Title: The Dark Knight Rises
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine
Hype is great, especially with this industry, but if you’re going to play the role of the most anticipated film of the summer, you’ve got your work cut out for you. And that’s on top of having to live up to an Academy Award winning predecessor.
After a brief look at Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) speaking at Harvey Dent’s funeral, “The Dark Knight Rises” takes us eight years into the future. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is a recluse and Batman is nowhere to be found having been blamed for Dent’s murder, but, as Batman and Gordon hoped, the resulting Dent Act successfully keeps criminals at bay in Gotham City – that is until Bane (Tom Hardy) arrives.
Why not answer the big question right off the bat – does “The Dark Knight Rises” live up to the hype? Yes and no. What? You didn’t actually think it’d be a clear-cut answer, did you? Perhaps this little carrot diagram might help – “Batman Begins” < “The Dark Knight Rises” < “The Dark Knight.” While “The Dark Knight Rises” may not be the movie of all movies, lead to world peace or even just be the best of the best of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, it’s got a lot going for it.
You can probably tell by the trailers, but one of the film’s main assets are the visuals. The costumes and sets are impeccably designed, down to the tiniest detail, and Nolan knows exactly how to put them to use. There’s a wonderful balance of grand landscape shots to show off expansive sets like The Pit, the sewers and Gotham itself, and more intimate moments that provide access to the characters. In fact, Nolan seems to be a champion of reaction shots, as even when Batman is the midst of an intense fight, there’s always time to cut to a spectator to remind the audience how brutal the battle really is. At times the slow moving shots of a person watching something go down in the distance can feel excessive, but they also prove to be wholly necessary in establishing that Bane is bigger and badder than any other villain, and that he really has a chance of taking Batman down.
Bane is downright wicked and Hardy is wholly unrecognizable in the part. You’d think wearing a mask might make assuming a role easier, however, there’s a big difference between looking like a character and being a character. Having a mask that covers the large majority of your face leaves you with few ways to express emotion, therefore, making it difficult to sell the character as a living, breathing person. However for Bane, between his compelling backstory, absolutely massive presence, that unforgettable voice and even a twinge of humor, he becomes a person that you genuinely fear, and also someone you’re desperate for more of.
And while that sounds like a plus, wanting more is a bit of an issue with “The Dark Knight Rises.” Even with a running time of over two and half hours, there’s not enough room to contain this colossal story. If you’re unfamiliar with the Batman source material and/or don’t know all the details of “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight,” you could very easily get lost in this web of characters and scenarios. We’ve got the reclusive Bruce Wayne, Bane’s troubled past, Selina Kyle’s (Anne Hathaway) police record, Gordon’s effort to figure out what Bane’s up to, John Blake’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) desperation to save an orphanage, Miranda Tate’s (Marion Cotillard) hope to get some cash from Bruce for her philanthropic efforts, Alfred’s (Michael Caine) concern for Bruce’s life and more. See the problem? While Nolan does manage to give each and every person their due time in the spotlight and do so in an effective manner, there’s still that feeling that there could have and should have been more for each and every one of them.
Hardy’s Bane is unforgettable, but Hathaway comes surprisingly close to stealing the show. She makes for a notably charming yet ruthless and even somewhat broken Catwoman. Despite sharing screen time with nearly a dozen main characters, Hathaway manages to present each and every layer of her to the point at which you feel as though you know her, but still get the sense that there’s so much more. Gordon-Levitt manages to stand out as well, but John Blake pales in comparison to characters as colorful as Bane and Catwoman. He’s your typical do-gooder and that’s about it.
As for Batman himself, Bale has some incredible moments, the most impressive of which takes place in The Pit, but otherwise, he can feel fairly inaccessible. Yes, the story calls for Bruce Wayne and Batman to be shut out from society, but this is the titular character we’re talking about – if watching him get his brains bashed in or even just having a simple conversation with a friend isn’t making the audience feel something, something is wrong.
And that might be the biggest disappointment with “The Dark Knight Rises.” With most heavy action films including superhero movies, you run the risk of losing heart by overindulging in combat. “The Dark Knight Rises” is oozing with incredible action sequences, the best of the bunch definitely the football stadium catastrophe, but it tries to compensate with too much story. A beautiful speech from Alfred about leaving Bruce behind after all these years just can’t be as heart wrenching as it should be when your mind is still reeling from the barrage of facts delivered moments before.
“The Dark Knight Rises” is an example of exceptional big budget filmmaking, where resources are used to the utmost, there are numerous unforgettable elaborate sequences and tons of characters you’re desperate to spend more time with. While all of that is ripe to enjoy, there’s still that feeling that the film is missing a little something when it comes to evoking emotion and it’s simply due to trying to do too much with one movie.