritty, mature finale to the Batman saga in a financially ravaged, occupy Wall Street-esque hell. Making his Batman films not only the best, but also one of the true cinematic sagas of our time and generation. And in stark contrast making Marvel's Avengers universe look like a feeble cosplay exercise in comparison. Shame the same can't be said for the rest of DC's characters on the big screen these days.

Final Thoughts
Despite its obvious shortcomings, Christopher Nolan delivers a grandiose finish full of spectacle, emotion and near Oscar-worthy performances from many of its cast. Where Warner Bros decides to take Batman next on the big screen is a thought for another day, for now just bask in knowing a superhero, a comic book adaptation is now recognised as one of the great cinematic trilogies and one of the biggest, in every sense of the word, blockbusters of all time. The Dark Knight Rises. The Dark Knight Rules.


The Dark Knight Rises is in cinemas everywhere now. And yes I know you've probably already seen it when this review goes live. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was a bit worried about this one, loved the first two so much! It was outstanding though. Overall a better film than the Dark Knight in my opinion. I do completely agree with you though when you say that at times it tries to cram too much in and gets a little messy, The Dark Knight was the same I thought, one or two set-pieces too many. Same with Inception as well now I think about it. Good review!