Last night I finally got to see the film I’ve been waiting for for over a year, The Dark Knight Rises. The Christopher Nolan directed epic marks the final chapter in one of the most iconic trilogies of recent times, closing the final page on the Batman franchise his team has built in the last decade.
After the hugely successful second film, The Dark Knight, there has been huge expectations for this film, and it seemed destined to under deliver regardless of how good it was. That said, the trailers for The Dark Knight Rises have built up a lot of anticipation in the build up to the release, and we recently listed it as our #1 film to watch in 2012.
This review will be spoiler free, and the only assumed knowledge will be the cast list and the trailer. There are spoilers towards the end of the article, but they are very clearly flagged beforehand, so if you haven’t seen it… don’t read them!
Firstly, it is incredibly difficult to judge this film on it’s standalone merits. It’s like looking back at the original Star Wars trilogy and trying to distinguish it into it’s component parts, when in reality it stands a lot stronger as a trilogy. This holds especially true for Nolan’s Batman universe, and The Dark Knight Rises feels very much like a slice of a larger picture. Being compared to the second part of the trilogy is a very difficult job. As Christopher Nolan said, “how many good third movies in a franchise can people name?”. However, The Dark Knight Rises definitely holds it’s own, and whilst it is flawed at times, it is a close to perfect ending for the series.
Expertly crafted as ever, Nolan brought in an A team for the film. The cast is simply astounding, starring Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Marion Cotillard, and Anne Hathaway. There are a few notable additions from The Dark Knight cast which have prompted a lot of speculation leading up to the film’s release.
Firstly, Tom Hardy takes over the reigns as Bane. Stepping into the shoes of Heath Ledger and playing Batman’s antagonist is no easy task, especially since Bane is a much less known character to mainstream audiences. However, Hardy does an admirable job and is absolutely terrifying as Bane. Deliberately juxtaposing against The Joker, Bane is an incredibly intelligent and physically able villain who calculates every eventuality. Whilst The Joker was driven by chaos and revelled in anarchy, Bane operates in a methodical way and treats Gotham like a war zone. Much like Ledger’s performance, a large portion of Hardy’s screen time relies on his physical acting rather than the actual dialogue being spoken, and Tom Hardy controls the screen in an utterly dominating fashion.
Anne Hathaway also takes up the role of Selina Kyle, a character previously played by Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry. The cat burglar has never really been translated well to the big screen, and has always come off as incredibly cliched and cheesy in previous films. Anne Hathaway is also a pretty unproven actress in action films, with a history of chick flicks and rom-coms, meaning there was a lot of nervous anticipation about this casting. That said, there was a very similar feeling when Ledger was cast as The Joker and we all know how that turned out! Hathaway’s performance should finally be enough for audience’s to place their trust in Nolan’s casting ability, as she delivers one of the best performances in the film. Selina Kyle is an incredibly complicated character with a complex relationship with Bruce Wayne, and Anne Hathaway manages to get the perfect balance to make her both alluring and intimidating simultaneously.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard make new appearances to the series, but since there is very little revealed on their characters in the trailer I’ll avoid commenting on specifics.
Michael Caine delivers the best performance of the film. As you’ll have seen in the trailers, the whole premise revolves around the demise of Bruce Wayne after Batman is blamed for the death of Harvey Dent. This takes a huge toll on Alfred, who promised to Bruce’s parents that he would look after Bruce to the best of his abilities. As the plot develops this becomes increasingly difficult for Alfred as Bruce places himself in increasingly dangerous situations and gives all of his mind and body to Gotham. Michael Caine shows a side of Alfred we haven’t seen before and is given some of the most iconic scenes in the film that tug the heartstrings in a way we’ve never seen Nolan achieve before.
Outside of the cast itself there are some amazing behind the scenes performances from the wider team. Hans Zimmer strikes again with an amazing soundtrack that really encapsulates the intensity of the film, and David S. Goyer provides a great script for the actors to perform to the best of their abilities. Long time Nolan collaborator Wally Pfister takes up the helm of cinematography once more and delivers a raw and gritty visual style that we’ve come to know and expect. One of the key differentiaters between the Batman films and other comic book films is the realism, and Pfister manages to flawlessly turn an iconic fictional city into a realistic war zone. Special mention has to go to the costume designers too, with an absolutely phenomenal level of attention to detail for the design of Bane and Selina Kyle’s costumes, managing to translate exaggerated comic book visuals into designs that felt at home in reality. Nolan made the conscious decision to avoid 3D and instead opted for gimmick free IMAX cameras which provide unrivaled clarity on the big screen.
However, the film is not without it’s flaws. At 165 minutes long a lot of people have commented on it’s pacing, with complaints about long dialogue driven scenes that deprived the audience from the action they expected. Personally I had no issue with this and felt a lot of back story was required to adequately explain the motivations of all the different characters, but I know this has been a contentious topic.
There’s a few twists throughout the film, but none of them are particularly unpredictable. I won’t go into details here but anyone who has seen the film and has any basic knowledge of the comics will surely agree. The ending is a bit weak and uncharacteristic of Nolan, but since he has explicitly said he won’t be revisiting this franchise there are obviously certain expectations on how to wrap it up.
Overall, this is a fantastic closing piece to a truly iconic trilogy. For decades ahead of us people will hold the Batman trilogy in the same esteem as Star Wars, Lord Of The Rings, Bourne, and even The Godfather. It’s not without it’s flaws, but as the final part of a broader piece it is simply superb.
Have you seen the film? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments, and be warned, all spoilers will be deleted without discussion!