‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is the final instalment of Christopher Nolan’s incredibly well received Batman trilogy and marks the end of the Christian Bale era playing the caped crusader. There is no doubt that the pressure is on for Batman as he contends with ‘The Avengers’ for not only hero film of the year but potentially the best hero film of all time. The pressure does not only lie there as Nolan has upped the stakes with an ever increasing portfolio of outstanding films where people now expect greatness like they did with Spielberg following Jurassic Park, anyhow onto the synopsis. ‘T.D.K.R’ takes place 8 years after ‘The Dark Knight’ where Gotham City is getting by, Bruce Wayne is a recluse, the Batman is nowhere to be seen still hunted down for the ‘murder’ of Harvey Dent and an ever growing disturbing force grows stronger in the shadows. Forced out of retirement by the antics of Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) who after breaking into the Wayne mansion sets off a series of events that will change Gotham and Batman forever. Posing as Gotham’s reckoning this time round is Bane (Tom Hardy), an incredibly strong and intelligent man who seeks destroy Batman and claim Gotham for his own. So does the dark knight rise higher than its predecessors? or does it fall where so many heroes and superhero films have before? Read on…
The answer to the question above lies somewhere in the middle, there is no question that ‘T.D.K.R’ is a film of epic proportion but it is in that ‘epic’ nature of the film in which it suffers its biggest pitfall. The running time is roughly 2 hours and 44 minutes which is a long film but the issue here is not that it is too long a film but it is not long enough. Quite simply if there was a final instalment of a saga or franchise that necessitated two parts for the scale of the story of which it was trying to achieve, then it is this film. Now the only gripe with the film is not just simply the number of minutes the film is on the screen but it is in the repercussions which come with it.
The chief problem with ‘T.D.K.R’ is that the second act is a mess of a montage. To give this some context and no spoiler here, as the trailer and film title suggests, Batman/Bruce Wayne gets hurt in this film and he has to rise and return to Gotham to restore order and rescue its citizens. This process fills the second act of the film, alongside what Bane is trying to achieve in his absence in Gotham. Now this type of situation is usually the origin story of most superheroes and takes place over the space of a couple of weeks, however that is not the case here as this second act takes place in the space of a couple of months. Now a lot of stuff can happen in a couple of months and it does during the middle of the film which inevitably results in a lot of cutting backwards and forwards between several players in the game. This is not something we have seen from Nolan before, and though he handles it very well in comparison to shambolic editing seen when other directors take on epic events, (Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a prime example) it does result in some choppy uneven scenes that you could be forgiven that you even forgot it was a Batman film you were watching. The second act needed a lot more exploring, a Gotham in ruin is something we have not seen before and we seldom see it here. The reason for this issue is simply the time constraints that Nolan had in trying to cram the epic conclusion to his trilogy into one feature length film. With that in mind Nolan would never have wanted to make a fourth Batman film as he was incredibly hesitant to even do this one and it sort of shows with some lacking attention to detail that even the slowest of people might pick up on.
Though the overall story arc is good and most importantly coherent there are some minor problems with how events progress. Nolan has raised the bar so high with his fresh and intuitive takes on all genres he has tackled and his films have a logical and natural feel to their progression but here some of it is slightly forced. The reason here is that they have some great and interesting set pieces which they have clearly struggled to properly piece together, the most glaring of which is when they bring Bruce Wayne back to Gotham. On his journey back he suddenly transports from one place to another without a moments notice and on his return manages to successfully elude Bane and his cronies, who know his real identity, despite being captured by some of them. Its not a major point but it is sloppy and it finds itself weeding its way to other plot elements even if it is ever so slightly.
Now it is not all doom and gloom for ‘T.D.K.R’ as there are several instances of brilliant film-making, acting and action to feast the eyes on. Regardless of the outcome and overall opinion of this film, Christopher Nolan has established himself as one hell of a director with a brilliantly genius way to shoot and make films. Choosing to shoot this one with an hours worth of IMAX footage has its benefits when watched in an IMAX screen. When the scenes change format on screen some of them are simply breath-taking and the sound is unreal, it is possibly the most immersed I have felt watching an IMAX film in 2D, if you get the chance to see it in this format, do it! As for the performances, both ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘The Dark Knight’ showcased some amazing acting that assisted the films in becoming must sees and because we have the same core of actors present here the same can be said once again. However though the acting is great by all main players, people will be surprised how little screen time is actually given to many characters, most notably Batman himself. Again the epic nature of the story comes into conflict with the running time and with an influx of new characters it is hard to really attach yourself to any of them, I feel there are other reasons to decreased screen time for other characters, but the film should be watched before reading to much into this.
So how are the new major characters, Catwoman & Bane? Well nobody should be worried about under performance that is for sure. Anne Hathaway is the more impressive of the two playing the devious mischief maker Selina Kyle like she was born for the role. However Tom Hardy had it harder, he had to provide emotion with half of his face covered. The fact that he goes on to turn what can be considered a sideshow villain into a force to be reckoned with is a remarkable achievement. This is no freak show juiced up on green liquid but a menacing and ruthless leader, not to be f***** with. A true mark of how much this trilogy of films has evolved for the better is in its action sequences and again this feeds back to Nolan. The fight sequences of ‘Batman Begins’ showed the inexperience of Nolan in this arena and ‘The Dark Knight’ was not really an action film, but for ‘T.D.K.R’ there are some really good action and fight scenes to get involved with, the first fight between Batman and Bane is pretty damn sweet. However what I must really make a note of is how perfect the films score by Hans Zimmer not only fits the film but ups all the intensity and emotion you might feel with certain scenes and turns it up to 11. We already know Zimmer is an orchestral movie soundtrack God but he adds so much life to this film with the score it is truly amazing. The score itself is similar to that of ‘Batman Begins’ & ‘The Dark Knight’ but with this major story comes a major score.
Come the end of T.D.K.R I was satisfied with what I had seen and felt that the trilogy had come to a satisfactory conclusion, but the journey taken to that conclusion here is a little bumpy. The fact of the matter is that a high level of expectations have been set by previous entries in this trilogy, and in Nolan’s general film career. This will inevitably result in some people being disappointed, but when you look at the other films in cinema history that have made up the third part of a trilogy there is a significantly poor track record. Now that is no excuse for a film to be bad and some the errors to be found here are simply sloppy and not like what we have seen from a Nolan in the past. Personally I think that the level of interest and love for doing a Batman film was not what it was when ‘The Dark Knight’ was made and it shows to some extent here. On the other hand overall, despite a disjointed second act, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is a very good film that deserves your attention and provides a decent end to this trilogy. The first part of the film is by far the best and the reason for that is it actually has Batman in it kicking ass and the final act was always going to be somewhat anti-climatic but it still delivers a strong end to trilogy that has been a phenomenal achievement in the history of the superhero genre.