Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman.
Written by: (also story) Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan and (story) David S. Goyer.
Running Time: 164 mins
The most eagerly anticipated film of the year is finally here. Christopher Nolan’s final piece to the Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. The question is, does it meet the expectations of all the hype that has surrounded it? You bet it does!
Eight years have passed since the death of Harvey Dent and the city of Gotham is a much quieter and safer place. Batman has disappeared, a wanted fugitive after taking responsibility for killing the former District Attorney. Battered both physically and mentally, Bruce Wayne has become a recluse in his own home. His wealthy empire is crumbling yet he is a man who no longer cares. Then a new threat to the city arrives in the form of a mercenary who wears a mask. Bane. A mountain of man with plans to bring the city to its kness.
Unable to see the people who want him dead come under attack by terrorists, Wayne decides he has to return to fight and so the Dark Knight rises once more only to find he needs help, from cunning yet sultry cat burglar, Selina Kyle, and a young rookie cop, John Blake, who seems to be the only man who believes in The Batman.
Let me get the negatives out of the way, first of all. This is an unapologetic long film. Running at 2 hours and 45 minutes, some people may find it a bit of a slog. In places, the pace does dip but not for too much. This is a crackerjack of a movie and Nolan, who knows how to make intelligent, thought-provoking movies, doesn’t allow his audience to leave their brains at the door. There are so many multi-layer themes here and he also tackles some of the news stories that regular line our papers too, from the financial nightmares that most countries are dealing with, to terrorism and how politicians want to face them, to the emotional punch of a man scarred by years of being a hero and how the world really treats them.
Nolan demands we concentrate throughout. Not giving us the confusion and over plotting of Inception, he gives us characters, back stories, clues to what will happen and so when things finally do fall together, we can all go “Ah! Clever!” And that is one thing this film does brilliantly. Sure there are a few contrivances dotted around like how is it that Batman manages to be in the right place at the right time but we can forgive those little niggles. Nolan hands us a film that isn’t just an another action picture, he gives us an action picture with brains.
The set pieces are, as you would imagine, incredible and yet without taking them too far over the top. Chases through the streets of Gotham are gripping while the fight sequences are realistic enough for some of the audience I saw it with to actually winch with pain. When Bane takes control of the city, the effects are breath-taking and you genuinely feel they are real. Other effect-laden films need to check this out. This is how you do it.
As with Nolan’s previous films, he has cast a group of actors who are at the top of their game. Michael Caine is given more emotion to deal with as butler and mentor Alfred, although there is one point I in the film, and I don’t want to give away too much, but I felt slightly disappointed as to what happens to him. Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Wayne Empire’s top dog and supplier of Batman’s toys is given a bigger bite this time and let’s face it, Freeman is such a good actor he doesn’t have to do anything and he’s still great. Same applies to Gary Oldman, back as Commissioner Gordon. Three huge names of cinema who can hold their own no matter what.
Newly on board are a host of names from Nolan’s Inception. Marion Cotillard, as business woman Miranda, doesn’t seem to have nearly enough to do but still makes an impact nevertheless. Joseph Gordon-Levitt as cop Blake, is also on top form and watching him, you do wonder if there is a chance he could be…no, you will understand what I mean when you see it.
The villain of the piece is Tom Hardy’s Bane. Face almost obscured by a mask over his nose and mouth, his dialogue is sometimes hard to understand but it really doesn’t matter too much. His screen presence is phenomenal. Bulging with muscles from every part of him and eyes full of death, he is a much more physical persona than Heath Ledger’s amazing psychotic Joker and it is going to be obvious that people will compare them. These are two very different creatures with two very different motives and shouldn’t be compared. As Wayne says to Alfred at one point, Bane is a bigger challenge to the Batman.
Then there’s Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. Out of everyone on show, she impressed more. It’s hard to believe that the sweet, innocent actress of The Princess Diaries and Ella Enchanted could become such a high-kicking, savvy, sex-pot who can take down any man. I always had my doubts whether she could pull off the role, especially with the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer’s interpretation still reasonably fresh in our minds. Well she does and almost steals the film right under the noses of everyone. With some of the best lines, she is worth the admission fee alone. Maybe a film just for her? I’d go.
Finally there’s Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne/Batman. Bale has taken this role and really made it his own. His creation is a man filled with vengeance, anger and hate while at the same time keeping him compact and still elements of mystery. It’s hard now to imagine anyone else taking on the role and delivering such depth. He is not a superhero, he is a man driven by his past and dealing with situations that could easily kill him and yet he still persists, his inner rage pushing him on. It is a triumph to Bale’s ability as an actor that he has taken more than just a comic book character and turned him into a human being.
There are moments when you feel you are watching Batman Begins once more and it does cover some old ground but it needs to. This brings the whole series to a completion.The film offers little in laughs but then it’s suppose to be dark. The Avengers managed to make superhero films light and entertaining, Nolan has managed to show that superhero films can also be human with emotions and depth. It is an amazing piece of cinema and a perfect way to end an incredible trilogy.
The Dark Knight Rises may well be the biggest movie of the year. In fact, it’s on track to be the biggest movie of all time. Personally I think it deserves to be, just to push James Cameron off that top tree and tell the world that there are some film makers out there that can deliver entertainment with a sense of intelligence. Because this is the smartest blockbuster of all and I loved it.