THE DARK KNIGHT RISES has finally arrived on a massive wave of hype. Christopher Nolan’s last chapter of his distinctive Batman mythos loses its way in some of the details, but overall it makes for a satisfying and epic conclusion to what has gone before.
Opening 8 years after the draining events of THE DARK KNIGHT, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse, hiding away in Wayne Manor and walking with a cane. Having hung up the iconic uniform of his alter-ego in the aftermath of taking the wrap for Harvey ‘Two-Face’ Dent, Wayne is a broken man struggling to deal with the death of Rachel Dawes. However, when presented with a new threat in the form of terrorist leader Bane (Tom Hardy), Wayne resolves to reassume the identity to tackle Gotham’s latest date with judgment once and for all. Also on the scene and playing key roles are Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a cat burglar (geddit?) with a murky past and John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) – a Gotham beat cop with a knack for detective work and bucking the system.
…RISES gives the finish Nolan’s characters deserve, but to say it reaches the heights of [its predecessors] is predictably hard.
The film faces a daunting task. Not only does it have to follow on from the phenomenon of THE DARK KNIGHT, but also tie up the arcs of the key characters as well as the new ones that are introduced. Also bringing a grand sense of spectacle and some wonderful set-pieces, RISES has an ambitious scope. As a conclusion to his take on Batman, RISES gives the finish Nolan’s characters deserve, but to say it reaches the heights of THE DARK KNIGHT, or even BATMAN BEGINS, in the execution is predictably hard.
Although the same shunning of overt comic references is still present (at no point is Selina Kyle referred to as ‘Catwoman’), it does seem as if Chris Nolan decided to actually make a comic book movie this time around. The attempts at topicality (this time the greed and decadence of the wealthy has a spotlight upon it) still persist, but there is a bombast and embracing of the more improbable that was slightly absent in THE DARK KNIGHT. Nolan’s illusionary realism here feels more like a grounded frame of reference for the audience, as opposed to the straitjacket it could have been for a character filled with possibilities. That being said, if you disliked Nolan’s interpretation then it’s unlikely you will start now.
RISES, even if the more topical elements are heavy-handed, does an excellent job of tying the themes of BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT together in order to bring the character to the end of his journey.
Although Heath Ledger stole the show in 2008, RISES perhaps features the best acting of the trilogy when you consider the cast as a whole. Joseph Gordon-Levitt does well (admittedly with much screen time), but Anne Hathaway’s turn as Selina Kyle is the real find of the film. Doing equally well in and out of costume, it’s arguable that Hathaway has delivered Nolan’s first compelling female lead. Tom Hardy has a fantastically difficult role, and while it takes a while to let his villain settle in he delivers a terrifying combination of brutality and both mental and physical agility. Although every critic seems to have some gripe or interpretation for his voice (I’d go for ‘An English Darth Vader, as played by Christopher Walken’), fears of unintelligibility are largely unfounded except when Hans Zimmer lets his score get away from him slightly. The slight disconnect between the physical and the vocals adds to the imposing and daunting stature of the villain.
Bale delivers his best performance in the trilogy as Bruce Wayne, initially showing a sad portrait of the man who, hitherto, appeared so resilient. The tragedy of his decline and fall makes his final redemption all the more powerful, and makes for the most involving and emotional arc any of the modern superheroes currently on the big screen.
RISES, even if the more topical elements are heavy-handed, does an excellent job of tying the themes of BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT together in order to bring the character to the end of his journey. The manner in which this is done is incredibly gratifying, drawing upon elements of both and ties the three films together extremely well.
The film isn’t perfect: there are some blockbuster contrivances, Hans Zimmer’s score is overbearing at times and the initial plotting to get the story in place is perhaps a little murky and slow. However, it all builds to a spectacular and emotional finale. You feel as if Nolan has said everything he can or wants to with the character, but by putting it all up on screen he has delivered the most spectacular instalment that still fits perfectly with what went before.