Friday, 20 July 2012

Review: The Dark Knight Rises

First I must be clear: what follows is a review which will hold no punches back spoilers wise. If you have yet to see the end of the Dark Knight trilogy, and do not want to read anything before you go into Dark Knight Rises, then stop reading right now. You have been warned.

It was always going to be a difficult third act for Christopher Nolan to create. With a near perfect first two installments to Nolan’s Batman trilogy, he had a lot to live up to. My oh my did he deliver on that and so much more.

Starting out eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne has turned recluse, hanging up the cape and mask for good, while Commissioner Gordon has managed to clean up the streets of Gotham in Harvey Dent’s name.

Before long though the mysterious Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway presenting a near definitive version of the character) informs Bruce - and the audience watching - that “there’s a storm coming”.

That storm comes in the form of the frankly terrifying Bane. Introduced here as an agent of Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Shadows, its nice to see the trilogy tie up the loose ends that we’ve seen come through from the first film, while moving the story forward as Bane makes good on the Leagues promises, and we see the fall of Gotham and particularly of Bruce Wayne himself.

There are sequences in the film which probably struggle to stay below the 12A rating, as the audience is forced to come to terms with the mortality and vulnerability of their hero, outmatched physically and mentally by a man even he must accept is his superior in every way.

The film’s emotional heart though is found through Michael Caine’s Alfred. Always an important part of the trilogy in a comedic sense, it feels like Nolan really moved the character forward here. It is him who gets many of the most poignant lines as he begs Bruce to simply give in, telling him simply that he “won’t bury you.” and that “he has already buried too many members of the Wayne family”. Your heart breaks as he speaks, and you literally feel yourself getting angry with Bruce as he ignores his oldest friend.

On Bane himself, there had been alot of talk before the release of the film about Bane's voice - especially following the prologue to the film which was shown in cinemas last year. Thankfully the vocal track has been completely redubbed since then, meaning thankfully that the voice was completely understandable (if a little raspy) throughout. Thomas Hardy's huge dominating figure is something audiences will come away talking about having seen the film, and while he is not as big as the character in the comics (like everything in the Nolan universe he is at least to some extent grounded in reality) he still towers over his fellow screen presences, and you truly feel a sense of dread whenever he is on screen.

The action sequences have all been ramped up from the previous installments too. Following the terrific lorry chase in The Dark Knight, there are several superb scenes in this - most notably a sequence in which about 100 police cars chase the caped crusader on the batbike (who in turn is chaisng Bane and his cronies), as they race across the streets of Gotham.

It feels like Nolan looked back at everything which had worked in the previous installments - a villain worthy of a superhero movie from the maniacal point of view, while still being firmly grounded in reality, a witty and fast moving script, and a concentration on the true angst and suffering of the hero. This Batman (and it has been alluded to in the previous films) is only a man, and you truly find yourself believing he could die at any moment - especially as this is the final act of the trilogy.

The supporting cast are great, as ever - from the appearance of Cillian Murphy’s psychotic Dr Crane as a judge in the kangaroo court Bane has setup to be judge jury and executioner, to the ever watchable Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox, everyone is superb.

New comer to the franchise Marion Cotillard too does a fantastic job as Talia Al Ghul. While perhaps not the best kept secret - indeed I think just about everyone who announced her casting the movie originally attributed the role to her - the twist ending surrounding Cotillard’s true identity in the film was remarkably well handled, coming at a moment of true power in the film, and to say there was audible gasps in the cinema I was in when the revelation finally came through would not be an exaggeration

The film is as close to perfect as anyone could honestly hope for, making good on the promises of the franchise, and improving across the board to produce that most wonderful of things: a trilogy ender that is not just as good but better than what came before. I cannot wait to see it again, as I know there will be things I missed the first time around, but to be clear, this is the best movie this year to date. Not the best superhero movie, not the best blockbuster, THE BEST MOVIE. PERIOD.

Footnote: It was awesome to see Nottingham's Wollaton Hall double as the newly rebuilt Wayne Manor. Seeing my town on the big screen like that was mental :D


  1. Good review James. Yeah, Bane’s no Joker, but then again, what villain really is?!? Hardy is great as Bane, and plays up his physical intimidation, as well as his intellectual one as well. However, everybody else is great here too and gave me the performances I need to hold onto when everything was all sadly said and done.

  2. Very well put together. I watched the Dark knight movie marathon at my local theater. I watched Batman Begins then The Dark Knight and then the midnight show of The Dark Knight Rises. After watching all 3 movies. The 2nd movie with the joke is my favorite. I thought the new Dark Knight Rises had some flow issues. I felt it was too long in places and took too long to tell the story. Did we really need see to see Bruce in front of the fire and training in the jail? I thought there was too much Bruce Wayne and not enough Batman. Bane was good. The story was long but well told. Overall I say it was good but not great. Cut it to 2 hours and it would be much better.

  3. Great review and love your logo combining all 3 movies.

    I agree with you about this being an fitting end to the trilogy.

    Check out my review .