The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan, David S Goyer, Jonathan Nolan
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Juno Temple, Liam Neeson, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Tom Hardy
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
(12A) Running time: 164 minutes
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, David S. Goyer
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Marion Cotillard
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
So here we are, possibly the most anticipated film of the year, what could possibly be the biggest film of the year (even with The Avengers 3D prices helping its success) and Nolan’s epic, and I mean EPIC finale to his Batman trilogy. Has it been worth the wait, and does The Dark Knight Rises end the trilogy as expected? Well, this is Christopher Nolan for God sake, and when he decides to finish a story then boy does he finish it. Nolan has now completed his trilogy of Batman films, and it really, honestly could not have ended any better than this. Nolan delivers not only a conclusion, but shows the world just how ending a trilogy should be done. There is greatness at work here, genius in fact, and Nolan (as if we needed further proof) has firmly cemented himself as a director well ahead of his peers, he has somehow managed to take all his Nolan skills, brought them together into one, massive three hour belter of a film that quite simply HAS to be seen on the big screen. Nolan has once again recreated the summer blockbuster, and he invites not only Bat fans or superhero fans, but movie fans in general to enjoy quite possibly the most intense, menacing, pulse pounding summer blockbuster since The Dark Knight. Here is brilliance, and if Nolan’s plan was to leave the franchise on a high, then he has succeeded, but God help the poor director who plans to pick up where The Dark Knight Rises leads off.
I have already used the word epic to drive the point home about this film, but there really is no better word to describe it. This is a big big film, there is a lot going on here, and all of it, and I mean all of it, is just terrific. At three hours long, amazingly this film does not get boring for a second (well, apart from a couple of dodgy moments like a romantic sex scene in front of an open fire and the odd bit of dialogue) and the film simply builds and builds and builds, and then builds some more. Hans Zimmer’s rousing, loud and utterly menacing score lifts the film into territories far greater than words can describe, and while at times the score pretty much tells the actors to shut the Hell up, it is terrific stuff and there just may be times when you feel the score is actually lifting you out of your seat. It is menacing when it needs to be, thundering when it needs to add some tension, and helps bring on the emotions whenever they are called upon, and they are called upon a lot here.
The Dark Knight Rises could well be one of the most emotional summer blockbusters ever released, as Nolan perfectly blends blind terror with moments of heart-breaking sadness, and the emotion is handled (mostly) by some truly exceptional script writing. Most of the tear jerking moments come courtesy of back and forth’s between Bruce Wayne (Bale) and Alfred (Caine) and while Bale owns this film with passion, heart and vulnerability, it is Caine who steals the scenes from him as his tortured Alfred begs his Master to leave this world behind and move on. If a teary eyed Alfred does not bring a lump to your throat, then my friend you very well might not actually be living. Nolan has brought drama to your screens here, and while both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were full of emotion, realism and a style of storytelling not seen in big superhero films before, with The Dark Knight Rises Nolan demands you get emotionally involved and care about his characters.
See, much of The Dark Knight was over-shadowed by a certain Heath Ledger’s Joker, and yes there was plenty of drama and connections with those you should care about, but The Joker was such a magnificent creation that you couldn’t help but desire more of him on screen. Here though, the show is all about Bruce Wayne and his suffering after leaving Batman behind. You have seen the trailers, you know he comes back, but it is the journey of finding himself again which will have you completely glued to the developments. Batman has never been so vulnerable, and never felt so human.
Bale, already regarded by many fans as the best Batman, secures his reputation here and delivers an Oscar worthy performance, and by Christian Bale’s standards, that is saying something. Nolan gives his audience the chance to really feel the suffering and emotion which comes with being the fallen saviour of a man’s beloved city, and the performance by Bale makes this whole three hour journey at times painful to watch, while at others completely uplifting. Bale gets right to the heart of what fuels Batman, and as his journey goes deeper and darker, you will find yourself routing for Batman in a way you probably never have before. However, there are more characters here to care about, and while Batman is the number one character, there is so much more on offer here.
As I have already said, Caine as Alfred is simply stunning, while Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox brings some light-hearted comedy and moments where you suddenly realise that a smile has taken over your face, to the point you feel if someone looked at you they might quickly look away, worrying you might actually be a bit mad. Gary Oldman, as ever, is simply terrific as Jim Gordon, and thankfully gets a real chance to shine here. Then there are the new recruits: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is painfully good as John Blake, the cop who becomes a detective who leads to greater things. It is clear Gordon-Levitt has become one of Nolan’s favoured actors, and he repays him the favour here by delivering a rousing performance, playing the silent hero while Batman goes through his brutal journey of discovery.
Nolan also gives the ladies a chance to shine here too: Marion Cotillard is sexy and persuasive as Miranda Tate, and while she does not get a huge amount of screen time, she plays an important and significant role. However, it is Anne Hathaway that sizzles as Selina Kyle, otherwise known as Catwoman (although she is only ever referred to as the Cat Burglar), and if fans had their doubts at the inclusion of Hathaway, the actress very politely sticks two fingers up at them as she embodies Catwoman and creates a character worthy of her very own movie. There is so much to enjoy about both the performance, and the character itself, and whether she is in her skin tight Catwoman suit, or a short skirt, tights and high heels, Hathaway is one sexy lady. Like her or not, it is very hard to take your eyes off her, and when she does face danger, or delivers her own darkly humorous schemes, she is very likeable. Hathaway expertly creates a character who you can never quite trust, and she gives an outstanding performance of a person torn between her own desires, her own past, and a desperate need of pleasing herself while there is a clear niggling voice telling her to do what’s right. The great thing about her character is you really do not know which way she will go next.
Then we have the villain, Bane (Hardy), a hulking, brutal mercenary who could not be a better villain if he tried. His plan to reduce Gotham to ashes and bring about a new order is calculated, planned and utterly devastating. Hardy has proven himself time and time again that he is one of the finest actors in the world today, and here is no exception. His facial expressions consists of merely what his eyes are telling us as his face is hidden behind his pain killer mask, yet those eyes tell a thousand words. Christ, there are a number of times Hardy manages to strike real honest fear just by his eyes becoming angry, and his whole body is simply a mass of violence and threat. He walks like a man who knows exactly what he is doing, there is a sinister confidence to Bane that makes him the finest, scariest villain since Heath Ledger’s Joker. Now, Bane doesn’t quite match the frantic, chaotic madness of the Joker’s man on the edge, and he doesn’t quite send shivers down your spine like The Joker did, but Bane is menacing. While The Joker was all about chaos and a horrific disregard for anything (“some people just want to watch the world burn”) Bane’s methods are more precise, more controlled and ultimately, more effective. Here is a man not afraid of Batman, not afraid of anyone and he commands an army who will do anything he asks. He has moments which are on a par with The Joker as he murders (with chilling ease) people he has worked with, or happily storms stock exchange buildings with no fear of the consequences. Bane, mark my words, is a fearsome creation, and he will repulse and shock as he puts his plan into place. I really wish I could say more of his actions, but I mustn’t.
Hardy gives Bane a purpose, and even gives him (cold as it is) a soul, and then there’s that voice, oh my that voice! After the early test screenings, it would appear that possibly some alterations have been made, and Bane is clearly audible, the only thing really distorting his words being the imposing score, but the weird, chilling voice is frightening indeed. Think of a Shakeperean actor gone mad while using a face mask to breathe and you’ve got it.
The Dark Knight Rises has a wonderful story, both of Batman’s journey out of the darkness, Gotham City’s fall into madness, and Bane’s devastating plan. Nolan has plenty of tricks up his sleeve, and he won’t, for a second, give you the chance to lose interest. The pace, for such a long film, is frantic, and as I said before the film, the tension, menace and emotion just builds and builds until you feel you can take no more. Nolan has stretched his Gotham with new characters and a bigger, broader scale. Nolan has also stuck to his guns in his want for realism, and there is nothing here which isn’t believable. Nolan knows exactly when to strike, and when to hold back, with the films big centre piece of explosions showing just how disciplined and in control Nolan really is. Nolan knows EXACTLY when and where to pile on the pressure, and he REALLY knows how to play his audience.
But now for that all important question: is The Dark Knight Rises better than The Dark Knight? Some will say yes, while others will say they are as good as each other. Personally, I say it isn’t, but only just. The Dark Knight benefitted from a staggering, chilling and haunting performance by Ledger, and while the film was truly exceptional , it was Ledger’s hold over the film, matched with Nolan’s direction, that tipped it into the realms of greatness. The Dark Knight Rises is more like Batman Begins, it is more controlled, more focused, and more emotional than the chaos of The Dark Knight. Nolan delivered his absolute masterpiece with The Dark Knight, and while The Dark Knight Rises is not quite as good, it is not far off. This film can easily be regarded as a masterpiece, it is a masterpiece, it is just that The Dark Knight is just far too good to ever be bettered. This film is ever so close, and could quite possibly be the best film of the year, but The Dark Knight set the bar far too high. The Dark Knight Rises is powerful, brilliant, genius filmmaking by a director who is getting better and better. Here is a film which once again leads the way, shows the wannabes how it is done, and spits on the face of tradition. The Dark Knight Rises is epic, it is big, it is powerful, it is groundbreaking and it completes the finest superhero trilogy ever filmed. This is filmmaking on a whole different level, this is special and this is genius: Christopher Nolan is quite simply, legendary, and The Dark Knight Rises rises above everything else this year!