The Dark Knight Rises – Film Review
TITLE: The Dark Knight Rises
STARRING: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman
DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan
STUDIO: Legendary Pictures, Syncopy Films, DC Comics, Warner Bros. Pictures
RUN TIME: 165 min
RELEASED: July 20, 2012
By Eric Stuckart
We all knew that The Dark Knight was going to be pretty hard for director Christopher Nolan to top when the third and final of his Batman films finally came around, but after being spoiled to two quite excellent Batman films this generation, was he going to strike out like many superhero franchises tend to at their third go-round? Recent events surrounding the release of the film aside — after all, this is a movie review, not commentary on the acts of someone who clearly had some personal demons of their own — The Dark Knight Rises was every bit the finale that I was hoping for.
Taking place eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Gotham City is a safer city than it ever was before, and Batman hasn’t been seen since the death of Harvey Dent, whose death he assumed the blame for. But with the city a safer place, Gotham didn’t really have a need for Batman, causing Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) to become a bit of a recluse and a shadow of his former self. That’s until Bane (Tom Hardy), a cold and calculating terrorist with brains and brawn, shows up in Gotham with plans to raze the city to the ground in an attempt to let the people retake a city built on corruption and crime. Wayne realizes that he has to put on the cape and cowl once again, but at what cost? With all of his loved ones gone except his trusty butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine), does he have anything left to lose?
The thing I always loved about Nolan’s Batman trilogy was the humanity behind the spectacle. It wasn’t just about the gadgets, the costumes and the flashy villains. In a sense, his films boldly brought the moody, dramatic overtones that the more modern comics have always touched on that the other films barely even scraped at. We got hints of Bruce Wayne’s psyche in Tim Burton’s first film, but it wasn’t enough to outshine Jack Nicholson’s Joker, let alone Prince’s Technicolor soundtrack. Nolan’s films — for better or worse — spend a lot more time focusing on Bruce Wayne and his struggles to find a place in a world that he feels tragically detached from, and it’s the drama that makes his struggle so compelling. The events of The Dark Knight Rises almost makes the whole thing seem like a final gamble on Bruce Wayne’s part that gives viewers the sense that he doesn’t even want to get out of this alive. He just wants to get out.
With the bulky mask not only rendering most of Tom Hardy’s facial expressions invisible, his voice was augmented through his breathing apparatus as well, giving him a very detached, almost inhuman feel throughout the film. This only helps give him even more of a presence though, because it’s the terrifying lack of emotion in his actions that really carries over through the screen. Even combined with the odd cadence and random inflections in his voice, he completely embodies terror and uses that as his strongest asset. Combined with his brute strength, Bane might not be the way comic fans remember him from the books, but he every bit as menacing, posing an even greater threat to the Dark Knight than the Joker ever did.
With great supporting roles from Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake, an idealist cop who still has faith in the Batman, and Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate, an investor and member of the Wayne Enterprises executive board who seems more than willing to help the company get back on its feet (not to mention the always great performances by Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman), The Dark Knight Rises hits all the right notes, and knows when to pull its punches accordingly. Additional props must be given to Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, who took a role that usually ends up becoming oversexed and too campy, and making it completely plausible in this particular Batman’s universe. And Michael Caine was absolutely astounding in his portrayal of the worn-down butler. Never before did I think that an actor in a comic book movie would be able to nearly move me to tears, but his heartbreaking performance hits like a ten ton hammer.
Equal parts comic book movie, drama, and action caper, its story builds up to a fantastic finale that manages to make the trilogy come full circle without feeling contrived or forced. Is it a little long? Well, yeah; a movie that’s close to three hours long is a bit of a stretch by any means, but to me it felt well balanced and didn’t really feel like a chore to watch. Is it as good as The Dark Knight? Well, not exactly. With the performance that Heath Ledger left us with as the Joker, I don’t think Rises ever could have topped it. But it’s a worthy sequel with its own identity and its own wealth of memorable scenes and subtle bits of fan service, and it never gets lost in the shadow of its predecessors, proving that not all third movies end up being terrible and unnecessary.
Front page image and interior stills from thedarkknightrises.com.