The Dark Knight Rises Review

Yesterday, despite the glorious sunshine that has finally graced British shores, I crammed into the local IMAX screen with several hundred hundred other eager Batman fans to watch the final film in the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises.

Before reading on I will advise you that this review is very, very spoiler laden, as I feel the film needs discussing in full detail, and I don’t want to have to skirt round the edges of huge plot points. If you’re just looking for a verdict however, I join the multitudes of other bloggers and critics around the world in saying this film is incredible. It justifiable lives up to the hype and exceeded all my already high expectations, and I don’t think I’m over-exaggerating when I say it was one of the best films I have ever seen, if not the best film.

The Dark Knight Rises is set 8 years after the events of the last film The Dark Knight and more critically, 8 years after the death of Harvey “Two-Face” Dent. Batman has hung up his cape after being implicated in Dent’s murder, but in his absence Gotham’s crime riddled streets have been rid of organised crime by the police, rendering him almost useless. Instead, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) mopes around his manor, with only Alfred (Michael Cane) for company.

It is the arrival of Tom Hardy’s Bane that spurs Wayne into action and this is where the film really kicks off. Tom Hardy had rather a large feat to undertake, for he had to fill the shoes of the franchises last villain, The Joker, played fantastically by the late Heath Ledger. However, in my opinion, Bane was a fantastic villain, and, although this caused a heated debate with my friend, I thought he was a better baddy.

This however mostly falls down to the plot details rather than the actual performance. Heath Ledger beats Hardy hands down in capturing his character and the madness of the Joker. Admittedly, Hardy had a tougher job, with much of his face obscured by his strange painkiller mask, and having to adopt a mumbling, and at times quite amusingly eccentric British accent. Despite this, he still oozed pure evil and malice. In contrast to Ledger, or even Cilian Murphy’s Scarecrow, Bane was portrayed as being calculated and cunning, rather than psychopathic and insane. Hardy’s physique, (specially build up for the role) made him intimidating and his eyes were full of hate and violence at all times. Whereas when Christian Bale dons the cowl, his acting becomes somewhat over-the-top (see the over dramatic eye bulging when Marion Cotillard’s character twist is revealed), Hardy maintains a perfect performance despite the headgear.

Where Bane excels though is in his plot to destroy Gotham. The scale of the plot events are simply staggering, and tell of the characters cunning, intellect and power. Whilst he appears to be a simple hired thug for most of the film, crashing a CIA plane, robbing the Gotham stock exchange and beating Batman in single combat we see that he is more than a common mercenary when his plan comes to fruition.

My absolute favourite moment of the film was this climactic scene, as Bane triggers utter chaos on Gotham, cutting it off from the outside world and holding it ransom. The consequences of the plane crash, the robbery and the breaking of Batman are all simultaneously realised, coming together like a jigsaw and revealing Bane to be somewhat of a criminal mastermind. In my opinion this is where he beats The Joker, who strove to plunge Gotham into chaos, but his actions are eclipsed by the utter confusion and nightmarish reality Bane forces onto the city. This coming together of all the plot pieces is a testament to Nolan’s writing and production, as it feels incredibly satisfying to see the last hour or so of film all tie up carefully.

Nolan’s skill is also shown by the embedding of details from the other two films of the trilogy, really wrapping up the plot and tying it off with a bow. Ras-al-Ghul and the League of Shadows make a return, as does the Scarecrow and as mentioned, it is intrinsically linked to the events in The Dark Knight. This attention to detail really brings what has been dubbed The Nolanverse to life, giving it depth and consequence. Everything in every film has built up to the events of The Dark Knight Rises and brings it to a satisfying close.

Whilst Bane, Batman and Nolan’s plot steal the show, credit must be given to the support characters. Anne Hathaway played an excellent Catwoman, erasing the forgettable Halle Berry version from DC fans minds. She held her own as a decent side character, not stealing any limelight but turning out to be a vital cog in the plot. Hathaway played her with a certain mystique, keeping her suitably ambiguous, intangible and intriguing until she reveals her true colours at the end.

Michael Caine’s short turn as Alfred Pennyworth were some of the best acting moments of the film. His emotional pleas with a stubborn Bruce Wayne were incredibly moving, and I could really believe he cared for Master Wayne like a father, rather than just a butler. It was a shame there was not more of him in the film, but his absence was part of the emotional turmoil, and added so much to the film.

Joseph Gordon-Levett was also a valuable addition to the excellent cast as new character John Blake. Although his character did not have much to add to the overall direction of the film, essentially being Commissioner Gordon’s eyes on the ground and the leader of the Resistance movement against Bane, he was likeable enough. Unfortunately he was rather eclipsed by other characters and it was fairly obvious why he was included in the film, his twist coming as no real surprise to anyone. (more on that in a minute)

Morgan Freeman (as Lucius Fox), Marion Cotillard (as Miranda Tate) and the other cast members played their roles admirable but are not worth too much of a mention. Freeman gave us a few laughs in an otherwise super-serious film and Cotillard gave us the shock twist that I genuinely didn’t see coming, but there was not much else to them but being cogs in the epic Nolan plot machine.

Secondly, as I mentioned, John Blake turning out to be Robin was pretty obvious and the reveal was significantly underwhelming and actually somewhat cheesy. If the character had been called Rob, or even Robin from the beginning it wouldn’t have changed our opinion. If they wanted to keep it a bit more of an ‘in joke’ they could have named him after one of the many people to take up the mantle of Robin in the comics, rather than inventing a brand new character.

Finally my biggest gripe comes from the twist. Although the revelation of Miranda Tate actually being Ras-al-Ghul’s daughter and the child from the prison was fantastic and a complete surprise for me at the end, it did have the adverse effect of completely ruining my impression of Bane. As I have already said, Bane to me seemed to be an absolute mastermind, the orchestrator of the largest terrorist attack ever seen but yet this is taken away from him by this revelation. In a few short minutes, hours of build up of Bane as more than your average mercenary killer, render him just a tool of the League of Shadows, shattering his persona, and thumping him right down to where he started.

At the end of the day though these grievances were only a result of me over-thinking the film due to writing this review. They took absolutely nothing from my enjoyment of the film, but are just things I think show that this film wasn’t absolutely perfect, and still has some room for improvement.

The film brings an end to the Nolan-directed franchise. Rumours are running riot that after the uplifting ending, with the escape of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle and finding the Batcave with directions from Bruce himself, that the franchise may receive some more attention. Nolan has stated definitively that he will not be tackling Batman again. I welcome this decision as the trilogy was so brilliantly tied off and wrapped up. The open ending however tells me that Warner Brothers want to milk the incredibly lucrative Batman cash cow, maybe with a Robin or new Batman spin on it. I will probably go and see one of these film, but after the stupidly high bar set by Nolan, other directors aren’t going to be lining up to resurrect Batman too soon, they stand to lose too much.

Thank you for reading this incredibly long review, I realise I went on quite a lot, but there was so much praise to give to this fantastic film!

I have decided to give this film 9.5/10. This is probably the highest score I will ever give, and it will set the bar for my marking in the future. I don’t believe in a perfect ten, and with the few niggles this film had, this, I believe, is the perfect score for it.

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