In 2005, Batman made his debut on the big screen as director Christopher Nolan’s trilogy came into existence. As an origins story, it showed us the beginnings of the Dark Knight legend and also laid the foundations for what would become a trilogy taking the caped crusader on a journey that would enthrall an audience of millions.
Three years later and The Dark Knight was released to astonishing success both in the box office and in the critical reception. Batman’s darkest hour arrived in the form of his arch-nemesis – The Joker. Heath Ledger wowed the audience with his captivating performance as the crazed threat terrorising Gotham City and the film catapulted to become one of the highest grossing films of all time.
Now we come to The Dark Knight Rises – the third and final entry in the Dark Knight trilogy. The stakes have never been higher and topping the brilliance of The Dark Knight would never have been an easy feat to achieve. However, after watching the movie last weekend, I can safely say that TDKR is at least on par with its predecessor, if not even better at multiple points, delivering a strong and fulfilling conclusion to a trilogy that’s consistently provided the goods.
Before I progress further, I’d like to say that this is not a review. It was not written as such and is instead more of a collection of thoughts and opinions discussed in a non-review manner. Also, the rest of this post WILL be full of massive spoilers concerning the movie so if you want to avoid that, stop reading now.
- Firstly, let’s get into the cast. Christian Bale returns once again to play the dual roles of Bruce Wayne and Batman, succeeding on both counts. Also returning are the familiar faces of Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman – a trio who really enhance the movie experience just by being present. Caine, as Alfred, in particular had much more material to work with in The Dark Knight Rises, from the comical to the emotional, and it was he who provided a great deal of the film’s more emotional moments, delivering them with skill and precision easily worthy of Oscar recognition. Elsewhere, Freeman served his role as Bruce’s equivalent of ‘Q’ as well as one expects, as well as Oldman in the role of Comissioner Gordon, again with strength that’s expected after previous movies in the trilogy.
- Making new appearances this time around are Tom Hardy as the big bad Bane, as well as Anne Hathaway as Catwoman/Selina Kyle and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Officer Blake, who is a little more important than what he first appears…
- Comparing Tom Hardy’s fantastic performance as Bane with Ledger’s iconic outing as Joker is unfair as the two are massively different, yet comparisons will undoubtedly be made anyway. For example, The Joker’s strength lied in his insanity and psychotic personality, which provided Batman with a battle his moral compass struggled to point past. Bane, on the other hand, is probably the first villain in the trilogy to give Batman a true psychical challenge, even going as far as severely wounding his spine during a fight. Ledger excelled at portraying the maniacal whilst Hardy did the same with his psychical presence. Both villains represent different threats to Batman and both were played by very strong actors. If comparisons are to be made, this is where they should be.
- Tom Hardy did an exceptional job of making Bane feel like the dominating threat he was supposed to be. This was the first time that Batman had encountered somebody capable of physically overpowering him and as such, their fight scenes were made to be tense and edge-of-your-seat. In particular, their first battle, where Batman leaves with a badly wounded spine, was simply fantastic, giving you the firm impression that perhaps Bane wasn’t somebody that Batman was capable of beating.
- When it was announced that Anne Hathaway was to play the role of Catwoman, I had doubts as to whether the sultry, seductive role of Selina Kyle was a good fit for Hathaway. Over time, as I saw her in the role in various trailers and what not, my skepticism diminished. After watching the movie in its entirety, I can scarce believe that I ever had doubts at all. Hathaway pulled off seductive, morally skewed, intelligent-yet-cautious and made for a great Catwoman, even if that term was never used in the entire film. After watching her in the role, I can safely say that I’d love to see Anne Hathaway pull on the leather again to play the femme fatale in the future.
- The two other main stars joining the cast are the aforementioned Joseph Gordon-Levitt as well as Marion Cotillard, both of which worked with Christopher Nolan on 2010’s Inception. Levitt gave a strong performance as Officer Blake, who’s morality was as straight and narrow as the Dark Knight’s. His character seemed a tad unnecessary at certain points but the revelation at the end that he is Robin made his existence completely worthwhile. Cotillard’s character, on the other hand, didn’t serve much of a purpose other than being Bruce’s latest lover until she was unveiled as Talia Al’Ghul – the one keeping Bane on a leash. I have to say that Talia’s emergence took me by surprise but unfortunately took away from Bane’s menace a little when it was shown that he was merely a henchman.
- In terms of the story that formed the basis of the movie, it felt particularly strong, if not perfect. Bane’s threat to Gotham, from the moment he hijacked a plane mid-flight to the instant he stormed the stock exchange, always felt dominating. With Gotham’s police force trapped under the city, access to and from the city severed and his finger on the trigger to a nuclear device, things had never been so bleak for Gotham. Batman, meanwhile, found himself imprisoned in a miserable facility after having his ass handed to him in a fight with Bane. I enjoyed this part of the story even if it did seem amazing how they seemingly travelled to and from The Pit in a matter of moments, and said facility was definitely not anywhere close to Gotham. More like across the country at least judging from the surroundings.
- While The Dark Knight Rises’ story wasn’t underwhelming, it shared more in common with Batman Begins than it did with the second film. Begins was an origins story; Rises was a conclusive tale. The result is that whilst events in The Dark Knight were referenced – the Harvey Dent act, Rachel’s death, Batman taking the fall for Dent’s insanity – the title seemed to skip the rest, making the film almost seem insignificant at times. I find it amazing that not one single character made a reference to The Joker during the entire film, for example. Even though eight years had passed between the stories of both films, you’d think that the greatest menace to hit Gotham up to that point would’ve warranted a little mention at some point. The continuity was there but unfortunately more so for Begins than TDK.
- When you’re watching the film, it’s handy to be already aware of just how long you’ll be sitting in the auditorium. The Dark Knight Rises has a run-time of around 2 hours and 45 minutes, making it an incredibly long film to sit through. Fortunately, there is so much to experience with the film that none of it feels like a drag to sit through. I read somewhere that the initial script for TDKR was so long that it came to total more than six hours and that severe cuts were made to condense the material into one movie rather than multiple. Whether it’s true or not is unknown but any film that comes to around the length of TDKR needs to be able to make the most of it without boring its audience. It succeeded in that and benefited from having more time to play with.
- An area where you can’t fault The Dark Knight Rises is the visual and sound departments. I didn’t watch the film in IMAX but even a regular showing was enough to experience them in their glory. The music was true to the atmosphere of the film, bombastic and at times helped to make the overpowering threat of Bane even more apparent. As for the visuals, they were simply incredible. The sight of the bridges leading to Gotham being destroyed was fantastically done, as well as Bane’s destruction of a football stadium from underneath the foundations. Plus, the overhead shots of the city as it was rapidly reduced to a smoking, smouldering mess were almost too good to be special effects. This particular Batman trilogy has consistently excelled at the special effects and there was no reason why The Dark Knight Rises should’ve been any different. I can only imagine how utterly fantastic it would have been to view the film via the IMAX experience.
- Unfortunately, while the majority of the sound was excellent, there were many moments where the score seemed too loud, making the dialogue of the characters hard to understand. Also, I really struggled with Bane’s speech due to his mask understandably distorting his voice slightly. I understood most of what he was saying but a lot of times I was focusing more on catching his words rather than on the actual scene, which is not what you should be doing, not to mention it was somewhat distracting.
- As far as the ending goes, I had mixed feelings about it. I had heard how ‘amazing’ and ‘shocking’ the last fifteen minutes were but unfortunately, I didn’t see the same thing. While the reveal of Robin was surprising to me, the rest fell a little flat. I expected Batman to have survived the nuclear explosion because years of television watching have told me that if you don’t see the person dying, they’re probably not dead. Considering the majority of the final moments centered around Batman’s supposed death and subsequent funeral, I struggled to get embroiled in the emotion as I never believed him to be dead. It didn’t help that I went in expecting an amazing ending because it just wasn’t that.
- Finishing a trilogy that has been running for so long, gathered so many fans and collected tremendous critical praise is never an easy task, whether you’re Christopher Nolan or not. Luckily, The Dark Knight Rises concluded things in a healthy and mostly strong fashion, whilst leaving several loose ends still dangling in the air for any possible future movies to pick up from. For example, Robin is now running around Gotham and while it appeared that both Talia and Bane were killed in battle, I’m not convinced that they actually are dead. Whatever the case, it’ll be a long time before we see Batman back on our screens but when he does, it’ll have a lot to live up to. Nolan made Batman utterly mesmerizing with his trilogy and to achieve that again will be no easy task.
Did I enjoy The Dark Knight Rises? Absolutely. I’ve been completely enthralled with this iteration of Batman ever since 2005’s Batman Begins and I find myself sad that it’s finally at an end. Now we just need Nolan to be at the helm of a Justice League film and I swear I would faint in excitement.
Has anybody else reading this seen The Dark Knight Rises? What a stupid question. Of course you have. What are your thoughts on the film? Did it live up to The Dark Knight or fall flat completely? Hit the comment box below to share your thoughts.