Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises
Director: Christopher Nolan
Studio: Legendary Pictures, Syncopy Films, DC Comics
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joesph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman
The expectation for this film was absolutely massive, even more-so than The Avengers that came out earlier this summer. The Dark Knight, the predecessor of this film, was such a knockout hit at the box office that everyone involved in this follow-up knew they REALLY had their work cut out for them. After the unreal amounts of hype does this film live up to it’s legend? Sort of… while it does have some incredible moments it takes far too long getting there and has it’s fair share of plot issues.
8 years have passed since the events of The Dark Knight where Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) took the fall to cover-up the truth surrounding the death of Harvey Dent. The only ones in Gotham City who know of Batman’s innocence are Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Bruce Wayne’s butler and best friend Alfred (Michael Caine). After the death of Harvey Dent the Batman was forced into hiding and the police were given new powers under “The Dent Act” to fight organized crime, powers that have seen the mob eradicated from the streets of Gotham. Despite 8 years having passed Bruce Wayne still bears the physical and emotional scars of The Joker’s rampage and as a result has become a recluse in Wayne Manor, hanging up his suit for good. Bruce is forced to don the infamous batsuit again when a new threat comes to Gotham: A mysterious mercenary army headed by a man called “Bane” (Tom Hardy). A man Bruce knows the police, despite their new powers, are no match for. However… is he himself any match for Bane…?
Bruce Wayne is clearly beaten physically and mentally as the consequences of his second life as Batman catch up with him, the repercussions are so severe than Wayne is forced to use a walking cane! Wayne is also emotionally scarred now more than ever as the events of The Dark Knight have left him a total wreck. Alfred can only beg his friend to reconsider and looks on in horror as Bruce prepares to return as Batman. He dreads to think what will happen when Bruce goes up against the monstrous Bane who’s brutal combat prowess far outshines that of the Batman coming out of retirement. Eventually Batman is reduced to his lowest low and the way that he picks himself up is epic to watch to say the least (Too many spoilers if I go into it). Suffice to say what we see is the utter destruction of a character on a scale rarely seen in film. Initially Batman’s fighting style is sluggish, which makes sense given the context of the plot (He’s not been Batman for 8 years remember), but he does improve as the story unfolds. I would say this really is Christian Bale’s movie where he finally gives the character of Bruce Wayne his dues.
Bane (Tom Hardy) is an absolute beast of an antagonist, he’s an EXTREMELY menacing presence in every scene he is in. Built like a titan with iron-cast willpower and an utter lack of fear and mercy. Bane is not just strong and fearless, he also has an exceptional mind and the plan he concocts for Gotham is really clever. To make matters worse he was trained by Ras Al Ghul (Liam Neeson in Batman Begins) only to be excommunicated because of his extreme ways… if Ras Al Ghul got rid of him for being too extreme you KNOW he’s bad news. You can see why he was shown the door too as he demonstrates a complete disregard for other people’s lives. Bane wears a symbolic mask in the same manner Batman wears his suit, they both provide practical uses – Bane’s being it keeps the pain from his nervous system damage at bay with a stimulant recycled through the mask. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not but the way the mask looks seems to emphasize his animalistic nature. While the Joker was a cerebral opponent he wasn’t much of a physical threat, Bane on the other hand is the whole package and the best character in the movie besides Bruce Wayne.
Sadly I cannot go much further into Bane’s story and motivations without spoiling a huge chunk of the plot!
Supporting characters for the most part are good; Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) as the anti-hero “Catwoman” (Interesting to note that she is never called that even once in the story). She starts out as a bit of a bitch who develops into an interesting heroine by the end of the film. Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman reprise their roles as Jim Gordon and Lucius Fox respectively and again give stellar performances. Detective John Blake (Joesph Gordon-Levitt), a newcomer to the trilogy, is an interesting character that ends up having a much bigger role in the outcome of the story that anyone (Some might see it coming) could have guessed.
The action scenes and set-pieces are spectacular when they happen, the narrative cruises along despite lagging a bit at parts, and there is not a single bad performance to be found. However, this film has some serious problems that stop it living up to it’s hype which I really need to address.
First and foremost the running time is 2 hours and 45 minutes long, that’s almost 3 hours of your time in one movie. It doesn’t quite suffer from “Return of the King Syndrome” where it feels like the movie has an extra act tacked onto itself just to drag things out but it comes dangerously close and is still far too long. Off the top of my head I’d say that Nolan could have trimmed down dialogue and edited certain scenes to save around 25-30 minutes of running time, some scenes just felt unnecessary.
Some plot developments are a bit too left-field and some character developments end up contradicting what the last two movies have established, the notable example being the behavior of Alfred. There is also an absolutely ABSURD plot twist during the movie’s final act that really killed the plot for me and threw the credibility of some characters into question. There are a number of small plot holes as well that I might end up forgiving if I watch this again (Bit of a mission given it’s almost 3 hours long).
It might have just been the audio in the cinema I was at to blame for this next one but Bane was really hard to understand at times because of his mask. When you get a scene between Bane and Batman, the latter of which people already have trouble understanding, it becomes a mission in itself to discern what is being said.
The biggest problem with this film is that it just takes WAY TOO LONG to get started. Much of the first act revisits plot points from The Dark Knight and contains pointless scenes about Bruce Wayne coming out of hiding and going back to work and trying to rekindle his social life. It almost takes an entire hour before we actually see Batman doing his thing, only for the narrative to slow down again until a pivotal moment that sees the movie finally kick it up a gear. Some might say that we need to see what has happened since the last outing but spending an hour of an already excessively lengthy movie not doing much is still inexcusable.
Despite my problems with it this is still a good ending to an exceptional trilogy, a trilogy that will stand as an example of how to take a ‘Silly Comic Book Story’ and ground it in reality (“Nolanize” is actually a term for this now, I’m serious!). I feel sorry for the poor director who has to reboot this series in a few years time if DC are serious about a Justice League movie: Whoever it is not only has the shadow of this series looming over them, they also have the shadow of The Avengers.
My final score: 8/10
+Good cast and supporting cast +Bane’s Story +Good storyline that makes a bold statement about society +Stellar final act
–Excessive running time –Pointless scenes slow it down -Stupid plot twist in final act -Bane’s voice