Much can be said to describe Chris Nolan’s take on the Batman mythology – grandiose, entertaining, dark. Now it’s time to add another superlative to the ever-growing list. A modern-day blockbuster masterpiece.
The Dark Knight Rises barrels its way into cinemas with the weight of expectation resting on its shoulders. Can it surpass the greatness of its predecessor? Will it bring the franchise to a satisfying close? These questions that have been answered with a resounding “yes!”
Set some eight years after the death of Harvey Dent, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has shut himself off from the outside world. Batman no longer ‘exists’. Ostracised by the media, he’s held up as the pariah – blamed for the death of Gotham’s true hero – Mr Dent. However, all that’s about to change.
Forced to come out of hiding following the arrival of masked villain Bane (Tom Hardy), Batman strives to calm the storm and bring an end to the anarchy brought to Gotham City – which involves the use of a clean energy device adapted into a nuclear bomb.
Along the way cat thief Selina Kyle – aka Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) – enters proceedings while Gotham PD cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) gives Bruce reason to believe his alter ego can make a successful return from his self-enforced exile.
It’s safe to say Nolan is going for the ‘out in a blaze of glory’ style for his finale and the 165 minute running time allows him the opportunity to create a spectacle that blows every other blockbuster that’s been released this year out the water.
Here, Wayne is a broken man. Suffering from his own brand of self-loathing and sympathy, he’s cut himself off from the outside world, resolute in his belief that Gotham is a better place without him now. Bale, as ever, delivers the goods in both guises. As Bruce, it’s hard to sympathise with his current predicament due to the fact it’s partly his own doing. However, watching him regain the strength of character that made him a symbol for good in the city allows us to regain that faith in him. He’s a man on a mission, although Alfred (Michael Caine) believes it’s a journey to self-destruction more than atonement.
Hardy is great as Bane – and despite some grumblings elsewhere, there were no issues trying to decipher his dialogue at the Glasgow IMAX. Every time he appears on screen, his imposing stature always acts as a threat to whoever he comes up against. While Hardy isn’t quite in the same ball-park as Heath Ledger playing the Joker, Bane is as dangerous physically as the Joker was mentally. There’s also an intellect that belies his general appearance. In fact, some of the exchanges between the villain-of-the-piece and those he comes into contact with are memorable.
As for Hathaway – her portrayal of Catwoman has finally (and thankfully) erased all memory of the atrocious abomination brought to the screen by Halle Berry. Kyle’s introduction in The Dark Knight Rises is pitch-perfect and sets the tone for a (sorry to say) game of cat and mouse between herself, Wayne and Batman. There’s a sultry sexiness to her character without it every coming close to being sleazy. She’s alluring, she’s confident and – when required – she’s a threat (thanks to her new-found martial arts skills). Hathaway is a damn fine addition to the universe created by Nolan and his team. It’s no understatement to say that she steals the show from the main players. Even Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard – who plays Miranda Tate – have huge parts to play in the overall story arc.
What’s evident throughout is just how ballsy Nolan’s finale really is. There’s a half-hour period of The Dark Knight Rises where Batman doesn’t appear at all. For that to happen in such a massive movie, based around a huge character, is almost unheard of, but Nolan succeeds in allowing the other stars to shine in their respective parts. Not once do the other cast members come across as just scene filler or bit-parts.
Some may accuse Nolan’s Batman trilogy of being too serious and dark. On the flip-side, many of us are thankful it’s not affected by cocksure characters (Iron-Man, we’re looking at you) and it doesn’t steal the ending from Transformers: The Dark of the Moon. From now on, any director helming a blockbuster will need to bring their A-game if they want to come close to the brilliance of Nolan’s last chapter.
The action set-pieces are jaw-dropping as Gotham City is brought to its knees by Bane and the final third is a sublime execution of how a blockbuster should be wrapped up. Choc-full of emotional heft, daring sequences and a score that could leave a growing man weeping on the floor, The Dark Knight Rises is an audacious piece of film-making and a bonafide classic.