It's easy to say that upon the release of Batman Begins (2005) Christopher Nolan let it be known that a film adaptation of a graphic novel such as Batman didn't have to be something light hearted and unrealistic that only children and comic fans could enjoy. Nolan's Batman trilogy is far from this, it touches on the darker side of human nature and is set it a world that is all too real. After the massive critical and commercial success of The Dark Knight (2008) four years ago, The Dark Knight Rises (2012) has a lot to live up to, but the question is whether this is possible or not.
Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) still has his Batman persona in retirement after using it to take the blame for both Harvey Dent's murderous rampage and subsequent death in order to maintain Gotham's faith in Dent's status as a symbol of hope. However, he is soon called on to bring the Bat back after the franchise's latest antagonist Bane (Tom Hardy) and his army plan to detonate an atomic bomb in order to destroy the city. With the new girl about town Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) throwing in some drama of her own, Batman must juggle both the terrorist and the feisty feline.
The beginning of The Dark Knight Rises starts off at a relatively slow pace and is full of throwbacks to the aftermath of the mayhem caused by the previous antagonists; Ra's al Ghul of Batman Begins and Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight. At a staggering length of two hours and forty five minutes it is easy to say that at least an hour passes before the viewer is given narrative that they can truly sink their teeth into. The Nolan brothers have succeeded in creating another intricate and interesting narrative that the previous two films were acclaimed for. Well written, clever and funny it the right places the script is brilliantly written. The Dark Knight Rises is full of very smart twists and turns, brilliant characters and intriguing dialogue.
Nolan's style can't be questioned. From the sleek suits to the fighting choreography to the police chases through Gotham city, this film is an absolute treat. The slow but sure demise of Gotham city during Bane's urban warfare is stunning in its own disastrous way and looks brilliant up on the big screen. Though the editing gets considerably rapid throughout the film this is not necessarily a fault, whether it be a chase scene or a fight scene, the rapid movement looks brilliant and it definitely calls for the actors to be put through their paces.
The two main newcomers to the trilogy are Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway as Bane and Catwoman, respectively. Though physically menacing, with his face obscured behind a mask and his mammoth physique, Tom Hardy's Bane fails to carry the torch left behind by the late Heath Ledger's Joker. One major flaw that comes with Bane is dialogue issues, thanks to his mask his vocals are extremely muffled which leaves some of his lines completely unintelligible. Whereas The Dark Knight gave a psychologically complex villain who brilliantly questioned human morality, The Dark Knight Rises simply gives a more physical sense of a villain. The intentions of Bane are also slightly confusing; he claims that he wants to 'give the city back to the people' whilst at the same time he threatens them with a nuke. The true scene stealer of the film is the amazing Anne Hathaway. Often cropping up at opportunistic moments, armed with her killer heels and sharp one liners she'll leave the entire theatre wanting more of her. Her slight anti-hero status is brilliant as it lingers throughout the film as she has to choose between saving her own skin or doing the right thing and give a helping hand to stop Bane.
Friendly, familiar faces also appear throughout the film. The loyal butler Alfred (Michael Caine) and technological genius Lucias Fox (Morgan Freeman) appear in their small yet mighty roles as Bruce Wayne's somewhat surrogate fathers and general go-to-men. The new kid on the block is police officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Gordon-Levitt gives a great, feisty performance and as we see his character coax Wayne out of retirement, save some under privileged kids and to top things off he gets a pretty impressive scene that will leave fans on the edge of their seats at the end. This being said, deep down there's the feeling that his character was somewhat irrelevant and his contribution was a little lacklustre.
It's clear that Nolan set the bar incredibly high with The Dark Knight, and it's also clear that he himself couldn't overcome it. The sense of perfect closure was at his fingertips but was ruined by a slight cliffhanger ending to one of the supporting character's story arcs. Instead of closing all of the doors and locking them Nolan leaves this particular one left open, even though he's confirmed that he won't be venturing back to Gotham city again and the trilogy will indeed remain a trilogy. Though the film can easily be seen as a slow burner it makes up for this as it progresses and the latter part of the narrative certainly packs a punch.
It's fair to say that The Dark Knight Rises sadly didn't rise and remains buried under the legacy and success of its predecessor thanks to its ruined attempt at full closure and poor choice of antagonist. Negativity aside, this film is packed to the rafters with beautiful cinematography, brilliant performances and perfect style. Devout Batman fans will be able to overlook its bad points and truly enjoy the final piece of the bat puzzle.
As I'm a massive fan of Marvel and an absolute DC novice, I'd like to thank my friend Dan for giving me a crash course in all things Batman and Chris Nolan before I wrote this review! You can check out his blog here.