I have written a spoiler free review here…
Eight years after the defeat of The Joker and Two-Face, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has hung up his cape. When a new threat – Bane (Tom Hardy) – comes to town, hell bent on causing chaos, Batman resurfaces to protect the city that drove him into hiding.
Warning, it is rather difficult to review The Dark Knight Rises without giving away some plot points, so if you wish to remain in the dark, stop reading now.
The rest of you… Read on!
The conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy has been four years in the making and after Heath Ledger’s wonderful villain in The Dark Knight; audiences were left wondering whom Batman would face in the final film. Bane, a character that has not received much screen time in previous Batman adaptations, steps front and centre as the man who may finally destroy Gotham.
Christian Bale reprises the role of Bruce Wayne, and he is a changed man. He is still struggling with pain, but for the first time, wears it on his sleeve. Wayne has retreated in order to lick his wounds, and his grief over the death of Rachel is reflected in the physical pain that the character is in when we first meet him. Wayne must overcome his physical failings in order to succeed and he must defeat the same physical obstacles as his adversary, another first for the caped crusader. Bale inhabits his most famous character, and brings a new layer of pain to both Bruce Wayne and Batman.
There are plenty of new characters introduced into the franchise, the most obvious being the villain – Tom Hardy as Bane. Bane is the first villain who seems as though he is physically capable of taking on Batman, and he does. Taking a leaf from the Knightfall story arc, Bane breaks Batman in an attempt to defeat him. Tom Hardy makes Bane menacing and fear inducing in a very different way to Cillian Murphy’s outing as The Scarecrow (who makes a hilarious and a most Scarecrow-like appearance in the film) and manages to make an impact despite the mask that covers most of his face. Although it is jarring to be unable to see the character’s mouth as he talks, Hardy more than makes up for this through the emotion he conveys through his eyes. That said, Bane is still a little difficult to understand at times, and at others, sounds like a moustache-twirling villain of old.
Anne Hathaway turns up as foe and friend Selina Kyle and although she is never referred to as such, there is little doubt that she is Catwoman. Kyle is the initial catalyst that brings Wayne out of seclusion and into the path of Bane. Hathaway gives a strong performance as Kyle, without resorting to cat mimicry to get her point across. Marion Cotillard is another new addition to the franchise and gives a subtle and nuanced performance, which is what we have come to know her for. Joseph Gordon-Levitt also joins the franchise as a young cop with an eye for detail and becomes the every man and unsung hero of Gotham. As well as this, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine return, with the latter finally playing the father figure that Bruce Wayne needs, and the audience always suspected him to be.
At 164 minutes, The Dark Knight Rises is not a brief film, but for the most part, it is well paced and gripping. The foundations of the story are strongly laid with a opening fantastic set piece, and the first hour of the film reintroduces us to the film’s characters and the city of Gotham. There are plenty of references to the films that have gone before, but Nolan has created a new world within the one that we know so well; Gotham may have got a shiny new veneer since we last saw it, but underneath the surface it is still the same troubled city that it always was and this trouble is only too quick to boil to the surface.
Christopher Nolan has stepped further into the world of the action movie than he has to date, but the action balances out the drama as we get to know more about the characters. The set pieces are fast and thrilling, and serve to create and dispel tension throughout the film. Various cities across the globe stand in for the city of Gotham, but Nolan and cinematographer Wally Pfister create a world that feels well rounded and integrated. The scale of the set pieces is incredible, and this adds to the feeling that this is a real world. The city has never looked better, but it still feels self contained. As well as this, Nolan has remained true to what made his Batman as strong as it is; the human element of the characters and the emotional connections between them.
The problems with the film arise in the sheer depth of information that we are given. There may be times when the audience struggles to keep up with what they are being told and the speed at which they are being told it. The pace keeps the film moving forward – sometimes a little too quickly – so when it slows to allow time to pass, the film feels as though it is struggling to keep going. In fact, there are about 20 minutes in the middle of the film that could have been sacrificed for the sake of pacing. As well as this, Batman disappears for a significant amount of time. Yes, this is all part of a large story, but it is difficult to make a Batman film without Batman… or Bruce Wayne.
We knew from the outset that this was the film that would wrap up Nolan and Bale’s work on Batman, but the good news is that the character is given the send off that we hope for and this is not only integral to the story, but emotionally satisfying. As well as this, the film allows us to say goodbye to some of the characters we have grown to love – or hate – throughout the course of the franchise.
In all, The Dark Knight Rises is a thrilling conclusion to the Dark Knight trilogy. The villain may not be as charismatic or enigmatic as The Joker, but Bane is the first that even makes a dent in Batman, physically. The story is as twisty, turny and dark as we have come to expect, the set pieces are thrilling and – although there are moments where it lags and the audience may suffer from information overload – the pacing is spectacular and the 164 minutes positively zip by. Christopher Nolan has done the characters and his trilogy justice and given them a great send off. The film may not quite reach the level of its predecessor, but it is a fitting end to the trilogy and ultimately, is great cinema.