My review of The Dark Knight Rises is free of any significant plot details, obviously I comment on many of the facets of the movie so if you want to know nothing then do not read on. I would hate to spoil your enjoyment even though I am confident I have revealed nothing substantial. If you choose to read on then please enjoy my review and what is a truly great movie.
The Dark Knight Rises’ weighty expectation is the burden that any filmmaker would perversely welcome; in modern movie history, no comic book adaptation has come close to the high bar set by Christopher Nolan’s odyssey so far, it’s the saga many wish they could have made. The burdening question now is; how do you equal, never mind surpass what has come before? Nolan has unquestionably answered this by going bigger, in the most part -better, but most significantly; putting the main protagonist at the heart of everything (and it has big heart).
Begins was the story of the Dark Knight’s origin and the plight of an impoverished, imbalanced city, followed by the all-consuming theatre of Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight’s moral one up-man ship. Rises comes full circle to tell the deepest, most important story yet; the burden of Batman’s self-destructing duality, a rise indeed, but more so, a resurrection.
Make no mistake, The Dark Knight’s rise, is full of heart and emotion. Not only is it Batman’s story, but Bruce Wayne’s too; how the man behind the mask, re-begins.
Identical in tone and style to Begins, Rises, strips its first half down to the bare bones , telling the story of Bruce Wayne’s self-enforced eight year reclusion since taking the fall for Harvey Dent , but more so the loss of Rachael Dawes, the woman who was going to wait for him. Does Gotham or Wayne now want or need Batman when a glimpsed life after hanging up the cowl has been snatched away?
His rise is expressive, bleak and brilliant, it also takes a while to get there, but when it does via the most sensitive of exchanges with Alfred (Michael Caine) yet, and the cry of his city in need at the hands of new nemesis, Bane (Tom Hardy), it’s well worth the wait.
Nolan unfurls what is his biggest spectacle yet of running street battles, fist fights and “air superiority” via The Dark Knight’s latest vessel, the high flying ‘Bat’. Taking the action up and above Gotham, as well as beneath creates multiple battle fields not seen before and scales everything up from The Dark Knight. Who needs 3D with multi-dimensional filmmaking like this?
Rises’ colossal action is the culmination of Nolan’s development into an extremely accomplished action director as well as a brilliant filmmaker over the course of his Dark Knight saga.
It is beneath the new multiple layered version of Gotham city, where the greatest peril lays, in the muscular shape of Bane (Tom Hardy), the catalyst for Batman’s rise, a superhuman, neo-terrorist focussed on sending Gotham back to year one. Bane’s cavernous; sewer hideout provides a brutal gated ring for their first punishing subterranean encounter.
Much has been made of Bane and with no easy way of saying it, the voice requires an effort to attune to, and the mask hides a significant performance. Without lips to read it’s a bit of a test, perplexingly echoing around rather than from the mouth of madness itself, much in the way of Spiderman’s green goblin. But Hardy’s physicality and brutality provides the genuine force expected to match the bat, blow for hammering blow, amongst urban warfare like never seen before as The Bat is forced to take it down to Bane’s ‘street’ level; “deception and theatricality” now useless. It’s a truly superb and disturbing proposition as Bane not only functions as the arch enemy, but gives him his deepest physical, emotional and mental test yet. Where The Joker found having the Bat around “too much fun”, Bane hasn’t come to play, creating genuine jeopardy.
Hathaway is superb as the Cat (woman), an uncertain ally to Batman. She is as captivating an incarnation of feline splendour yet, toning down the dark angst of Pfeiffer’s moggy to offer more streetwise agility and brains to match her beauty. She’s a true delight and allays any prior fem’ baddy angst.
The Joker still holds the villain gold medal though from Bane, even with all his strength he can’t quite match the clown prince here; as THE significant point of comparison, The Dark Knight just edges Rises. In many other comparable areas, it’s arguably better, an even greater tapestry of emotional engagement and very real peril.
But without Christian Bale’s best portrayal of Wayne and Batman yet, it would all mean nothing. He is the heart and soul, Nolan has given the stage back to Batman to come full circle to complete HIS story, and Bale grabs it!
Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) return to add further gravitas and much needed loyalty, and crucial newcomers John Blake (Joseph Gordon- Levitt) and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) complete a fabulous ensemble; no super-movie ever had such an array of talent on show.
The ensemble is completed with the returning nobility of Alfred; his hope of a life after Batman for Bruce is the central tear jerker and provides the most emotional scene yet in the entire saga.
Nolan goes deeper, darker, bigger and longer, with Gotham set right in sight of the oncoming storm of his very definite and brilliant conclusion.
When the storm comes, it makes landfall in the most ambitious way; a modern day metropolitan ‘sacking’, fire and brimstone replaced by a frozen, snowy, besieged city; Gotham reduced to its winter of discontent; it’s terrifying and takes Rises to its darkest place with a cities judgement seemingly decided with Bane’s prophesised “reckoning”.
The rich sub-plotted threads of society, revolution and economics may serve to confuse, but Nolan once more somehow, manages to weave all of these themes beneath what’s right in front, (and what we came for – action and emotion!) to once more present a very real, living, (dys) functioning city that’s the stage for a return to the chaos of The Dark Knight, this time making the citizens plight the centre rather than Gotham’s political utilities.
Post 9/11 undertones, corporate greed and terrorism would seem to not warrant any place in a blockbuster, but we are talking here about Nolan’s ‘real’ vision of Gotham and his take on the caped crusader. In his bravest commentary yet on Gotham as the mirror to the world he should be rapturously applauded for delivering, big time!
The Dark Knight Rises is the full on, epic and extremely dark conclusion to a trilogy that we have long been waiting for, well before the mishandling of Schumacher and the shadowy promise of Burton.
Nolan has just created the perfect Bat trilogy and in answering whether he could do it or not, just like his genius and respect he has given to his film’s audiences, he has created even more questions – what’s he going to do now? And what does the next guy do?
Good luck trying to top this!