Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Matthew Modine

Rating:   Running Time: 164 mins.

As the movie opens, we are introduced to the mysterious mask wearing villain Bane (Tom Hardy), who stages his own capture in order to kidnap a leading nuclear physicist from the hands of the CIA. Meanwhile, Gotham City celebrates Harvey Dent day. Eight years after his death and the events of The Dark Knight which inspired the creation of The Dent Act, an act that helped the police rid the city of the mob and as a result caused the Batman, still believed by the public to be a murderer and Dent’s killer, to hang up his cape. After all this time, police commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) still struggles with the knowledge that this was not the case, and plans to come clean at the ceremony on the grounds of Wayne manor in his speech but decides against it, citing that the city is not ready.

Disguised as a member of the staff at the same ceremony, cat-burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) breaks into the isolated east wing of the manor, discovered by the now recluse Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), who uncovers her theft of his mother’s pearl necklace, she escapes the manor, leaving him a puzzling question of why when breaking into his safe she also used printing powder to obtain a copy of his fingerprints. When Gordon is wounded after encountering Bane and his men in the sewers, he’s rescued by patrolman rookie John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who visits Wayne and admits, as an orphaned child himself he’s figured out Batman’s identity, and advises Wayne of Gordon’s discovery of Bane and an army in the sewers. Wayne, against the advice of his butler and confidant Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) considers coming out of retirement as Batman.

In an effort to avoid spoilers, that plot description only sets up the opening 20-25 minutes of the movie’s 2 hours and 44 minutes running time, as there’s a great deal of plotting and story in the movie that makes for not only a satisfying and compelling almost 3 hours, but a phenomenally entertaining conclusion to Nolan’s Batman trilogy. The movie has a near perfect balance between action and drama, with a rare focus on character development long before it begins to kick into gear with it’s numerous action set-pieces – it’s at least 30 minutes before we see Bale as Batman, and if anything it makes for a more satisfying pay off once we do. The movie also manages to blend back and forth seamlessly between the two without things feeling like the movie has jumped a gear or two, a rare thing for any action movie nowadays.

The entirety of the cast give solid performances, not one of them disappoints. I have to admit I was uncertain about Anne Hathaway’s casting as Selina Kyle/Catwoman after Michelle Pfiefer’s performance in the role in Tim Burton’s version, but she’s perfectly cast in the role. This Catwoman is a different kind of character to that one, focusing more on the cat-burglar side and it’s a wise decision on the part of writer/director Christopher Nolan and writers Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer. Tom Hardy is genuinely threatening as Bane, though he appears somewhat weak as the movie’s antagonist, there is a depth to his character that is revealed later in the movie which makes for a much more interesting character than appears at first glance.

Christian Bale gets a lot more to do this time around, closer in scale to what he had in Batman Begins than his lacking and overshadowed role in The Dark Knight, and Gary Oldman is excellent as ever as Jim Gordon, who from his first appearance on screen shows the inner turmoil and struggle he feels at keeping secret the truth about Harvey Dent from the public so that something good came out of it, but stand out of the cast for me was Michael Caine as Wayne’s butler and friend Alfred. His pain over not being able to help Bruce put Batman behind him and live a perfectly normal life comes through from such a strong and heartfelt performance. During one confrontation between him and Bruce, he admits that he wished Bruce had never come back to Gotham after his disappearance all those years ago, that he had remained out in the world somewhere he could get past the death of his parents and raise a family. The scene is Oscar worthy, and almost brings you to tears – it’s that good.

There are plenty of subtle references back to Begins and Dark Knight, be it shown visually or just as a reference in a line of dialogue, you don’t need to have seen the previous movies to enjoy this, but you really should as you will find it much more emotionally involving and find additional depth from these moments. There’s also some great cameos in the movie referencing past events, and these elicited gasps of excitement upon their appearance from the audience. Hans Zimmer is back composing the score himself this time without co-composer James Newton Howard with who he worked on the first two movies. While he does use the themes established, and does create a new sound for the character of Bane, it’s unfortunate that his score uses and slightly lazily re-uses the exact same cues from the previous movies, would have been nice to see a little more elaboration on those themes already existing. Nevertheless it’s a rousing score that suits the movie and works, it just could have gone that little bit further.

Christopher Nolan has done a wonderful thing with this movie, nay… with this trilogy. Consistently entertaining to the end. See this in Imax if possible, the journey and the experience is just breathtaking as is the photography by cinematographer Wally Pfister, who deserves an oscar nomination for such an on screen vista. The only sadness comes from knowing that Nolan is done with the story and will not be returning for another.


Posted on July 21, 2012, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. personally i think Joseph Gordon-Levitt was the stand out actor for me as i thought he was brilliant.
    One thing i didn’t like was the fact that Gotham looked too much like your standard american city, i also found it amazing that when wayne supposedly had those back troubles yet it healed perfectly really quickly.
    I know these are just little thing this but this prevented me making this a 5* film and only a 4* film

  2. I really enjoyed Michael Caine’s work in this film more than the others, so good call-out on that. I saw the film in IMAX as well and it was well worth the price. The spectacle was incredible. That CIA plane prologue scene is a WOW on a big screen and the pulsating score blasting through those speakers is icing on the cake.

    The end of this reboot is bittersweet. It was a great trilogy, but this will allow Nolan to concentrate on fresh original material now. He’s done a few pretty incredible non-Batman related films, no?

    • True, but i just dread whoever Warner Bros get in to make the inevitable spin-off movie series that you know they’re going to want made because this franchise has made them a tonne of money. No one will top Nolan’s work.

  3. i think the only person who has the chance to make a really good spin off film is Joss Wheadon

    • No, not who i would want, i love what he did in Avengers but totally the wrong tone for this franchise, this franchise has gone beyond a comic book movie now, i’de love to see him on as a writer if both Christopher and Jonathan Nolan (and David S. Goyer to a lesser extent) don’t come back for another, but i wouldn’t like to see him direct.

  4. ok mr brains find somebody better than Whedaon who you think would be able to handle a film like this.

    It doesn’t matter if his last film was a superhero movie and the tones between the avengers and batman is different that doesn’t mean he might not be the correct person for the job, who would of thought that Nolan would of been the correct person for the batman films yet he has done a really good job.
    You can’t just gone on a directors last film that is silly and stupid

    • I’m not saying that based on his last movie, i’m saying that based on his work on Buffy the vampire slayer, firefly/serenity, and Dolllhouse as well as The Avengers. Whedon has already established himself as someone faithful to the comics but the Marvel look. The DC look is much more pastel, more faded and rougher. I just don’t think he could do a dark enough movie to keep with the tone already established and it would come off as goofy.

      It would also have to be someone who really has a sort of arthouse feel to the way they shot too, as that was what was unique about Nolan’s Batman movies. Someone like my personal favourite David Fincher would be great, but that will never happen. Would love to see someone like Alex Proyas, Darren aranofsky (now he’s free from The Wolverine) or maybe Kathryn Bigelow take the reigns. Would have to be someone who could get invested in the movie for 2 more or another trilogy of movies.

  5. I saw on Mark Hobin’s blog that you saw this (twice) in IMAX. Just curious: how much does a single IMAX ticket cost?

  6. IMAX tickets cost different prices depending on IMAX cinema that’s close to me they cost £12.10 and for the IMAX at the BFI in london it cost £15.20.
    So it just all depends on where you live

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