Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

Boy, you are in for a show tonight, son.

Before The Dark Knight‘s franchise’s saviour (the one and only Christopher Nolan) came along and grabbed Batman by his cowl and rebooted him into filmmaking history with two absolute masterpieces, the Bat was the laughing stock of the superhero franchise.

Very much like ‘Rises’, Batman was a broken man, a recluse and probably to the delight of a certain clown – a joke.

However, as Thomas Wayne said: “Why do we fall, Bruce? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up”. And then some.

Enter Nolan, a man with a new vision for Batman. A man with an already thought-out beginning, middle and end.

The beginning (Batman Begins) saw the story of Bruce Wayne and his journey to becoming Batman, battling the likes of Liam Neeson‘s Ra’s Al Ghul and Cillian Murphy‘s Scarecrow saving Gotham from fear itself.

The Middle produced arguably the greatest villain portrayal in history when the late Heath Ledger took on the role of the Joker. A performance that brought chaos and anarchy to the streets of Gotham, breaking the purest of minds along the way, turning them in ‘Two-Faced’ criminals.

As for the end, Batman (Christian Bale) faces his toughest task yet, emotionally and physically as he prepares to to save his beloved Gotham from Bane’s (Tom Hardy) ‘liberation’.

What is possibly the biggest enemy in The Dark Knight Rises is its predecessor(s). The Dark Knight set the bar so high that no fan or critic alike thought Rises could emulate it. Joker took all the spoils in TDK whilst Bruce Wayne and Batman were effectively shunned into the shadows due to Ledger’s Oscar-winning anarchy. Judge it as you will, but Nolan & Co have without question created the greatest superhero series of all time as well as the greatest trilogy of a generation.

The Dark Knight Rises is all about Bruce Wayne and his story, a continuation, if you will, of Batman Begins. How he’s spent his life trying to overcome the trauma of the death of his parents as a boy, which saw Bruce eventually become the Batman. Here, we see that boy once more as Bruce locks himself away from the world, unable to find purpose in his life after the death of Rachel Dawes and of Gotham’s crime free era. Loyal butler and father-figure Alfred (Michael Caine) tries to bring Bruce back into the real world, egging him to live as Bruce Wayne and not the Batman when a certain slinky Cat burglar infiltrates Wayne Manor. Indeed, a storm is coming.

A storm in the shape of the human colossus Bane, a mountain of muscle and a man with a plan. As menacing as he is, his voice is a tad camp amongst the Vader like muffling but Hardy owns the role. Such a skilled actor when it comes to bulking up, the man behind the mask does a great job as Gotham’s villain and as the man who could easily break the Bat.

As for regulars Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Alfred (Caine), they all bring their own solid experience to their roles, especially Caine, as his and Master Wayne’s relationship becomes strained . It’s in these intimate moments that TDKR shines alongside its spectacular action scenes.

Along with stealing jewels, watches and priceless artefacts, Selina Kyle threatens to steal the show. One of the main fan disputes was the inclusion of Catwoman in their beloved trilogy, but hell, does Anne Hathaway deliver. Ultra sexy, stylish and dangerous, Hathaway has some of the best scenes and the best gadgets too (the Batpod should be renamed the Catpod). There’s real chemistry between her and Bale, who so obviously relish playing such iconic characters.

What Nolan stressed prior to the film’s release was that this was the end – his Batman finale. The ending is mouth-wateringly perfect, guaranteed to please fanboys and girls alike (honestly, bring spare boxers). Each film’s storyline and plots twists, especially TDK and TDKR are just so clever and intricate, it’s genuinely a pleasure to watch these films. Not many can grasp you in the palm of their hands and have you hanging on their every word. Even with Bane’s muffled voice, his physical presence is gripping. Hardy’s performance is magnificent, but Ledger’s was Oscar-worthy, possibly spurred on by his tragic death. However, they’re two different actors playing two different villains. It’s a safe bet that Hardy’s time will come because of his sheer dedication to his roles – he can play anything.

To criticise this film (and even the previous two) would truly be nit-picking. This is a trilogy devoid of plot flaws, lacklustre action scenes and general campiness. The Bat vehicle literally takes Batman to new heights whilst Bane’s ruthless destruction of the Gotham Rogues’s football field is jaw-dropping. Filming approximately 72 minutes of TDKR in stunning IMAX just cements Nolan’s dedication to his work – he wants to make Batman feel real. He wants his audience to feel the emotion between the characters and to marvel at the sheer scale of Batman’s universe.

Harvey Dent was never Gotham’s white knight, it was Christopher Nolan all along. What he’s done for the franchise is astounding: almost a liberation of his own, giving the fans and Batman himself the film Gotham deserved.

5 Stars.

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