The day has finally come, Christopher Nolan’s conclusion to his critically acclaimed and adored-by-everyone Batman trilogy has arrived. ‘Batman Begins’, was both his and the audience’s introduction to a superhero, who’s reputation was tarnished by the mid-90’s films, made a laughing stock and a comedic character. Director Nolan sorted that right out, as he brought a grittier, darker vibe to put his stamp firmly on the franchise. 2008’s ‘The Dark Knight’, was the game-changer, the billion-dollar film that brought heaps of success for all involved. Heath Ledger was handed a posthumous Oscar for his iconic ‘Joker’ role, the film raked in a ton of money and is widely regarded as the best superhero film ever. So, with 12’s most anticipated film, and a massive challenge instore for it to match it’s predecessor, what can ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, bring to the table?
From the start, explosions. We see new mega-villain Bane capture himself, then to promptly kill a bunch of CIA staff, and kidnap a nuclear physicist. All on an airplane. It was the epic start the film needed and promptly gave me goosebumps, it was THAT good. Then we stop off to look at the massive roster of actors and actresses that Nolan has gathered together.
We meet Selina Kyle (A.K.A Catwoman), played very well by Anne Hathaway, much better than I envisioned her to be. She is cocksure, funny and in control, a strong female character, for sure. Touching on Bane, once again, he’s a fully charged, certified evil bastard! Whereas the Joker was wacky and crazy, Bane is pure evil, a modern-day terrorist, who doesn’t care who’s face he is bashing in, be it a policeman, a stock exchanger (although possibly they deserve it) or the Batman. Even the fears surrounding his ‘choked’ voice, as a result of the facial mask needed to keep him alive, isn’t as bad as feared, with the majority of his vocals clear enough. Tom Hardy’s role may be understated due to this, but make no mistake, Bane is as much his creation, as Nolan’s.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, another ‘Inception’ aficionado, is, member of Gotham’s policeforce, John Blake. A mysterious character, with links to Batman, in more ways than one, he’s the film’s third main character, surprisingly so given his relatively under-billing in the film’s promotion. And finally, completing the quartet of Batman newbies, is Miranda Tate, played by Marion Cotillard, also of ‘Inception’ fame, a member of Wayne Enterprises, and a potential love interest for its owner, the estranged Bruce Wayne.
And after Bane’s dramatic entry (and exit) from the air-born vehicle, it’s Wayne (Christian Bale) who we focus on. The timeline has moved 8 years along since the defeat of the Joker, and Wayne has paid the price for it. Hobbling along on a cane meant for someone twice his age, the billionaire is suffering from the scrapes his alter-ego has gained. Socially, he’s become a recluse, snooping around his mansion, having meals delivered to his sanctuary.
The film takes a slight nosedive at this point, delving into some ‘talky’ scenes, building up Wayne and slowly reintroducing some of the characters from the franchise, like Alfred (the excellent Michael Caine), Lucius Fox (the best God ever, Morgan Freeman) and Commissioner Gordon (the only trustworthy cop in the city, Gary Oldman). I don’t mind these scenes, they allow us to reacquaint ourselves with said characters, after an 8 year chunk of each of their lives, and set up the bulk of the action to come, but I can understand why others, after the rush of Bane’s escape, would be annoyed.
The storyline is slightly vague at first, character’s motives aren’t properly explained, and I was a bit confused. Gradually, though, as jigsaw pieces are moved around, the storyline opens up, and it is clear Bane wants to take all the money from the rich and share it out for the benefits of Gotham’s 12 million citizens, a belief Catwoman shares, and lures a newly-caped Batman along for the ride. Things spiral rapidly out of control, as Batman becomes weak, vulnerable for the first time, a loser. Gordon is out of action, the police target the Dark Knight instead of Bane, chaos is in order.
I was constantly on edge, as Gotham became a dictatorship, and our favourite cast members were cast out, and looked in real danger from Bane, who seemed in control, more than the Joker could ever dream. From his battles with Batman, each crunching blow really felt by the audience, to his explosive masterpieces, he is a villain to savour, and truly hate. The darkest scene of the entire trilogy comes with Wayne board-members, lengths of rope and a bridge, I’ll let you do the thinking, but it doesn’t end well, and is glimpsed briefly but is as shocking as the Joker’s own televised torturing of a fake Batman.
The twists and turns the story takes toward the end are pretty standard, but enthralling nonetheless, as the conclusion is on the horizon, and we really don’t know whether our hero will survive. It’s this real sense of jeopardy that plagues the film throughout, that sees it really step above the ‘Avengers’, purely in the sense you feel Batman is in danger, that he and his friends, anyone of whom could die.
Also, I feel that Christian Bale is perfectly fine in his role as Wayne/Batman. Critics and fans alike have criticised him for the soulless vaccum of emotion, but that is the way his depiction of Wayne is, a detached, broken hearted man who really has no purpose in life, happy only when he is in the black suit that means so much to so many. Not many people are going to be on cloud nine, when they lost their parents at an early age, their true love and have an elderly butler as their only port of call. He even cracks a few dry jokes too, often overlooked by many, although Catwoman is the place for humour in the film.
Hans Zimmer returns with his great, booming trademark soundtrack, bringing ‘Inception’-booms, to go with riffs of the excellent ‘Dark Knight’ score. Often at times, it overpowers dialogue, but the score itself feels so grand, that it compliments the film’s ambitions, conveying and provoking emotions simultaneously. Visually, landscapes look awesome, with Gotham in the snow and under seige looking ever the more vulnerable, and combined with the burning skyscrapers, a city under attack. A quick word on the ending, without spoiling it, it really delivers. Going into the film, certain characters had question marks over their true purpose and future identity, aswell as simply whether they’d live or not. What is offered to us, as an ending, is safe, yet cliched, hints of a possible re-boot with a character or two from the trilogy, is not out of the question, but as an overall ending to Nolan’s films, it is as satisfying as it was ever going to be.
Maybe, just maybe, the best film you’ll see all year. Whilst ‘Rises’, doesn’t quite match the near-perfection of its predecessor, it comes as close as it could’ve got, and delivers a barm-storming ending, with hints towards the franchise’s and character’s continuation.