Christopher Nolan‘s conclusion to the epic Batman trilogy is finally here. The Dark Knight Rises is that very rare film that manages to maintain (if not pass) the quality of its predecessors. Is it as memorable as The Dark Knight? Yes and no, which works in the film’s favor. The Dark Knight Rises is a different film with different motives and a more complex agenda. It almost succeeds in being the perfect comic book movie, but the sluggish first act, mixed with some obvious and unneeded pushy political subtext makes The Dark Knight Rises a near-perfect experience that fails to surpass the hype of The Dark Knight, but excels in becoming the better of the two, because of its grand finale that will stick with you forever.
It has been many years since Batman (Christian Bale) has shown his face in Gotham. After the death of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman has taken a hiatus and allowed Gotham’s finest to run the city. Led by Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and backed up by a young and aspiring rookie cop named John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Gotham is slowly starting to rid itself of the corruption and chaos left behind by The Joker (Heath Ledger). What Gotham doesn’t know is that there’s a new evil rising in the undergrounds, an evil that has plans to destroy Gotham and bring the rich to their knees and the poor to their feet.
Bane (Tom Hardy) is the leader of this evil and he has many behind him that are willing to put their lives on the line for the greater good of their operation. Bane isn’t as methodical as The Joker, but his actions speak much louder than his words, which are loudly articulated with an offbeat voice that painfully feels altered in post, due to the early complaints.
Also new to the film are several characters like Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) and Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). Tate is mostly mysterious, but she appears as an ally for Mr. Wayne and possibly a much-needed friend. Kyle is a cat burglar that sometimes dresses up at night when robbing the rich, but mostly does it in plain sight. The two females help spice up Bruce’s non-existent social life.
Bruce Wayne has retreated to his mansion after hanging up the cape, which allows for his daily talks with his butler and dear friend Alfred (Michael Caine, who gives the most emotional performance of the entire trilogy) as well as occasional visits from his friend Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). Bruce desperately needs Batman, almost as much as Gotham does, but his body can’t take it anymore and his mind is slowly getting more and more caught up with Batman that it diminishes his chances of ever living a normal life.
Christopher Nolan is a master class director when it comes to working with lots of characters. Inception offered us more than one likable cast member and The Dark Knight Rises is no different. He doesn’t just focus on Batman, Bane, Catwoman (which is never actually said aloud) or Gordon. Oh no; Nolan surrounds us with tons of good people and even more bad ones. He allows for other, much more minor characters to grow, while keeping the focus on Bruce Wayne/Batman, which is only fitting for the conclusion of a trilogy.
Christian Bale has finally grown into Bruce Wayne. It’s only taken him three films to do so, but he’s finally able to play both roles equally, if not spending a little more time with Bruce, which is a welcoming change. This version of Bruce Wayne is beaten, broken and hopeless. He’s finally met a match that can go toe-to-toe with him and possibly even beat him.
Bane is an interesting choice for the villain, but a natural progression from The Joker. Heath Ledger‘s performance will forever be known as the best of the series and that’s rightfully so, because his performance is still one of the best I’ve ever seen and what he did with the character still makes The Joker the best thing about the entire trilogy.
But Tom Hardy‘s portrayal of Bane isn’t completely over-shadowed. He’s more of a physical brute of a man and less of a diabolical manipulator, but he’s equally forceful in one light or another. Bane’s voice is beyond silly at times, but mostly something you can shrug off pretty quickly. His actual appearance is what makes his character fun to watch, because he’s such a strong being that doesn’t fear a damn thing. He consumes fear and uses it against his enemies, which is something Batman is not familiar with defeating.
Nolan was wise to choose Bane as the villain, but his overall effectiveness isn’t as strong as it could have been, because of a third act reveal that shouldn’t surprise a soul if you’ve been following any of the marketing.
The other notable performances come from Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Hathaway’s Kyle is the most energetic character of the film, because she skillfully plays both the sly thief and conflicted woman that doesn’t have a side to fight for. She’s not an enemy, but she’s also not a trusting friend. Hathaway also doesn’t look too bad in a skintight black leather suit, which is always a plus in my book.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s Blake is the do-good cop that shoots some fire into both Gordon and Batman. His character may not seem all that important at a first glance, but it’s actually Blake that does most of the work in the film when it comes to planning and even saving the day. Gordon-Levitt continues to rise as a more than exceptional young actor that brings a general good-nature to his character. Gordon-Levitt’s character is the only one that never gives up hope in the film and the only character that has a complete arc from start to finish.
The Dark Knight Rises isn’t without its obvious and easily avoidable problems. Christopher Nolan for some reason feels the need to scratch at a relevant, but almost pointless political agenda that follows closely to some of America’s most recent problems and not once does it feel needed for the film or act as any sort of enhancement to the story. It feels forced in and tries to make the film feel a lot smarter than it really is. This pushing almost ruins the entire opening of the film, but Nolan quickly changes focus onto bigger and more important things.
This is another Batman film after all and while the quality of comic book movies have increased drastically over time there is still a fair share of fun to be experienced when watching comic book films, especially the Batman ones. The humor is mostly cheaply placed and some of the reveals are so blatantly obvious that it makes you wonder just how stupid Nolan really thinks his fans are.
Act one is bogged down and almost completely cripples the film, but Nolan follows it with two acts that are grand in every way. The IMAX cameras are put to good use and help display the massive scale of the film, which is truly the biggest and most global Batman film yet. The action is also an improvement from the slowly choreographed fighting in The Dark Knight. The camera is placed a little too close for my tastes, but the fights are much more fluid, hard-hitting and entertaining than the previous two.
The Dark Knight Rises is not The Dark Knight. It doesn’t feel nearly as memorable or as dazzling, but that’s okay. Nolan changes the focus and in doing so changes what you should expect from this equally impressive film that will still leave you in awe. The Dark Knight will always be more groundbreaking than Rises or Begins, because of Ledger’s performance as The Joker and because of the untapped grounds that Nolan was working on with the IMAX cameras and with the comic book world, but the film also carried some glaring flaws, like the anticlimactic boat showdown or the sonar rooftop rumble, but most choose to look past that.
Nolan did stuff that no one has ever done before in The Dark Knight and going into The Dark Knight Rises had him at a disadvantage from the beginning, but he still somehow manages to knock you on your ass.
The Dark Knight Rises is clearly the better film of the two, but that’s mostly because of the conclusion that Nolan ties the film (and trilogy) off with. He takes virtually every idea that people have come up with and plucks bits and pieces from every one of those endings and gives us a conclusion that should satisfy every fan of the series. It’s not something that you couldn’t guess, but that’s fine, because it feels complete and fitting for this particular telling of the character known as Batman.
See this on the biggest screen possible (preferably IMAX) and enjoy it for what it is! The Dark Knight Rises is one of the very best comic book movies of all time and a more than acceptable successor to The Dark Knight, but it’s not nearly as jaw-dropping from a visual standpoint, but it does much more from a technical standpoint. None of the performances outdo Ledger’s Joker, but they never feel like they’re trying to. The Dark Knight Rises is an emotional punch in the heart for Batman fans across the world and it’s because of Nolan’s care and understanding of the character that makes it the best Batman film of the series.
The Dark Knight Rises – 9.5/10