Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy
Running Time: 165 min
Release: 20 July
The final act. Quite possibly the most anticipated movie of all time (surely it’s up there?) and the last piece in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight saga. Safeguarding Gotham is one thing, but undoubtedly the Caped Crusader’s greatest challenge yet is living up to the astronomical expectations for The Dark Knight Rises.
The scale of TDKR makes its predecessors seem like Saturday morning cartoons, with bigger action, greater stakes, a huge cast and an epic timescale. Gotham is under siege from man-mountain Bane, a terrorist mastermind with an army of fanatical followers and a penchant for destruction. Meanwhile Bruce Wayne is drawn back under the cowl after an eight year hiatus when a mysterious cat burglar jacks his jewels, setting Batman on a collision course with Bane, and his own reckoning.
The monumental scope of TDKR is certainly one of the film’s greatest assets, affording it more spectacle and full on jaw-floor contact than its predecessors combined. However the film is also skewed by its own enormity, coming in a little too long, yet still skimping on minor but important story beats in its eagerness to get to the big stuff. This lack of connective tissue is far from the film’s undoing, but it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow as characters seemingly teleport themselves into scenes at the perfect moment, and plot cracks weather into minor chasms of logic. One of the greatest victims of this is perhaps the film’s love triangle—Batman is just so busy busting supervillains and doing barrel rolls in his batjet that it’s amazing he fits one love interest into his schedule, let alone two.
All roads of dissatisfaction in Gotham eventually lead to Bane, a problematic villain with a highly dubious masterplan. His worth as a character is inversely proportional to how much you know about him—by the film’s finale he has essentially been neutered by over explanation and an anticlimactic undoing. Hardy certainly provides the necessary physical presence, but his performance is blighted by a snazzy but arbitrary facial apparatus that hides his expression and muffles his voice. For every misstep the film takes with Bane it more than makes up for with Hathaway’s Selina Kyle, a smart and punchy rendition of Catwoman, who while never referred to by that moniker, delivers enough feline puns to get the point across. Bale knocks out his most introspective and well rounded turn of the franchise, spending relatively little screentime donning the cowl and bat-voice, but affording it all the more significance when he does.
Though not as tight as Batman Begins, or as richly detailed as The Dark Knight, TDKR easily has the keenest presentation of the series. Nolan’s vision of the universe has peaked, the film is gorgeous and visceral, with a score by Hans Zimmer that has been refined over the trilogy into a mesmerizing and triumphant accompaniment.
The Dark Knight Rises is a mammoth film and there’s so much left to talk about—the litany of fan pleasing cameos, its surprising affinity for corniness, the many call backs to the previous films. At the end of the day it wraps up both the trilogy and its own dense tale in an explosive and satisfying way. In truth Batman had little chance against the insurmountable adversary that is expectations, but hey, he put up one hell of a fight.