So because The Dark Knight is my favourite film, alongside Drive, I wanted to state that The Dark Knight Rises concludes a trilogy more epic then The Lord of the Rings, more complete then The Godfather’s, and reinvents its genre more than the original Star Wars. But I can’t. Once I came out from the 5 am showing on the first day, I was depressed and annoyed with Christopher Nolan, for reasons we’ll go into later. But after seeing it twice and after a lot of reflection, TDKR and its predecessors are most definitely epic, ninety-nine percent complete, and most abundantly reinvents the comic book genre.
However there are problems with TDKR. After an hour and half of pure excellence from Nolan the film turned into a bit of a mess for half an hour. There were no scenes, just a montage of what was going on in the film. Which seemed a lot, but at the same time not a lot at all. Which drew me back from the film. Gotham was set in New York and you could tell as it felt like a bleak version of the big apple rather than Gotham, which is probably because New York is more iconic than Chicago (where Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are mainly set). I understand why Nolan used it as it worked well as a post apocalyptic, rioting, broken down Gotham, while Chicago worked as the realistic Gotham used in The Dark Knight, and the many uses of setting and physical sets created the gothic feel that Batman Begins had. But with TDKR there is a sense of not knowing where you are when it comes to the setting. This is deliberate, to make Gotham isolated but even in the city the settings have a disconnection. As for the plot I felt that (without being a spoiler) there was something very easy about the crux of the story line and made part of the ending predictable. For people who have watched the film, it’s what Bane announces to the world on the football pitch. For the tricks, twists and psychological brain banging that Nolan is a genius at, it seemed to be a very standard comic book movie disequilibrium, even though it is done with class and sophistication rather then over egging it. Finally, I know that this is still a comic book movie but there was a big problem of continuity, without going into to much detail, how does Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) get back into Gotham? And how does he get from the Pitt to Gotham? Food for thought.
After watching the film again I did conversely not have too much of a problem with any of the above, they were more preferences rather than actual problems. But there is one preference that I can’t and most likely wont get over. This could be a massive spoiler so I will go into little detail. Bane (Tom Hardy) who is by far the best thing about the film is incredible, just like the comics he is top dog, most intelligent, most powerful, most superior but at the end of the film all of this is undermined, which ruins all these traits he has and a slight sense of the character of Bane in Batman and Robin comes back. I could let go of this if there was an extra sub-plot to the thirty seconds that ruined the movie, but there wasn’t. And this unfortunately is the one percent missing to the completeness of the film. But as everyone else seems to have liked the twist I feel like I am in a one percent minority, which I’m oddly happy about, as I want the film to succeed. Apart from this disappointment the character of Bane is one of the best cinematic experiences. Tom Hardy is immaculate; no other person could have played this character. Hardy is able to show rage, belief, confidence, authority, power, love and shock through his magnetic eyes, his physical presence is frightening and his intelligence and manner is breathtaking. Nolan’s physical look on the character is just right for his modern day realistic Batman franchise, as his presence is truly terrifying. There’s been a lot of debate on his voice but by my diagnosis it’s brilliant. Momentous yet electric yet suave.
All of the Nolan’s Batman villains are alter egos of the cape crusader; whether doing good turns into destruction or if destruction can become good, and whether Batman can find the balance of doing good making good. This idea shown through Ra’s Al Ghul’s (Liam Neeson) and Scarecrow’s (Cillian Murphy) yearn to bring Gotham down to rebuild, to the Joker’s (Heath Ledger) anarchy and breaking all that is good about Gotham; Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). And once again Nolan has created Bane in the same manner, like Ra’s Al Ghul, he wants Gotham to burn and the idea of good becoming evil is very much evident through (again no spoiler) Wayne Enterprises’ clean energy project. There will be much speculation whether Bane lives up to the Joker, personally Heath Ledger’s performance is the best I’ve accounted and the Joker is my favourite cinematic character but Bane is just as good. He will never be as successful because he’s not as materialistic but he has quotes that I cant quite get out of my head. The Joker will always be more memorable, partly because of the late Heath Ledger, but because The Dark Knight was the Joker’s film; he was the main character and the plot revolved around him. However TDKR doesn’t focus on Bane as much. Nor does it focus particularly on anyone. And I’ve liked this about “Nolansverse” and his Batman trilogy - he looks at a lot of different characters and you can’t quite make out who’s actually the main protagonist. But with TDKR I feel some characters are therefore undeveloped. I felt that after the first hour and half some characters just disappeared, most prominently Bane, Alfred (Michael Caine) and Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), who was delightful as Catwoman, she had the slinky, provocative charm of the comics but she fitted into Nolan’s Gotham purrrfectly. Sorry. The only character that I felt was developed throughout was John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levett) and as a character he was very fitting with Nolan’s ideologies, and Gordon-Levett’s performance was spot on too - but the character ended up becoming the main character when he should only have been a supporting cast member. As a whole the acting was of a very high standard. As Mentioned Hardy, Hathaway and Gordon-Levett were at their very best, and so too was Bale, who in The Dark Knight was the only character not to be developed. Bale was able to reincorporate the psychopathic Bruce Wayne of Batman Begins and turned him to a guilt stricken, fragile minded, recluse and an aging, weak, broken Batman who was best described by Bane when he said ‘ Victory has defeated you’. The rest of the supporting cast were very good too, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman picked up where they left off, and so were the newcomers Marion Cotillard playing Bruce’s love interest Miranda Tate, and Matthew Modine playing Foley, a policeman who represents Gotham’s resentment for Batman. As for people who are impressed by The Avengers cast the TDKR makes them look like a bunch of local theatre pantomime performers.
The first hour and a half was truly sublime, as good as any part of The Dark Knight; tense, jaw dropping, thrilling with a jet-black purity. Most prominently the open sequence, set on a plane, introducing Bane and showing his abilities straight away; strength, strategy, and clout. Although it took some time, which is commendable to Nolan, Batman’s first arrival was a real treat, with cop cars in legions like the Roman army, chasing after him. Plus Batman and Banes’ first fight really showed Banes physical abilities compared to Wayne’s frail body. Hans Zimmer’s music was once again a real master class making the tension and adding grandeur, but in this battle between the nemesis’s it was the use of no music that really made this scene very sincere and really brought Batman down to ground. One of the film’s successes was the cinematography. Wally Pfister, one of the best cinematographer’s around, has arguably done his best work on the film, its really beautiful yet hard and bleak. The mise-en-scene is very rich too; a set piece set in a courtroom, where the criminals ruled, epitomised the French revolution ideologies that ran throughout the film; (Slight spoiler) With a familiar face on top of a mountain of furniture and books, being the judge of Gotham’s civilians while being the criminal’s representative. What also stood out in this scene was Bane as he stood in the corner watching on as the anarchy in Gotham went on, representing his role in the comics, where he watches Batman weaken chasing after the Arkham inmates antics, once Bane released them.
The Nolan brothers have created another script full of ideologies, metaphorical language, and classy quotes to keep in line with their previous work and to carry on any loose ends from the previous Batman films. Commendably the transition between the end of The Dark Knight and the beginning of TDKR is very realistic and doesn’t rush nor lose any of The Dark Knight’s themes for some new ones. TDKR keeps the qualities of the first two films; it still feels like an art house film with a huge budget, it’s a clever, dark, mature film open for a mainstream audience, and it has a strong sense of physicality with as little CGI as possible. However I have one drawback of the latter, as The Bat (Batman’s flying machine) looks flimsy but I applaud Nolan for creating it for real and flying it around the city of New York. And Nolan’s auteur traits are forever in use; grand scale, full on impact, and forever playing with the audience’s mind are right at the forefront of the movie. The ending (with no spoilers) again represents the French revolutionary references, it has real ferocity, and is on a very high level of refined action without making it ridiculous. Bar thirty seconds that I didn’t like, which I’ve gone through, the ending was a fitting end to the Batman trilogy.
TDKR does have problems with it, neither is it as complete as The Dark Knight but this film is still a must watch masterpiece, it had me in many emotions; gasped, shocked, laughs, wet eyes, and many breath taking moments. Along with its siblings TDKR is greater than any other comic book movie, the best I’ve seen this year and I keep wanting to watch it.
It’s probably a 10/10 but because of my first impression depression it has to be an 8/10