At its most intense, The Dark Knight Rises is blacker than black, with scenes so bleak and intense that you may have to remind yourself to keep breathing steadily. Thanks to the magnificent composition by Hans Zimmer, the bleakness is well accentuated by a haunting crescendo of rhythmically beating tribal drums that nearly overwhelm your senses. This is fitting, because the villain in The Dark Knight Rises, the malevolent Bane (Tom Hardy), is a real psychotic beast.
This monster is introduced in a stunning James Bond style opening, involving a breathtaking plane stunt sequence. Here, we learn that Bane is a heartless terrorist who commands a crazed militia with an eerie level of loyalty. We also immediately note that Bane curiously breathes through a masked apparatus, which gives his voice an almost inaudible pitch, and adds to his mystique. While purists may find Bane’s revised origins and his more realistic physical proportions out of sync with the comic books, they should appreciate the real world feel he has been given in typical Christopher Nolan fashion.
The Dark Knight Rises, the third instalment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, is set seven years after the tragic events of The Dark Knight (2008) where billionaire Bruce Wayne, as the masked vigilante superhero Batman, took the blame for the crimes committed by Two-Face/Harvey Dent in order to protect Gotham City. Now, still haunted by the murder of his parents and the woman he loved (and dogged by the police to boot) Wayne is shown to be a man with both a battered body and soul.
This is fitting because this film is as much about Batman as it is about Bruce Wayne, and is a fine characterisation of a man who finally completes the emotional and spiritual journey which started in Batman Begins (2005). Christian Bale has continually given great performances in the last two Batman movies and I can safely say that he doesn’t disappoint.
The father figures in the film are Bruce’s loyal butler Alfred (Michael Caine), and Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman), who are played in fine performances as men with some heavy guilt to bear themselves. Some of the other performances are also top notch. Anne Hathaway is very feline in her unexaggerated movements as the sultry cat burglar Selina Kyle, who comic book fans will recognise as Batman’s on-again, off-again love interest, Catwoman. Interestingly enough, she is never referred to as ‘Catwoman’ in this movie. While her characterisation of the ‘unwilling rogue’ archetype isn’t particularly original, she steals most of her scenes with her engaging performance. The other strong character is John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who plays an ever-evolving cop with enormous potential and heart. He has some really absorbing scenes with Bruce Wayne/Batman that one will find more enriching on a repeat viewing.
The film’s plot sees the destruction of half of Gotham City and you know it’s serious when the Batman is forced to try and save the day in daylight. In typical Nolan fashion, there are plenty of surprising twists in The Dark Knight Rises, which to some may seem abrupt, but which are clearly foreshadowed throughout the movie.
The Dark Knight Rises isn’t without fault however, with a few plot points that feel contrived or illogical. The most glaring one is how Bruce Wayne escapes a prison and travels between continents in an instant, without any resources to speak of. I surely would like to meet his travel agent. And while at nearly three hours long, the film is admirable for being highly cohesive in spite of the complex plot and the bloated cast, an unwelcome casualty are the citizens of the Gotham, who are not given much focus in the midst of the tragedies which befall their city.
But while The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t quite rise to the narrative near perfection of its predecessor, it certainly soars above any Batman film in terms of action. The mixed martial arts fight sequences between Batman and Bane are superbly choreographed, and are unlike those of any other superhero film in terms of style or effect. Furthermore, the last thirty minutes of The Dark Knight Rises are an amazingly emotional ride, which brings the film, and the trilogy, to a conclusion that is highly satisfying, albeit uncharacteristically conventional. But that’s alright, because if there is one trilogy that deserves a touch of the conventional, it is Christopher Nolan’s Batman.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, August 12th, 2012.