Bruised and battered – The Dark Knight Rises review

The Dark Knight Rises ­– Starring Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, and Anne Hathaway. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Rated M. By Simon Miraudo.

It’s probably redundant to mention that the final instalment of Christopher Nolan‘s Batman trilogy is epic in scope and ambition, considering a Christ allegory is right there in the title. But The Dark Knight Rises is a gargantuan achievement, making its predecessors look like mumblecore movies in comparison. Though, perhaps that designation is more appropriate for this entry in the series, where Tom Hardy‘s Bane cheerfully and flamboyantly garbles threats through his Darth Vader-esque mouthpiece in a South American (by way of East London) accent. It’s the latest in a long line of beautiful, weird, inspired choices from this franchise, and I’m saddened to think we won’t be gifted with more anytime soon.

That being said, The Dark Knight Rises works as a conclusion, and less as a standalone feature. Many of the crumbs first littered in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are picked up here, and they bring great satisfaction, but the socioeconomic satire and references to political upheaval will seem to come from nowhere to anyone not familiar with the early films, or the comics upon which this is based. Then again, we get to see Batman flying around Gotham in a Batplane, and it’s hard not to be ecstatically pleased with little victories like that.

Christian Bale, often overshadowed by the show-stealing rogues gallery, rightfully earns his star status as Bruce Wayne here. Eight years have passed since the events of The Dark Knight, and he’s shut himself off from Gotham, hobbling around his manor with a gammy leg. Eternally-loyal butler Alfred (Michael Caine) encourages him to return to the world of the living, though a run-in with saucy cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway, a surprisingly perfect fit) and the impending threat of the terrorist Bane sees Wayne re-don the cape and cowl rather than just get a girlfriend as Alfie intended. The plot is far too expansive to summarise in a single paragraph, and there seems to be more characters than there are minutes in the almost three-hour runtime. Just know that Gary Oldman returns as James Gordon (now a Commissioner – congrats!), and Morgan Freeman is back as Wayne’s quartermaster Lucius Fox, while Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt play new characters that fans of Batman lore will love trying to identify.

The Dark Knight Rises has plenty of the pulpy thrills you would hope from a comic book brought to life. Buses filled with orphan children drive towards certain destruction; a football field is decimated by a jaw-dropping explosion; blind prisoners mutter mythological origin stories; an improbably giant nuke is driven around the city with one of those handy LED countdown timers; Hathaway defies logic and human biology by bending her legs in all kinds of astounding directions, at one point using her razor heel to choke villainous investor Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn). For all the talk of this being the gritty, “realistic” version of the Batman tale, it’s still super fun and wonderfully silly on occasion. That Nolan and his brother/co-writer Jonathan get away with the dichotomy (and some truly abysmal dialogue, usually delivered by Gordon-Levitt) is a mystery beyond my comprehension. Fact is, I gasped in delight far more often than I scoffed.

A recurring problem is Nolan never quite knows how to dispose of the baddies. Bane is established as a gloriously maniacal pupil of Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson), with an even more insane plot to have Gotham tear itself apart under the guise of revolution. And though he faces off against Bats in two spectacular fight scenes (Hardy’s physicality is, as always, terrifying), the final battle concludes in a fairly underwhelming way. Instead, the finest sequence comes halfway through the picture, and features Wayne attempting to climb his way to freedom from within a pit-like prison following a battering at Bane’s hands. It recalls the League of Shadows training sequences from Batman Begins, and reminds us that The Dark Knight Rises is at its best as a bookend.

If the climax is disappointing, the final few shots are as satisfying as any fan could have hoped for. I could go on about how upsetting it was to have Caine’s Alfred sidelined for so much of the movie, or how Bane’s ‘Occupy Gotham’ movement doesn’t quite have the same thematic, real-world resonance as the post-9/11 turmoil of the previous flicks. However, I meant what I said in the first paragraph: this is a gargantuan achievement. Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and now The Dark Knight Rises are the product of filmmakers (including cinematographer Wally Pfister and composer Hans Zimmer, the two other heads of Nolan’s creative hydra) who give a damn about the subject matter. For the first time ever, we have a conclusion to a superhero saga that doesn’t feel less like the door has been left open for a sequel, and far from a committee-made camel. Nolan can be over-serious at times, but it’s so nice to know someone finally treated the material seriously at all.


Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

The Dark Knight Rises hits Australian cinemas July 19, 2012.

One Response to “Bruised and battered – The Dark Knight Rises review”

    How can you be so sure that the end of this movie doesn’t leave scope for another movie/sequel when right at the end (and most of us guessed it far earlier) Robin is introduced to the audience? To me that leaves it way open for another Batman movie should they change their minds (as we all know Hollywood regularly does based on $$$$$).. Batman is still alive and well & now we have batman’s sidekick Robin. I mean why else would they bring him in? Time will tell I guess.
    Anyway, I LOVED the movie & will see it again you bet.. However, no matter how much Wham! Pow!!! Woosh!!! we got, I don’t think any of the new characters held a candle to Heath Ledgers Joker! That was one hard act to follow.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: