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The Dark Knight Rises | reviews, news & interviews

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan rounds off his Batman trilogy in muscular, mesmerising style

Cat-suited and booted: Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle in 'The Dark Knight Rises'

2012 has so far brought us a couple of notable surprises from the oft-maligned world of comic book adaptations: first came Joss Whedon’s Avengers Assemble with its boisterous banter and then there was depth and pathos from Andrew Garfield in the title role of Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man. With its key competitors faring well both critically and commercially, what of Christopher Nolan’s Caped Crusader?

We last saw “the Batman” (as they insist on describing him) in 2008’s The Dark Knight taking the rap for the dastardly deeds of fallen hero Harvey Dent - providing Gotham with the martyr it needed and branding Batman a villain in the process. The Dark Knight Rises represents Nolan and Christian Bale's third and final Batman collaboration (their first was 2005’s Batman Begins) and it’s a formidable finale.

Four years may have passed since the last picture but eight years have elapsed in the Batman universe. Gotham exists peacefully in the shadow of Dent - its false, two-faced, idol. And, after introducing harsh measures in his name, its police force boast of a city free from organised crime. Batman has retired – a wanted man - and his alter-ego Bruce Wayne (Bale pictured above right) is a grieving and physically ravaged recluse.

Wayne’s self-pitying solitude comes under threat however with the emergence of the mysteriously masked Bane (an enormous Tom Hardy, giving it a bit of Bronson, pictured below left), Gotham’s self-described “reckoning”, who is building an underground army for a purpose unknown. This is uncovered by rookie cop and “batfan” John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and another friend-o-Batman, Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman). Encounters with a cat burglar with underworld connections, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), and an ethical businesswoman, Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard, pictured overleaf), add further complications.

The opening of the second film recalled Michael Mann’s heist thriller Heat and here Nolan casts Ben Mendelsohn of Animal Kingdom fame as a white-collar villain up to his neck in shit. His presence is another reminder that Nolan’s vision of Batman has more in common with more muscular “adult” action films and thrillers than with other comic-book movies. Also, as we’ve come to expect from Nolan (who again co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Jonathan), The Dark Knight Rises shows smarts above its multi-million dollar, crowd-pleasing station.

There’s a stock exchange heist, thrillingly enacted by cleaners and shoe-shiners under the leadership of Bane. When a suited schmuck tells Bane that he’ll find no money to steal he replies scathingly, “Really, then why are you people here?” There are nods to barbaric anti-terror measures, to occupation, to the danger of blind obedience and the power of fear, there’s a distinct lack of faith in the American government and even a conversation about the correct pronunciation of Ibiza. The Dark Knight Rises succeeds because it’s rooted in real-world experiences and fears and because it presents gut-churning action which suggests a sparing use of CGI.

 

The film’s widely seen trailers show the devastation of an American football stadium, but this is merely a platform for a larger, more chilling reveal. In David Fincher’s masterful Seven, the serial killer John Doe comments, “Wanting people to listen, you can't just tap them on the shoulder any more. You have to hit them with a sledgehammer, and then you'll notice you've got their strict attention.” Bane certainly subscribes to this school of maniacal thought.

Whereas Joker was fiercely expressive, Bane is of course muzzled and so his power is in his almost (but not quite) preposterous physicality. Given the colossal constraints Hardy acquits himself well, not least in his booming voicework. As Batman's feline foe (or should that be friend?), Anne Hathaway is a magnificent minx: she’s sultry and sly, a capable, graceful fighter and beautifully sad. The comprehensively classy cast is filled out by returning cast members Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, along with support from Matthew Modine, Aidan Gillen, Juno Temple and Tom Conti (yes that’s Tom Conti).

With ruthlessly efficient plotting - even the incorporation of what sounds like the haka into the score has a revealed relevance - The Dark Knight Rises picks up as many threads from the first film as from the second and ties itself up in a neat little bow, forming a trilogy proper. It could have done without the 12A rating clipping its claws but, while other blockbuster franchises may have undeniably upped their game this year, The Dark Knight Rises shows that once again, when it comes to big-budget spectacle, Nolan isn’t just in a league of his own: he makes all the other players look like amateurs. 

Watch the trailer for The Dark Knight Rises


The Dark Knight Rises succeeds because it’s rooted in real-world experiences and fears

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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