Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

I’ve done my best to avoid spoilers, but there may be more revealed here than you might want to know before seeing the film. I personally avoided all reviews before seeing it as I wanted to know as little as possible when I saw it, so if you read past this and are annoyed that stuff’s been revealed before you see the flick you have no-one to blame but yourself.

Aside from the Avengers or the second Matrix movie I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to a film as much as this one. Christopher Nolan’s bat-movies have been awesome, revamping the Bat after the OTT campness of the Burton/Schumacher movies and crafting dark, more grounded films based around an intense central performance from Christian Bale, who, for my money is the best live action Batman.

But following the phenomenal The Dark Knight, the third and massive build up can the third installment live up to the hype?

Picking up the story 8 years after the event of The Dark Knight, Gotham has been revitalized, with Harvey Dent being transformed into a martyr and symbol which has inspired them to clean up the city. Organised crime has been largely eliminated and the great and good of Gotham celebrate and revel in the peace. Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) is heavily burdened by the guilt over his part in demonizing Batman and driving him underground, and the Mayor () plans to get rid of him, seeing Gordon as a relic of Gotham’s dark days and doesn’t fit with the peaceful situation.

Batman (Christian Bale) vanished after Dent’s death, and his alter-ego, Bruce Wayne has become a recluse. Consumed by guilt and sadness over the death of Rachel, the woman he loved, he has shut himself off completely, his only contact with the outside world his loyal butler Alfred (Michael Caine). Alfred clings to the hope that Wayne will create some kind of life for himself, possibly with the passionate businesswoman Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), who has previously invested in Wayne’s plan for clean energy, which failed.

Wayne is drawn out after being robbed by a cat burglar, Selina Kyle aka Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), and tracks her down to discover why she took his fingerprints from his safe. The pursuit of Kyle seems to fire Wayne up and he seems reinvigorated by the challenge.

Meanwhile, a masked man named Bane (Tom Hardy), a notorious mercenary has arrived in Gotham having snatched a prominent scientist from CIA custody. An immensely strong powerhouse Bane also seems ruthlessly intelligent, beginning work on a project beneath the streets within the city’s sewer system. Bane appears to have connections with the League of Shadows, the vigilante organisation that trained Wayne, and to have been raised in a nightmarish third world prison.

Gordon discovers that something is going on under the streets and is seriously wounded by Bane’s men, for the most part the police don’t believe him but young officer Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) impresses him with his ingenuity and dedication. Blake visits Wayne and seems to have worked out Wayne’s secret, urging him to return as Batman.

Batman investigates Bane and is betrayed by Catwoman, leading to him suffering a savage beating at Bane’s hands which leaves him physically shattered. Bane transports him to the prison he was raised in, where he will be able to see Gotham’s fall, and only then will he be killed.

Bane’s plan is to isolate Gotham and use the threat of a nuclear bomb (adapted from Wayne’s generator) to keep the US powerless to help. He announces that an anonymous citizen is in control of the detonator and should anyone attempt to flee it will be detonated. Gordon and Blake lead a small resistance movement as Bane turns power of Gotham over to “the people”, releasing criminals and inciting the public to turn on each other and attack the rich and powerful.

But Bane’s revolution is merely a front, and he plans to fulfill the League of Shadows’ plan to destroy Gotham as punishment and warning for its wrongdoings. The bomb does have a detonator, but it will explode in a few months anyway when the core becomes unstable.

Can Batman recover and defeat Bane? Will Gordon and Blake be able to find out the location of the bomb and the identity of the trigger man? Is Bane really in charge, or is there someone else pulling strings behind the scenes?

Thankfully the film didn’t disappoint and lived up to my expectations. Nolan has constructed a wonderful universe in his bat films and here the great work continues, he shows the decadence and pride of the rejuvenated Gotham. Also he brings a real sense of the epic to the film, reveling in the spectacle and big moments.

The film is also different in the way we see Batman, I liked how in The Dark Knight they suggested that Wayne didn’t want to be doing this for all his life and wanted a life with Rachel. His withdrawal at the start of this film is entirely believable, his hope for the future has been crushed and also the obsession that drove his life until that point has also been taken from him. However, despite his desire to leave the cape behind there’s a sense that when he starts to investigate Catwoman it sparks something within and that the Batman may actually be who he really is.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Christian Bale

When he does return to action he’s out of practice and slightly overconfident, and its something we haven’t seen before. Batman seems to feel that the fact he doesn’t fear death is a strength, but comes to realize that without the fear of losing things he will never be able to fight as hard as he needs to. Following his first defeat we see Batman trying to get back to full strength and its a scene that highlights the inner strength and determination which made him so successful in the past.

Bale is, as ever, great in the role. He manages to show the character’s conflicted emotions in a believable way and even when he’s down and out at the start stops Bruce Wayne from becoming whiny. The thing Bale brings with him is this incredible intensity and this makes Batman seem legitimately badass, there’s a steeliness in his performance and a hard coldness in his eyes that mean he convinces as this passionate crusader of justice.

And also, he’s given one hell of a villain to go up against. Tom Hardy’s Bane is terrifying, this brutal monster of a man who looks indestructible and coupled with a cold, remorseless tactical mind he’s the most convincing threat Batman’s ever faced on screen. Ledger’s Joker was creepy and menacing, but when him and the Bat went toe-to-toe you knew the Batman would take him, but here Bane is so physically imposing that there’s more of a doubt and their battles are savagely brutal.

Tom Hardy as Bane- Terrifying.

As well as the physical threat, Bane is also a mental equal and seems to be a few moves ahead at all times, its great to see Batman really stretched and challenged by a villain. Also, as I knew it was the final film in the series there was a genuine element of not knowing what was going to happen.

The rest of the cast, as you’d expect from their caliber are also great, particularly Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the young cop Blake, he makes the character likable and there’s a real sense of his integrity and passion. JGL isn’t the most physically imposing guy but he manages to show us that Blake’s a bit tough and a great ally for Gordon and Batman, he’s a hope for the future and embodies the idealism and integrity that Gordon has lost. JGL brings this fire within the character and was one of the things that for me made the film work.

I also think Michael Caine should get some praise for his heartbreaking performance as Alfred, who’s love for Bruce makes watching him don the cape again extremely painful and the film’s most powerful scene involves him finally coming clean about his feelings and his actions regarding Rachel’s letter.

Anne Hathaway does a very good job as Catwoman, coming across as a capable, clever woman and worthy sparring partner for Batman. Hathaway seems comfortable in the costume, and that’s what makes it work, she seems completely at home which increases the confidence that Catwoman possesses, and her smooth, feline movements mean that even in the fight scenes she remains convincing. She balances the sass factor well, avoiding becoming annoying and also, it has to be said is rather foxy.

Hathaway as Catwoman.

Early on Catwoman talks about the fact that Gotham’s elite are on borrowed time and that sooner or later the good times will come crashing to an end and the people won’t stand for it, and seems eager to see this. This is a nice touch as it allows us to see Bane’s uprising from a different perspective, as Catwoman’s horror at the reality highlights how depraved Gotham has become, and highlights that she’s not completely bad.

The chaos and nightmarish world of Gotham was genuinely scary, with the angry mobs running wild and dragging people from their homes then replaced by the even more unsettling empty streets.

The whole film builds to a satisfying end, and its a wonderful conclusion to the series.

Its not entirely perfect- I’d have liked to see more of Gotham’s descent into hell (perhaps it could have worked as a two parter- The Dark Knight Falls and then the Rise), and there’s a streak of cheesiness in the film, but Nolan does manage to get the balance right again, as he did in the first two. I left the cinema extremely happy. And, as a fan of the comics one of twists wasn’t as big a surprise as it would be for the uninitiated. But these are minor quibbles.

Verdict: A satisfying final installment that wraps up the whole series nicely. The entire cast are sensational and there’s a grim, scary darkness to the film which I really dug. 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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