Moviefy Review of The Dark Knight Rises
After the bat-nipples debacle of 1997, Batman Begins brought the character back into a dark territory putting him in a slightly heightened reality in which Nolan was able to tell a story about a man who goes to extreme measures to fight the evil that stole the life he had as a child.
Now that story is coming to a close with the dangerous task of not only following the highly acclaimed The Dark Knight, but giving the trilogy the ending it deserves, and in both cases it mostly succeeds.
In what may seem as a controversial move, the film takes place eight years after the events of The Dark Knight. Gotham has apparently become a safer place to live thanks to the Dent Act that forced criminals and mob leaders to remain in prison.
Like its predecessor, The Dark Knight Rises begins with a grand and action packed prologue where we are introduced to the main villain of the piece in the middle of a high altitude heist. There we meet Bane who, as played by Tom Hardy, is a very different rival for Batman than either Ra's Al Ghul or the Joker were.
Bane is a dangerous and formidable foe, whose strength is clearly matched by its intelligence and cold hand. The mask he uses to alleviate his pain also creates a more frightening character enhanced by his distorted voice and he has no issues on dispatching any of his men when they fail him.
Following the Joker as the main villain is certainly intimidating but Hardy gives his everything and, despite wearing a mask the whole time, he still is is able to convey powerful emotions through his eyes and body language.
Selina Kyle, portrayed by Anne Hathaway, on the other hand is a mischievous and unpredictable girl who is as likely to act as an ally for Batman as she is to stab him in the back. Despite my early fears that Hathaway wouldn't be up to the task, she clearly makes the character her own with a touch of both playfulness and sex appeal. Selina is someone that wants to start a new life leaving behind whatever mistakes she's done in the past.
The actions of these two characters will directly and indirectly lead Bruce Wayne, a broken man both physically and spiritually to get back on the suit.
The consequences of the night Harvey Dent died and the events leading to that, specially the death of the woman he loved, had had a deep effect on Bruce pushing him to slowly disappear from the public eye to the point where, in the words of Alfred, he's not living but simply existing.
When Bruce gets into the suit is when he comes back to life a little, the cape and cowl giving him a reason to go out of the solitude of his mansion. Little does he know that he is totally unprepared to fight the evil that has begun to cast a shadow over Gotham.
Christian Bale goes one step beyond in his performance on this film bringing a real sense of weight to his story. Never have we seen this character in such a vulnerable state. His fall into pain, despair and anger, and the eventual rise above all that makes it even more clear that this is not a story about a super hero, but a real man who sees turning into a masked vigilante as his only option.
But Bruce is not the only one that is suffering the consequences of his actions.
Commissioner James Gordon is living in remorse of having built a lie to protect the image of Harvey Dent to the public and keep the criminals they sent out to prison in there. He, like Bruce, has become a lonely man always in the fear that the pack of cards that are holding Gotham's apparent peace is
about to fall.
But if the return of the Dark Knight is something Gordon, and Gotham need, it's also something Alfred Pennyworth cannot stand.
As a surrogate father figure to Bruce he worries about his fate, and the fact that he never found or even searched for a life beyond Batman is something that hurts him deeply. Alfred not only fears that Bruce would not to be up to confront the storm that is coming, but also that he wants to fail.
In a touching scene Alfred reveals the life he envisioned for the man he helped rise, and the knowing that he would only encounter pain in Gotham.
Gary Oldman and Michael Caine keep giving strong performances with both their characters as allies of both sides of Bruce's persona and make his story even more compelling by pushing him in different directions.
On a lighter side is Lucius Fox, a character given gravitas thanks to Morgan Freeman, who as always acts as the supplier for Bruce's equipment all the while never fully acknowledging he knows the truth behind Batman.
A new ally in the fight against crime comes in the form of John Blake, a dedicated cop played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who shows great investigative instincts and who can feel that something is not entirely right about the apparent calm in Gotham. The actor brings his usual charm and likability which also benefits from a very well written character.
Sadly the same could not be said for another newcomer. Marion Cotillard is Miranda Tate, a business partner and love interest for Bruce, which,although well played by the actress, comes off a little underdeveloped, specially given the importance she has to the story.
But in the midst of mostly strong characters and performances in both central and supporting roles, is Juno Temple the one who gets the shorter end of the stroke. If Miranda Tate is not that well developed, Juno's character, Jen, a friend of Selina comes off as someone completely unnecessary to the overall story, with the further evidence that she disappears completely from the film.
Among the supporting cast the highlight is Matthew Modine as Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley, a by-the-book law enforcer who finds many times at odds with both Gordon and Blake. Finally both Ben Mendelson as Bruce's business rival John Daggett and Burn Gorman as his assistant Stryver make their characters totally hateful.
Being the end to the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises takes the scale of mass destruction and chaos even further than the previous film. The stakes have never been higher both for Gotham and for Bruce. Like the previous installment, the fate of every character is in constant doubt which does great to create a sense of doom over the whole piece and give the action even
And the action sequences on this film are certainly the very definition of epic in both grandeur and impact, given how much we have come to know and care about this characters and the grounded, relatable world they inhabit.
The war in the streets of Gotham, the chase sequences, the sight of Batman being chased by what it seems the whole Gotham police, Selina riding the Bat-pod and the appearance of the Bat, Batman's new flying vehicle, all make for spectacular eye-candy.
But as usual with the Nolan films, there more than just visual candy at work here.
Drawing inspiration from the Batman story lines "Knightfall," "No Man's Land" and "The Dark Knight Returns," and also Charles Dickens "A Tale of Two Cities", the film also brings on board the elements of a war film in addition to touch on such themes as fear and revolution, the conflict between the wealthy and the lower classes with a society that brings itself apart, the consequences of building things around a lie and redemption.
Once again the cinematography by Wally Pfister helps to create a realistic and beautiful Gotham, even in the midst of the chaos. The air shots of the city at night, as well as the empty streets covered in snow are among the best sights in the whole trilogy.
Key to the storytelling technics of Christopher Nolan and his cinematographer have always been the editing and the music, both of which always come hand in hand to tie in story lines, characters point of view and actions.
The score, this time with Hans Zimmer going solo as the composer, is a key element to the world of the Dark Knight. Constructing upon the music of the previous films with a couple of key new themes for Bane and Selina and variations on the Bruce theme and action cues, the music may lack the heart that James Newton Howard brought before, but it certainly has a muscle. The few moments of silence in the film, such as the first Batman and Bane fight, only make the score more powerful once it comes back.
Despite some minor issues such as an anti-climatic twist, some poorly executed expository dialogue, some under developed characters and the way a key scene seems tucked in during the final montage, by the end of The Dark Knight Rises we are witnesses of a character's journey coming to a satisfying close.
If you see this trilogy as the story of a man and the symbol he created to fight crime, instead of simply a comic book hero, you'll find out this is a very fitting and rewarding ending to one of the greatest series to ever be put on film.
It doesn't top The Dark Knight which, let's face it, is nearly pure perfection, but it is a truly worthy follow up and while it might not be the ending the trilogy needed, it is certainly the one it deserves.