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.
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.
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.
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.
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.