Reviews

The Dark Knight Rises

4

Christopher Nolan caps a heavyweight trilogy

At the risk of sounding like genius DoP/Avengers Assemble critic Wally Pfister, let’s keep this summer’s superhero ruckus alive.

Christopher Nolan’s trilogy closer lost to Joss Whedon’s quip-fire assemblage at the box office, but Christian Bale’s comment on TDKR’s extras explains why Batman rises above Marvel’s spandex sizzler.

“We always wanted to show the consequences of what [Bruce Wayne] does.”

A sense of consequence barely bothered Avengers Assemble, joyful as it was, but Nolan reveres the dramatic clout involved in having something at stake. In his Gotham, emotional wounds linger, action has heft and moral choices have repercussions lent substance by real-world fears.

Is that more than a film about masked men growling at each other can take? David Cronenberg argued so: “I think it’s still Batman running around in a stupid cape.”

Roll with the pulp punches, though, and Nolan’s integrity of narrative and worldbuilding stands as a rich, dense benchmark of old-school epic storytelling in a climate of weightless CGI spectacle.

So it figures that The Dark Knight’s climax reverberates in TDKR, just as its predecessor ran with Gordon’s (Gary Oldman) warning at the end of Batman Begins of escalating atrocities.

With our hero a shadow of himself, his orphaned heart seared anew by Rachel Dawes’ death, Bale delivers his most fragile Wayne yet.

And as Gotham’s peace wobbles on the fib of Harvey Dent’s virtue, so Chris and Jonathan Nolan’s script develops the trilogy’s themes with microscopic rigour. Wayne’s wrecked body also rings true, coming from a director who honours the physical impact of in-camera set-pieces.

Get past the no commentary, the no deleted scenes, and the shameless Joel Schumacher cameo on an exhaustive (and surprisingly moving) Batmobile doc, and Nolan’s “done for real” shoot makes for uncommonly thrilling disc featurettes.

“It’s something  that makes us gasp,” gasps Tom Hardy of the air hijack shoot. “People actually walked on wings of planes!” And we gasp again, at footage of the chopper-hoisted Bat, a stadium prepped for levelling and 1,000 extras flooding Wall Street.

TDKR climaxes in a street war, like Avengers Assemble, but Nolan favours reallocating effects money to a “cast of thousands” over CGI. His standard isn’t the megaplex: it’s the grand-scale Hollywood epic or Metropolis, in ways that 2012’s Fritz Lang-indebted Total Recall can’t hope to match.

Bane is the perfect villain for this Gotham, “a necessary evil” wielding the thump of threat needed to give physical and emotional weight to Wayne’s live/die choices.

Hardy’s stare, muscularity and extravagantly offbeat speech chill: you’d change seats on a night bus to avoid him, then change buses if he started monologueing through that bonkers mask.

Bane isn’t as famous as the Riddler but he is the villain Gotham needs to close the trilogy, just as second-tier spook the Scarecrow fitted Batman Begins’ fog of fear. Nolan’s large-scale emotional architecture ensures the twists and turns also pay off the promise of BB.

Cracking ice, Bruce in a balaclava, falls, climbs, parental traumas, doubles, symbols... the density of echoes repays revisits, though Alfred’s memories of baby Bruce land with a tender immediacy rare in such films.

Nolan’s respect for physical reality extends to his love of flawed human faces: Michael Caine and the gloriously oily Ben Mendelsohn ground TDKR as surely as the asphalt grit of Pfister’s cinematography.

Some expository grunting is required to carry the narrative load, but Nolan knows how to ease the heavy lifting. The cool-shit dial shrieks off the scale for the opening air-jack and new vehicle The Bat’s take-off, where weight, propulsion and brisk editing combine to knock the wind out of you.

A little levity helps, the Nolans’ script chalking up meta-gags about Bane’s sonic boom (“What a lovely, lovely voice”) and Selina Kyle’s heels, pipping fan-forum grumblers to the post.

Offering contrast to the men whose masks ease their hurt, Anne Hathaway makes Kyle a wily manipulatrix, her face effortlessly switching registers depending on what the situation demands. In a film that could have bulldozed, she supplies surprise swerves as well as curves.

Ditto Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who doesn’t so much act for the camera as dance with it, lending grace to potentially stolid ‘last good cop’ John Blake. He also figures in the end reveals, which deliver on themes of myth established in BB.

Just as Blake’s dressing-down of Gordon (the “dirty hands” line) introduces the theme of each generation rectifying a previous generation’s ills, so the heartfelt climax allows for the idea that each generation will replenish Batman.

Not that TDKR is anything so crass as a franchise re-starter: re-authoring Batman as a self-contained story with a beginning, middle and end, Nolan’s trilogy (available as a boxset from 3 December) feels like it could be the ground from which all Bat-myths sprung, which isn’t bad going for a 73-year-old.

But it carries the hint that Batman will always return.

That loving nod to the character is a send-off to celebrate, even if it’ll be a long time before a superhero series inspires like this one.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • FBMHobbs

      Dec 3rd 2012, 11:48

      4 stars...not 5

      Alert a moderator

    • spid2411

      Dec 3rd 2012, 12:11

      5

      Film of the year by a mile (and the best of the trilogy). The scene where he first faces Bane is the best of all three films I think. These things seem to work best when the hero faces real danger. Using Bane as the villain also shows how smart Nolan is - everyone wanted the Riddler but he is just a poor mans joker so the actor playing the role would immediately be compared to Heath Ledger. Haven't heard one person compare Hardy to him though as he played a totally different type of villain and so comparison would be pointless. Great stuff, though I am sure the studio will f**k it up in a few years with their obsession to make their own Avengers thing purely for money and before we know it, Batman will be camp and silly again. At least Nolan's work will remain unscathed. Just unfortunate that for every Christopher Nolan or Peter Jackson there seem to be five....... McG's (that can't be your real name mate)

      Alert a moderator

    • Jareth64

      Dec 3rd 2012, 12:35

      4

      It's by far the weakest in the trilogy but it is enjoyable. Whoo hoo! I will be renting this, but not buying it.

      Alert a moderator

    • SkyFullOfHoles

      Dec 3rd 2012, 14:45

      5

      Can't wait to get my hands on this. I've loved the whole trilogy and I much preferred this to The Avengers (not to say I disliked The Avengers in any way I'm just a huge Batman fan and not so interested in the Marvel line).

      Alert a moderator

    • SiMan

      Dec 3rd 2012, 15:41

      Okay firstly this is going to be a lengthy post, so apologies for that, and secondly, there are obvious **SPOILERS** coming......Right then, I love Begins and TDK as much as the next film fan, and i wanted so much to love TDKR (maybe that was my problem for raising my expectations too high) but i just didn't. For me it was the weakest of the trilogy and the fact that the Avengers out-grossed a follow up to a $1bn film in TDK i think backs up that others thought the same too. I completely agree with you that Bane was the right choice of villain for this film and i thought hardy was immense in the role. There were some bits of dialogue that were hard to hear fully, but overall i didn't really have a problem with it (i've even got friends who think that he wasn't big enough and should be more like the comics - this is a bit ridiculous i think. The way he is portrayed in the film is pretty much as close as you could get without it becoming unbelievable). Likewise i thought Hathaway did a good, if not overtly memorable job as well (i don't think we'll be looking back on her performance the way we do with Pfeiffer's version from the 90's). My main problem is with what Nolan did with his main character, the centrepiece to the whole thing. I understand that this is Bruce Wayne's story, but it is a Batman movie, and Batman is only in it for about 30 minutes or so of a 160 minute film. As a comic fan(nerd) as well, the ending riled me. Yes, Nolan was saying that the Batman is a symbol, a legacy - but Bruce Wayne is Batman. Period. It's almost a slap in the face to the fans of the comics to say otherwise, just as much as Nolan pretty much shoe-horning in a 'Robin' reference in the hopes of appeasing the fanboys. Action wise as well i thought it fell short. Yes, the openeing plane sequence is impressive, i can't argue with that, But i've never thought Nolan was comfortable shooting action scenes and making them feel 'cinematic' (i'm not saying he can't do it, there are parts of Inception that are well crafted) - I've thought this since Begins and the way the fight scenes were always so jarred and frantic. I get that this was supposed to be the point, but the Bourne films showed you can have a well choregraphed fight scene that is chaotic and brutal. The thing with Alfred leaving as well - completely out of character. In TDK he is the one telling Bruce that Batman is the only one who can stand up to these type of villains , plus the little scene they have where he does tell Bruce he's going i thought went on too long. So, what do i wish Nolan had done differently? Well, Hardy's Bane, Hathaway's Kyle and even the reveal of Miranda Tate's identity i thought were all good and portrayed well. But John Blake - pointless. Gordon - not given enough to do. The ending. WHY WOULD WAYNE QUIT??? What i would have done would be to lose Blake and have Gordon do all the things his character did when Gotham was under lockdown. I would have had a 'Robin' in it as well. If Bruce has been out of the game for 8 years, i'd have had him have a young 'eyes on the street' kid who he'd been secretly training. Then Alfred finds out and that gives you his point of disagreement with Bruce (with Gordon as well maybe, seeing how Gordon has children himself). I'd still have Bane break Wayne's back in the same way, but include in the fight a bit where Bruce tries a move that is designed to disable an opponent, not kill them (the move has to somehow get you behind your target wither by flipping or spinning behind them, for reasons i'll say later) - it doesn't work on Bane who breaks Bat's back (after saying how evil he is and how wayne must be prepared to kill, etc,etc). He doesn't take Bruce to the un-guarded prison with the well thing though but just tosses him into the sewer or something, but Bruce somehow ends up back at the cave. Then everything else is pretty much the same - Bruce recovers, Bane makes the bomb. You could still have the story about the child who escaped the prison - maybe it's just something Bruce learns while recovering. Alfred helps him recover and comes to realise that Batman needs an ally on the street and consents to Robin taking up a costume. The same events unfold where the cops get freed and Batman returns. But i would change the ending........Batman and bane ending up fighting on the roof of some building (maybe Wayne towers?) and you still get the reveal from Talia and the fact she was the child in the prison (which i actually thought was done really well). Gordon is trying to get the bomb secured and Selina Kyle is helping, but they cannot get passed Bane's goons. Then Robin shows up (in his new crime-fighters costume) and helps them, saving Gordon's life in the process (making him realise that Robin is well trained enough to be out on the streets). They secure the bomb to the bat. Meanwhile Bane and Bats round 2 - they are equally matched, but Bane is edging it. Bane has been 'taliking s*it' to Bats throughout the fight and mentions something analagy about evil and 'the Darkness' (or something along those lines) but then Batman learns the bomb is secure and refers to something along the lines of 'not in darkness but in the light' then presses a button, the remote 'Bat' flies passed them, taking the bomb out to sea at high-speed. Batman uses that same move from before that gets him behind Bane (his back to where the bomb is being flown) when the bomb goes off in the distance. The flash is immense and it blinds Bane briefly, but as Batman's back is to it he is protected (there could even be a bit about how Bane saw a 'shadow' when he was in that prison and was looking out the well and he took it as a sign to follow and believed it as Rhas al Ghul...but the shadow batman casts makes him believe that Wayne is the one......or something. This would emulate what happens at the end of the Knightfall story and how Batman comes back and beats the man who replaced him when he broke his back)....Batman then proceeds to kick the cr*p out of Bane and beats him. Talia is on the ground when Gordon/Robin arrive. She laughs saying it's not over then talks into a Walkie. An explosion is heard in the distance. She tells them that she has had access to Wayne Tech for months and there was no end of people who wanted help....this is supposed to indicate that the other Bat villain's who people thought wouldn't fit in Nolan's universe now maybe have the chance to be. Gordon gets told by some other cops what the explosion was 'Its him, he's out' they say. Batman is beat-up and bloody. But he prepares to move out. He send Robin ahead. Gordon tells Bats he doesn't need to do this. Then there's a little speech similar to the end of TDK - a montage of the other characters in the film (Alfred accepting Batman and Robin's Roles, Selina Kyle....errr....you get the idea) then Batman steals the line from batman forever and says 'I'm not Batman because i have to be...but because i choose to be' or words to that effect. He then glides away. The cops say something to Gordon regarding the explosion - Gordon says 'i've got another unit on it'......Cut to across town. Someone in a long coat has broken into a store. his hands are covered in white paint. He has Greenish hair. He steps out into the street and sees somthing coming towards him. He holds is hands out in welcome. The camera zooms up and the shot ends same as Begins....with Batman swooping into the screen................The Dark Knight Rises.

      Alert a moderator

    • cc1129

      Dec 3rd 2012, 16:00

      Why so few extras?

      Alert a moderator

    • mosley909

      Dec 3rd 2012, 16:58

      personally i thought Avengers Assemble was a much better film. yes it was silly and arguably lacks weight so will never be deemed as 'cool', but it never takes itself to seriously and is a great watch. the dark night rises however is probably even sillyer and takes itself far to seriously, and the script felt like a first draft that they couldn't be bothered to rewrite, with enough plot holes to fill the albert hall.

      Alert a moderator

    • kassjawaid

      Dec 3rd 2012, 20:53

      I'm gonna by a xmas present for my dad who is a HUGE Batman Geek!... Is it better to buy the film, or the, as a pack, Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy?? And which version of the trilogy should I buy -> apparently there are different versions???? Thanks guys!!

      Alert a moderator

    • Senver

      Dec 3rd 2012, 21:52

      Things that need to be explained to me before I can accept a 5 or even 4 star rating for this film google the following "slash film 15 things that bother us about the dark knight rises" Simply too much plotholes and nonsense. I agree with mosley909. I think people really wanted this to be the epic it was supposed to be and it just isn't. Avengers was much better simple really.

      Alert a moderator

    • Firedragon76

      Dec 4th 2012, 9:59

      3

      Five stars?! I really liked the first two parts of the trilogy but TDKR was an unenjoyable mess.

      Alert a moderator

    • FBSHeldberg

      Dec 14th 2012, 5:07

      5

      Great review Kevin! The consequences of Mr. Wayne huh? I think Bane did a good job of pounding that in one of my favorite heroes. If I could have entered the theater movie screen and kicked that muscle mania fool, I would have. Evidently, I’m a gluten for punishment because I’m going for another round. My friend who also works with me a DISH also loves the caped crusader, especially with Christian Bale. She’s having a girl’s night tomorrow to see The Dark Knight Rises on Blu-ray, but I’m out of town helping my Mom who has some health problems. I have my laptop with me for work, so I can easily access DISH Online and rent The Dark Knight Rises. My Mom has a DISH Hopper, so I’ll still enjoy the movie with the gals, even though I’m away from home.

      Alert a moderator

    • ohdearohdear

      Dec 21st 2012, 0:19

      THIS illustrated review.

      Alert a moderator

    • ohdearohdear

      Dec 21st 2012, 0:20

      //graphicspoileralert.wordpress dot com/2012/08/19/the-dark-knight-rises/

      Alert a moderator

    • garyu2

      Jan 2nd 2013, 10:56

      2

      2 hours 40mins. I have watched it twice and I can still barely remember anything memorable about this movie. The opening Bane scene was good but not as good as Jokers heist. Its not terrible, its half-decent. 5 stars?? CLASSIC!? I think the reviewers are still suffering from Bat-Fever (remember Phantom Menace getting 4 stars on release?). Bane, to me, just feels like a good henchman rather than the main villain. Again, he was good, probably the best thing in the film but hardly one of the great all time villains. His fights with Batman were abit.. meh... and he died like a b***h. I watched the movie with 2 people and both asked at the very end... "so, where's Bane?"....I replied "He died, Catwoman shot him remember?"....... "Oh...yeah, is that him dead!?". Batman Begins was tremendous. Dark Knight (thanks to the Joker only) was very good and this one was OK. You can see the series slide into mediocrity in the last hour of Dark Knight (the 5min Two-Face thing, the whole mess on the ferries....wtf?) and it never recovers.

      Alert a moderator

Most Popular