DIR: Christopher Nolan • WRI: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan • PRO: Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven • DOP: Wally Pfister • ED: Lee Smith • Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy
Without a doubt the most anticipated movie since George Lucas decided to tell the story of Anakin Skywalker, The Dark Knight Rises seems to have two sets of distinct fans leading up to its release; there are those who are ignoring any and all publicity and reviews of the movie before they’ve seen it themselves, and there are those who are gobbling up any and every nugget of new information they can get their eyes on. And to those looking for spoilers, the only big one you’ll get here is this – Is The Dark Knight Rises better than The Dark Knight? No. But not for lack of trying. The primary reason it finishes second in Nolan’s trilogy is due to a giant Joker-shaped hole. Ledger’s villain in The Dark Knight elevated the movie around it, whereas the big bad in Rises cannot match his magnetic appeal.
After eight years of self-imposed exile in his mansion, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is still feeling the fallout of the death of the love of his life, with only his butler Alfred (Michael Caine) for company. However, a run-in with cat-burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway, much better in the role than expected) puts a renewed hop in his step. Before long he’s back at Wayne HQ, checking out Lucius Fox’s (Morgan Freeman) latest bat-inspired inventions, and also checking out new love interest / Wayne board-member Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). Meanwhile, Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and rookie cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are following leads which walk them directly into the path of Bane (Tom Hardy, indecipherable about 20% of the time), who has some rather revolutionary plans for the future of Gotham. Pretty soon all of these story-strands hit a crossroads, and all hell breaks loose.
To say any more of the plot would spoil some of the surprises Nolan has in store, but he sure takes his time getting there. The movie clocks in at 164 minutes, and aside from the opening Bond-esque mid-air plane hijacking, the opening hour is fairly light on action. There are a lot of characters to get through, a lot of plot to fall into place, a whole lot of call backs to Batman Begins and The Dark Knight to reference. There is barely any room to breathe, the film is packed that tightly with events, and it can be very easy to get lost in the jumble of stories happening all at once.
But once Bane’s plan becomes clear, the movie shifts into high-gear. The final hour ramps up the tension with a ticking-clock element that should have most viewers right on the edge of their seats, and nobody dials the action sequences up to the epic levels quite like Nolan, and his scenes of destruction surpass anything in the series so far.
It’s very easy to lose the story of Batman in the midst of more interesting villains, and that certainly seemed the case with The Dark Knight, but Rises puts Wayne right back under the microscope, and Bale finds new depths of emotion with the character, making him more vulnerable and ultimately human than before. The massive cast are catered for extremely well for the final curtain call, with special shout outs to Caine’s Alfred for providing the emotional core for the trilogy, and a certain not-to-be-named-here someone who shows up for two scenes and almost steals the movie out from everyone.
If there is a big gripe (aside from plot-holes which could only be poked at properly following repeat viewings), it’s that Schumacher’s Batman Forever and Batman & Robin were ridiculed for being too light and frothy (as well as being, ye know, crap). But Nolan has gone too far the other way; The Dark Knight Rises is not a fun movie to watch. It is a heavy, fantastically cinematic emotional slog to get through. Now, before the pitch-forks start getting sharpened, Nolan’s trilogy is still obviously a landmark in modern cinema and three of the greatest comic book movies ever made. But whoever takes up his mantle from here should remember that being a billionaire vigilante with bat-shaped cars and bikes and planes, along with hot women dressed in leather cat-suits dying to get into your bat-pants… there is SOME fun to be had there. Just a thought.
Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
The Dark Knight Rises is released on 20th July 2012