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Movie review: The Dark Knight Rises

July 23, 2012

Upon viewing ‘Prometheus’ a few months back, I vowed to never again let myself fall victim to whatever hype machine Hollywood had drummed up in support of their latest blockbuster. No amount of TV spots, virals or trailers-for-trailers would crush my hopes again. I knew I would end up watching Christopher Nolan’s concluding part of his Batman trilogy, but I’d be damned if I was going to get myself excited for it. Such hard-headedness meant I didn’t care for Bane’s supposed garbled speech in the previews, or that Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman costume wouldn’t/would have cat ears. But then that trailer dropped… and I couldn’t contain my fanboy glee. Damn you Hollywood, you’d won again.

So where to begin with this review? It’s a given that most readers of this blog will have already seen ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ over the weekend, but for the benefit of those who haven’t I’m going to keep this as spoiler-free as possible. First thing you should know is that this is a long film, clocking in at just under 3 hours. The story zips along at quite a pace that, save for a slightly drawn-out middle section, doesn’t end up as an arse-numbingly long cinema experience. Nolan’s eschewing of 3D technology means that we’re spared the daft glasses, but given a nonetheless breath-taking cinematic experience. Gotham City (this time portrayed mostly by Pittsburgh) looks incredible. I saw this as a standard digital presentation, but I’d imagine the IMAX showings only adds to this. Christian Bale reprises his role as Bruce Wayne and that slightly daft Batman growl is still in place. Tom Hardy is Bane, the mercenary with the mask. Comparisons will inevitably be drawn to the late Heath Ledger's turn as The Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’, but I’m happy to say that Hardy’s Bane holds his own. Alfred (again played by Michael Caine) remarks that he fights with belief, and it is true to say that Bane is a truly terrifying onscreen presence. Hardy seems to have bulked up to the size of a 3 bedroom bungalow, and when he and Batman clash it really feels like Bale’s character is going to come off the worst. Let’s not forget, this is the guy who broke Batman’s back in the comics.

The rest of the cast is made up of recurring characters from the trilogy (Caine, Gary Oldman,Morgan Freeman) as well as new characters Catwoman/Selina Kyle (played by Anne Hathaway) and Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Hathaway manages to reclaim the role of Catwoman after Halle Berry’s 2004 stinker, as well as punch her own weight with Michelle Pfeiffer’s iconic turn in 1992’s ‘Batman Returns’. However, it is Gordon-Levitt’s turn in a relatively unflashy role as a cop that really clicked with me. His character’s development over the course of the film was, in my opinion, the strongest aspect in the film. I can’t give too much away, but by the end of the film I had to restrain myself from fist-punching the air in delight. Indeed there are quite a few ‘fuck yeah!’ moments throughout that I really can’t say too much about. Basically, just go and see for yourself.

So, is this the perfect summer blockbuster? Perhaps not. As a concluding part to an epic trilogy, then undoubtedly yes. Nolan’s vision is fully realised on a massive scale, and the pure emotion that runs throughout the film is fantastic. In a summer where we’ve seen the incredible worldwide success of Marvel’s ‘The Avengers’, Nolan’s film will always be the darker and moodier picture though. The universal appeal of The Avengers was that it was a fun knockabout lark. ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ doesn’t have the same appeal. It never fully panders to the blockbuster crowd, yet falls somewhat short of Inception’s philosophical density. A few niggles pop up here and there. Speaking of funny voices, I’ve always hated Bale’s Bat-voice. Perhaps in responding to early doubts about the clarity of Hardy’s breathing apparatus- impaired speech, we now find his voice quite loud in the mix. It took me out of the moment a bit to be honest. Anne Hathaway seems to have been given a surplus of zingy one-liners that feel a little out of place at times in what is an otherwise very serious take on the superhero movie. After an incredible opening 45 minutes leading up to Batman and Bane’s first clash, we are left with a slightly languished middle section. However, the film is never in fear of derailing and the last act is a truly incredible action spectacular.

I enjoyed ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ immensely. I’d imagine I’ll try catch it again over the course of its run. I think Christopher Nolan has done a great job in helming the series, and it really has restored my faith in intelligent big-budget filmmaking. In short, go and see this film and pray that some asshole doesn’t give us a reboot a few years down the line. ‘Bruce Wayne – the teenage years’ – no thanks!

4.5 bat-stars/5

by SeanM