At the beginning of the year, you would be hard pressed to find a ‘most anticipated films of 2012’ list that didn’t feature The Dark Knight Rises. But Batman on film wasn’t always this popular; 1997’s Joel Schumacher directed Batman & Robin is widely regarded as one of the worst comic book movies of all time (and with good reason). Christopher Nolan managed to reinvigorate the franchise with 2005’s Batman Begins. He went one better and set a new benchmark for superhero movies with The Dark Knight in 2008. With The Dark Knight Rises, has Nolan outdone himself again?
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Opening 8 years after the events of The Dark Knight, Gotham is prospering due to the ‘Harvey Dent’ act which has enabled the cops to crackdown on criminal activity. The fact that the act is based on a lie is taking its toll on Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman, on excellent form here), and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse content to stay hidden from the world, to the great disappointment of Alfred (Michael Caine). On his third outing as the eccentric billionaire, Bale is able to convey the characters’ internal struggles just as effectively as his physical ones, and his scenes with Caine’s Alfred are among the film’s best.
Things get worse when the masked terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy) comes to Gotham intent on destroying the city, prompting Batman’s return. Bane is not as quotable as the Joker, and his voice could still do with some more clarity, but the methodical behemoth is certainly a formidable physical adversary for Batman. From brutal slugfests to fantastic set pieces, there is a lot of action in Rises, more so than any of Nolan’s previous films, and none of it feels dragged out or overlong even though the film clocks in at over 160 minutes.
Jonathan Nolan’s finely tuned script also helps to ensure the film doesn’t lag. Whilst The Dark Knight Rises is still, well … dark, it knows how to have some fun too, with the interplay between Batman and Catwoman a particular highlight in this regard. The focus on Batman’s symbol and what it is meant to inspire is just one of the many clever ways in which the story comes full circle, and it is all put together so well you would think that it was, to paraphrase the Joker, “all part of the plan”.
Of all the excellent newcomers – including Marion Cotliard as the beautiful Miranda Tate and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s diligent cop John Blake – it is Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle who is the standout; able to transform from burglar to a formidable fighter at a moment’s notice, she is the ultimate con-woman, and Hathaway disappears into each of Kyle’s guises brilliantly.
However, what is perhaps most impressive about Rises is its MASSIVE scale, and Gotham feels incredibly real at times. Nowhere is this more exemplified than in a sequence which involves hundreds of extras fighting each other over Gotham’s fate. Epic is a word that’s used far too often, but it well and truly applies here. As always, the vast IMAX screen augments the experience.
When Batman is inevitably rebooted, whoever is at the helm will have an even more difficult task than the one Christopher Nolan was tasked with in 2005. After 1997’s debacle, the director has elevated the Batman franchise to an unbelievable stature. This film lover would love to be proven wrong, but it is difficult to imagine anyone topping this interpretation of Batman.
“Any Last Words?” An excellent conclusion to what is perhaps the best superhero trilogy of all time, Nolan has saved his best for last. Watch at your earliest convenience.