The Dark Knight Rises
An absolute triumph in every way, The Dark Knight Rises is one of the finest films of the year.
Perhaps the most eagerly-anticipated film of 2012, The Dark Knight Rises is finally upon us. Fans of Christopher Nolan’s serious, weighty Batman films will not be surprised to hear that the final entry in this trilogy is yet another top-class effort, one of the finest films of the year, and a perfect end to a truly great series.
Picking up 8 years after the events of The Dark Knight, with Bruce Wayne a recluse in his manor, his beloved city cleaned up due to the legend of Harvey Dent, we are introduced to a new, terrifying threat in the shape of Bane. A psychopathic terrorist whose immense physicality is matched by a cold, logical mind, Bane announces himself in Gotham City, leading to the return of the caped crusader. Also new on the scene is a slippery jewel thief, Selina Kyle, whose skills as a cat burglar and enigmatic agenda provide an ideal foil to the hero.
The most remarkable thing about The Dark Knight Rises is that it plays out on a huge scale. The word ‘epic’ is thrown around a lot these days, but when a filmmaker as bold as Nolan takes a story such as this in the direction he does, the results are nothing less. We are treated to a number of genuinely jaw-dropping moments in the film, with the huge action scenes (frequently acknowledged as Nolan’s weak link as a director) proving stirring and tense. The set-pieces on display here are truly awe-inspiring, with each carefully choreographed piece of mayhem providing memorable thrills – Bane’s first scene on board an aeroplane being a fine example – and mark this out as a cut above the usual blockbuster fare.
On a more subtle level, the film is powered by three characters. Hardy’s Bane is an awesome villain, terrifying, intelligent and unhinged, and one or two dialogue moments aside (the mask is a small problem, but generally Hardy is audible), we are faced with one of the most imposing enemies in recent memory. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s John Blake gives the film its heart, as his gallant police officer continues to fight the good fight started by Batman all those years ago. His role is vital, with Batman himself absent from the screen for long stretches (although his status as a symbol more than a man, as has been a theme throughout the trilogy, is key), it is down to Gordon-Levitt to lead the film for many scenes. Of course, he is more than up to the task, with a heroic charisma marking this out as one of his best screen roles. The cast member who threatens to run away with the film, though, is Hathaway. Ditching her wholesome image to take the role of Selina Kyle (never referred to as Catwoman), Hathaway’s presence feels like the missing piece of the puzzle, the final addition of sass and mystery that this series has needed. Giving Batman somebody to play off gives the script more opportunity to entertain, with the occasional lighter moment between the two feeling welcome, if a little incongruous amongst all the darkness. Elsewhere, Bale continues his run as Bruce Wayne/ Batman pretty much where he left off, with Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman all similarly carrying on their pitch-perfect turns in their established characters.
The tone here is very much a continuation of the previous entries, perhaps a little too unrelenting, we do wish for more of Bruce Wayne’s real-world Tony Stark playboy opulence, anything for a little levity amongst the gloom. With a refreshingly toned-down script doing away with the rather prattling rhetoric of the first two films in favour of a more character-driven approach, this is still a story based around grand ideas, but is rather more subtle in the execution of its themes. The topical discussion of 99% politics takes centre stage early and often, grounding the plot in that particular heightened realism that Nolan is so adept at creating.
Praise must also go to Director of Photography Wally Pfister, who paints on Nolan’s canvas in both shadowy chiaroscuro and stark, snowy daylight scenes to make this a visual treat even beyond the massive destruction of the action scenes. Another fine element of the film is Hans Zimmer’s sweeping, portentous yet energetic score, which captures the themes of the story beautifully. In assembling such an accomplished group of personnel, The Dark Knight Rises has become a technically astounding piece of filmmaking before we even get to the grand blockbuster moments.
With additions to the series that feel like both a logical continuation and active improvements, it may just be that The Dark Knight Rises is the best Batman film to date. A fitting end to a great trilogy, the film contains some of the most ambitious, spectacular set-pieces of all time, and despite clocking in at a top-heavy 165 minutes, is an absolute blast for fans of Nolan’s finely crafted universe.