“Are you ready to begin?”
So it’s been a few weeks since I first saw the concluding part of Nolan’s epic trilogy, but I feel the need to finally let out what I thought of The Dark Knight Rises. So let’s kick this off with saying the obvious, it was good, in fact it was very bloody good. Nolan has done what Coppola failed to do with The Godfather trilogy and what George Lucas completely dropped the ball on with the Star Wars saga, he has made a perfect trilogy, one where a beginning, middle and end can be seen successfully and organically.
The best place to begin is with the story, and it is here where the third instalment differs from the previous two. While batman (1989) faced off against the joker, then in Batman Returns he battled Penguin and Catwoman and so on until Schumacher finally murdered the series, we could see they were all essentially rehashing the same old stories with essentially the same outcomes. Rises is a different beast altogether. Batman has long since retired and is out of shape, his allies are few and his enemies are more powerful and have now gained an advantage Bruce Wayne now lacks, The power of belief. Throw in a few new toys at Batman’s disposal, a Nuclear weapon and deep fucking hole in the ground in the middle of nowhere, and you have the driving points behind The Dark Knight Rises plot. The taking of Gotham city by Bane and his forces shocked me, it was so grand and epic in scale, gone are the small time gangsters and terrorist clowns that have to strike from the shadows. This is a revolution that finally leads to all out war.
The characters are another strong point of the film and indeed the entire trilogy. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has finally completed his characters story arc, going from ideal driven crusader in Batman Begins, to weary silent guardian in The Dark Knight and finally grief stricken recluse by Rises. You can finally see Bale completely become his role. I didn’t even have a problem with his husky voice in this one either. The antagonist of the Rises appears in the shape of huge imposing super villain, Bane. Forget the goofy looking henchman from Batman and Robin (I feel dirty for even referring to that abortion of a movie). Bane is calculating, physically powerful and unstoppable. Tom Hardy disappears into his role, as he did with the fantastic Bronson. Turn the clocks back four years, I walk out of the dark knight and say to myself “I feel bad for the poor guy that needs to follow Ledger as the next Batman villain”, 16 year old me wasn’t wrong. Bane does not top the Joker, how could he. The circumstances surrounding Ledger at the time automatically set a bias against Hardy’s performance, not to mention the fact that the Joker is simply a more interesting and timeless villain. However Hardy does his best, and its more than enough to carry the film over the two hours and forty five minutes viewing time. Then of course we are introduced to Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman and Joseph Gordon Levitt’s John Blake along with Marion Cottilard’s Miranda “I’m not Talia Al Ghul” Tate. All three are newcomers to the series, yet they feel like they have been there since the beginning, along with Morgan Freeman’s always welcome Lucius Fox, Michael Caine’s powerful performance as Alfred Pennyworth and the always outstanding Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon. A stellar cast, one that makes the likes of The Avengers look like a bunch of piss poor amateurs.
The twists and turns are breathtaking and will have you smiling with glee if you’re a Batman fan and may leave you speechless if you’re just a casual fan of the films. The set pieces are beautifully shot, dare I say the best of the trilogy. There really isn’t much in this film they get wrong. But…
What didn’t work..
Now here is where I get to exercise some demons, I have looked forward to this film for four years, I have never believed that a film can be destroyed by over hype until recently I learnt a grave lesson in investing to much hope in an upcoming blockbuster. Ridley Scott’s Prometheus was set to blow me away a few weeks ago, instead I was left numb, I had expected too much and gained too little. The film was in no way bad, it was beautifully shot and left me thinking for a long time after I left the theatre, but it had me thinking for all the wrong reasons, I had overhyped it so much I could never truly have enjoyed it, even if Sigourney Weaver made a cameo as a time travelling super bitch while riding a trained Alien Queen, it still would not be enough for my insatiable desire for something nothing short of perfection. This unfortunately is the case with The Dark Knight Rises.
Nolan’s film was a victim of my own excitement; It could never have achieved what I was waiting for. I expected The Dark Knight, and while I am so glad that they made a different film, I left the cinema numb, unable to talk with my fellow cinema goers about “how cool the Batwing was” (My least favourite vehicle in the series) or How they couldn’t hear what the fuck Bane was saying (a problem yes, but it only added to the mystery of the character). I felt numb from the experience, at first it felt like disappointment mixed with utter joy. I eagerly await repeat viewings, to see what that numbness truly was. When The Joker reveals his magic trick or when Batman flips the truck in down town Gotham, those were the moments that took my breath away. While Rises does have some show stopping scenes, it didn’t quite hit me as hard as The Dark Knight.
There were other small moments that crop up rarely in the film that takes you out of the experience, if only for a second, such as the odd line spoken by Hardy that seemed muffled, that ever so awkward kiss between Batman and Catwoman in the finale. While Cotillard did play a convincing villain, and the literal knife in the back of Wayne does give you chills. However, in a series that boasted some of films most intricate and infamous villains, she comes off as a weak and neglected antagonist.
The Legend End’s
Well here we are, at the end of a stupendous trilogy, Batman begins rebooted a saga that a few years earlier was a mere laughing stock. The Dark Knight was a masterpiece that transcended its own genre, being known not only as the greatest comic book film of all time, but one of the greatest films of all time. Now The Dark Knight Rises is breaking box office records, getting 5 stars from major film reviewers and getting all our tongues wagging over the various plot points. I can’t help but feel that it didn’t outdo its predecessor, Nolan had placed the bar to high, but with this said, Rises is a masterpiece, its failings outshine many others success’. It can only be described as the film I deserved, but not the one I needed.