Well, this is it. The Christopher Nolan run of Batman films has reached its climax. Batman Begins started the ride with a grand retelling of the caped crusader’s origins. Next we were treated to the ultimate battle of wits with The Joker as portrayed by the late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. Now The Dark Knight Rises brings in Bane, a man with a plan to become Gotham City’s reckoning and dispose of Batman once and for all in the process.
NOTE: This review will be as spoiler free as possible.
The movie takes place 8 years after the events in The Dark Knight. Gotham City is in a “peace time” thanks to the efforts of Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and the rest of the GCPD eradicating all organized crime. In light of being labeled a fugitive and killer, Batman has been retired and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) isolates himself up in his manor along with his butler and long time friend Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine).
As strange as this may sound, The Dark Knight Rises is more a story that centers around Bruce Wayne and Officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) rather than Batman. Tonally, it takes after Batman Begins a lot more than it does The Dark Knight but with the stakes raised miles above the previous films.
Comic book fans may recognize borrowed elements from story arcs like “Knightfall” and “No Man’s Land”. It is written exceptionally well which is none too surprising coming from the minds of the Nolan brothers. The way that it starts out can feel a tad convoluted at first especially with the introduction of a number of new characters but really picks up steam as the movie continues. As Alfred says, “It takes a little time to get back in the swing of things.”
The Dark Knight Rises does a lot of things very well. This includes the performances particularly from newcomer Anne Hathaway who portrays the sexy and capable Selina Kyle AKA Catwoman. I was admittedly among the skeptics at first over the decision to cast her but, of course, she ends up stealing the show! Hathaway’s Catwoman is shown more than able to handle herself with a combination of combat skills and flirtatious charm. The fact she was able to balance that tightrope of keeping the character true to form with morality colored in shades of grey is truly impressive.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt also gave a great performance as Officer Blake. The character is shown to be idealistic but smart who even Commissioner Gordon and Batman learn to respect. His accent is hard to pinpoint which I suppose works well for the fictional Gotham City. It’s almost like if a New Yorker and Chicagoan had a bastard son.
Not to be outclassed, Michael Caine gives what is undoubtedly his best performance as Alfred. You can tell this man has serious acting chops with the range of emotions that is required of him this time around. There is a scene with Bruce where Alfred reveals something to him that stands out as a prime example of Caine’s amazing job in this role.
I will give props to Tom Hardy playing as the evil and intimidating Bane. The physical acting was all there to make his character a terrifying force. That voice, however, unfortunately kills it. Whoever mixed the Bane voice made him sound like some kind of German mad scientist that crossed into the Victorian era. It’s borderline silly and takes some of the seriousness away from his character. Listening to a conversation between Bane and Batman can make you wish there were subtitles.
The special effects are definitely kicked up to another level this time around. This is especially shown during the second half of the film where we get to see Gotham City turned into the proverbial “Hell on Earth”. Explosions are amazing to look at as well as Batman’s sweet rides that includes the BatPod motorcycle and The Bat, a plane/jet/helicopter hybrid.
If there’s one thing that is consistently amazing in the Christopher Nolan Batman films, it’s the music. Hans Zimmer returns with his outstanding knack for making booming and epic soundtracks. There’s a great buildup to the music thanks in large part to the increasingly louder sound of chanting coupled with the iconic Batman theme that has been consistently great throughout the trilogy.
Does The Dark Knight Rises live up to the hype? For the most part, I would say yes. No one does Batman as dark and gripping as Nolan has for the past few years now. My personal pick of the trilogy would still have to go to The Dark Knight for having a tighter plot as well as the fact Heath Ledger‘s Joker was simply more engaging than Tom Hardy‘s Bane. This movie busts out the fireworks to end this run with a bang and in the process becomes a tad bit muddled for it.
The character of Miranda Tate and the twist related to her could have probably been cut out for the sake of making the plot less convoluted. It didn’t do Bane’s character any favors either since he is given so much screen time and portrayed as such a diabolical madman throughout the film only to have him unraveled a little awkwardly in the end.
These are “nitpicky” complaints at best, however, and doesn’t detract much from the movie as a whole. This is a solid film that you will enjoy whether you’re a Batman fan or just an average moviegoer.
The Dark Knight Rises receives 4 Death Rays out of 5.