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Monday, 23 July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

(The Almighty) Christopher Nolan

Certificate: 12A

Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Micheal Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard.


It maybe nearly 15 years ago now, but for film fans, Batman fans, and all other humans, the stench of Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin still lingers. After two respectable but barmy Tim Burton films, and the below par Batman Forever, audience's love for the bat was already dwindling. Oh how Tommy Lee Jones must have breathed a sigh of relief in 1997. If not the script, or the cast, or Bat-suit complete with nipples, then surely the final indignity was the puns. Every pun is a punch in the face. In Batman & Robin the audience is punched in the face 423 times. Ouch.

You may wonder why, then, I've started this review of The Dark Knight Rises with a paragraph about another film? Quite simply to show how bad it could have been, because for all those painstaking, sense-abusing puns Schumacher made you sit through, Nolan is going to reward with a 165 minutes and a half of glory. Suddenly it all seems worth it.

Even from the very beginning, you just know this film is going to be special. Nolan is no stranger to a high-octane opening set piece - such as the mind-blowing armed robbery performed by The Joker at the beginning of The Dark Knight - but this time it's even bigger. Bane makes a name for himself early, and its not a nice one.

Talking of Bane, much has been said and questioned about both the villain and Tom Hardy. Personally, I think Hardy knocks it out of the park, with a charismatic but terrifying performance made all the more impressive by the fact that he has a mask covering two thirds of his face the entire film. Comparisons were always going to be made between Hardy and Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning portrayal of the Joker (who coincidentally isn't mentioned once in The Dark Knight Rises, a classy and respectful move on Nolan's part). No, unsurprisingly Hardy's Bane will not live on in the same vain as Ledger's Joker, but that shouldn't take anything away from his hulking performance.

The rest of the cast deliver the goods also. Newcomers Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and  Marion Cotillard step up to fit themselves nicely into the saga, while Batman's 'three wise men': Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman all see out the trilogy with their finest performances yet.

As for the man himself, Christian Bale, this is his best bat-outing of all three. He may have had the limelight stolen from him by the greatest cinematic villain of all time in  The Dark Knight, but the final instalment is definitively Bale's film. Maybe because there's a lot more actual acting required of him in this film, rather than just punching people and talking in a stupidly gruff voice.

In this film Bale's Bruce Wayne is taken to the edge in every imaginable way. Needless to say before he can 'rise', he must fall, and he falls very far, very quickly. There's a point towards the middle of the film in which you genuinely think Batman isn't going to prevail, which sounds silly, but didn't we all have an awful feeling that Buzz & Woody were done for in the garbage incinerator?

Strangely enough though, that isn't were the similarities between this film and Toy Story 3 end. No really. Both are the end of a beloved trilogy. Both are more-than-worthy of their predecessors. Both will almost certainly make you well up with raw emotion. 

Yes, The Avengers may have been pure adrenalin-inducing fun, but one place where it fell short was it failed to involve the audience emotionally, which is where Christopher Nolan has Joss Whedon beat. Points of The Dark Knight Rises are nothing short of heartbreaking, and all of those points involve the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Alfred. One heated interaction in particular leaves Bale with tears filling his eyes and Michael Caine doing that sad, choked up voice he does that pulls so violently on our heartstrings.

And that is this film in a nutshell. For every jaw-dropping explosion, for every Inception-like, mind-bending story twist (their are a few), and for every spectacular fight scene, there is a real heart running through this film that started way back in the opening 15 minutes of Batman Begins.

The pinnacle of the superhero genre. More stunts, more shocks, more story and more emotion than any of its competitors to date, and an abundance of evidence to fuel the 'is it better than the Dark Knight?' debate that will last forever. This is blockbuster film-making on an unprecedented scale. Awe-inspiring. 10/10