The Dark Knight Rises: A Review

20 Jul

WARNING: this review may contain spoilers. I’m going to try to avoid it as much as I can, but I don’t know if I can avoid every detail. Rest assured there won’t be any major spoilers below, but if you want to escape any knowledge of the film then maybe read this after you’ve seen it. Deal? Okay then.

Warning: your car may look awesome after reading this review.

The most anticipated film of the year has been released. The final part of one of the most-loved film series in history. Part of a franchise that is adored by millions of people and who get very angry when things get messed up. Some pretty big expectations that Christopher Nolan had to deal with right there. He needed to get it spot on.

And, rest assured, he did. The Dark Knight Rises completes the Dark Knight trilogy with ease and confidence, bringing a satisfying conclusion to the series and cementing its place in cinematic folklore.

Just one word of warning, though: if you expect this film to start off with the same intensity as The Dark Knight, then you’re going to be disappointed. This movie is long. Nearly three hours, in fact. It is slow, introspective, and character-based for a good eighty minutes. There is an intricate level of build-up before the real action starts. The thing is, the movie is all the better for it. For one thing, we get a view of Bruce Wayne without Batman, and without the simple life that he longed for in The Dark Knight. He has deliberately isolated himself from his previous lives, and is a hollow shell of the man from the previous films; rather than living a double-life, he has lost both.

Don’t be so sad, Bruce!

Instead of focusing entirely on Wayne, though, plenty of the plot developments come from two of the newcomers to the series: Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s John Blake, a street cop with ideals of justice, and Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle, a professional thief.

Both of them give fantastic performances, particularly Hathaway, who comes out of her comfort zone of the-nice-girl-who-is-a-bit-clumsy and adds depth to a character often given a one-track treatment. Her Kyle is dangerous and smart, able to use different personas to get what she wants. John Blake, meanwhile, is a character whose faith in the system is slowly eroded, and Gordon-Levitt can add another dramatic, developed performance to his résumé.

Let’s talk about the villain though. A character ruined in Batman & Robin, Bane received a mixed reaction when announced as the antagonist of The Dark Knight Rises. Tom Hardy, though, delivers to us a Bane far away from his previous, campy version. Instead, Hardy is terrifying – articulate, charismatic, intelligent, yet brutal and deadly. There’s no hint of the character’s use of the muscle-enhancing drug Venom, as in the comics, and is instead given a variation on his original back-story. I’ve got to say, this is probably my favourite version of Bane: grounded, real, yet still a real adversary.

Spoiler: Batman and Bane become best buddies.

The rest of the cast are superb as well – you know what you get from the likes of Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, but Matthew Modine also gives a good performance, as does Marion Cotillard. And what is there to say about the direction? It’s fantastic, and trademark Nolan. Grand, sweeping shots, fantastic action sequences, tension built up to the max, and all of it augmented by sharp dialogue and another brilliant score from Hans Zimmer.

So where does that leave us? Well, in my opinion, The Dark Knight Rises gives us the best trilogy…well, ever. Now, I know that is a very extreme claim, but let me back it up. Each film is fantastic, yes, but it’s more than that; they each build upon the one before. The origins of Batman Begins, the new adversary of The Dark Knight, and now the conclusion of the story, and the conclusion of the character arcs – The Dark Knight Rises joins up effortlessly with the stories of the other two films.

Often trilogies fall at the final hurdle – X-Men, Blade, and Spider-Man are some comic book examples – by failing to give an acceptable conclusion. The trilogies that do succeed – the ‘Dollars’ trilogy, Romero’s Dead films, Die Hard, and Indiana Jones for instance – often contain three films that are not really dependent on each other. Rather than tell a complete story, they tell three very separate ones. Thankfully, The Dark Knight trilogy joins the likes of Toy Story, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings in giving us a complete arc.

But could Batman blow up the Death Star? Yes. Yes he could.

So, let’s have a moment to think about this: Christopher Nolan has made a brilliant trilogy out of a guy who dresses like a bat and beats people up. Not only that, but has suffered the potential wrath of fans of the original comics by making radical changes to it. By removing the supernatural from it entirely. By casting actors who raised eyebrows like Anne Hathaway and Heath Ledger. The Dark Knight trilogy has proved that you can take comic books and make serious movies about them, with genuine themes and values, and with unique characters.

Give that man a goddamn medal, right now.

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6 Responses to “The Dark Knight Rises: A Review”

  1. Jonny Rose (@98rosjon) July 20, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

    It wasn’t the worst thing ever (excellent direction/cinematography/soundtrack) but nowhere near as good as I was hoping. In short:

    – Bane – I thought he was a terrible villain. I couldn’t understand a word he was saying, no distinguishable (super)power, not scary at all. IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN SCARECROW.
    – Talia – as above, terrible villain. Her raison d’etre for everything was wack. Again, IT SHOUL HAVE BEEN SCARECROW.
    – The entire villain plot of overturning/destabilising Gotham society was EXACTLY the same as The Joker’s except with an anti-capitalist bent
    – Every scene set in that well was excruciatingly bad (the flashbacks to young Talia, the radically self-healing vertebrae, the mythology around those who could leap the ledge-gap, the random blind doctor man, the chanting Arabs* etc)
    – Alfred emoting every five minutes for the first half of the film about him not wanting Bruce to become Batman again
    – Massive cringe scene at the bootom of the stair when Alfred and Batman break-up
    – The ending of him flying off with the bomb was just pure *cringe*
    – HOW COULD BATMAN GET FROM A PIT IN NORTH AFRICA TO GOTHAM CITY IN A DAY?
    – WHY DID THE BOMB TAKE MONTHS TO DETONATE?
    – OTHER THINGS I WANT TO SHOUT BUT CAN REMEMBER

    But glad you enjoyed it, nonetheless! 🙂

    *Edward Said would have had a field day analysing the well people.

    • Rob Gordon July 20, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

      [SPOILER ALERT FOR ANYONE, DON’T READ THE COMMENTS]

      Really? I thought Bane was fantastic. He doesn’t have a distinguishable superpower, but neither did the Joker or Ra’s Al Ghul in the first one. Nolan’s Batman villains never have powers (other than Scarecrow’s psycho drug sack face thing).

      Talia’s raison d’etre was the same as her father’s, the same as Bane’s – the destruction of Gotham, of the corrupt, decadent city. The aims of each of the films has been this – although the Joker’s aim is very much more for the lulz. Whereas Ra’s and Bane/Talia have an anti-capitalist, anti-corruption angle (dare I say a bastardization of the occupy movement?), Joker seems predominantly aimed at Batman, seeing how Batman ticks. Batman isn’t a defender against the Joker, whereas he IS against Bane/Ra’s/The League of Shadows.

      Briefly, I disagree with you about Alfred, the prison scenes, etc – nothing really to go into in detail other than that!

      As for the bomb – the whole point is to let Gotham fall into ruin of its own accord first. Let Gotham destroy itself. But League of Shadows have never meant there to be any lessons at the end of it (unlike the Joker who seems to get kicks out of unveiling a dark side) – their ultimate goal is misery and destruction. Therefore, let Gotham fall into ruin, let it tear itself apart, and then let it blow up anyway. Ultimate horror.

      As for Bruce Wayne’s mysterious travel from North Africa (in the comics the prison is in the Caribbean but I think they changed it to tie into the whole Ra’s Al Ghul back story angle) to Gotham – I had the same issue to be honest. I also (mainly) wondered how he was able to get INTO Gotham so easy, but I figured ‘hey, he’s the friggin’ Batman, he can do anything and everything’.

      Anyway, for me it’s EASILY the best film this year, blowing stuff like Prometheus out of the water. Nothing else comes close (aside from possibly Red Lights) and it’s shown the way that comics book movies can be made – it makes The Avengers look like a low-budget amateur production for instance. Just sorry you didn’t enjoy it to be honest! I liked it so much I’m going to see it again tomorrow!

    • Peter Hardy July 24, 2012 at 9:06 am #

      I completely disagree with everything you say.

    • James Prescott July 26, 2012 at 9:59 am #

      Can’t agree with this. Bane was excellent – terrifying at times. His motivation was totally different to the Joker’s, more trying to fulfill what Ras al-Ghul tried to in the first. I understood him just fine. Talia was meant to be seen not as a villian for most of the film – but when she turned, she was evil, cold, calculating. The scenes in the well were fine, no problem. It was meant to be torture for Bruce, and it was.

      Batman didn’t get from the pit to the US in a day – remember, the film covers about 6 months, so there is probably time between him escaping and returning. The bomb? Well without the reactor it simply decayed until it detonated (they do explain it!!).

      The end was perfect. They should leave the trilogy as it is, the story (well Bruce’s one anyhow) has ended perfectly.

      Still, each to their own!!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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