Title: The Dark Knight Rises
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine
The Dark Knight Rises really couldn’t have been any bigger. Not just the crowds, but in the scope of the work, where Nolan involves global, topical subjects ranging from renewable energy to politics. But the big issue is not the topics themselves, but the way they’re spread so thin. Rises is an epic affair that leaves you little time to stop and think, it ultimately feels like you’ve barely had time to breathe. I acknowledge that most of my frustration stems from my dissatisfaction with the ending, but Rises somehow manages to encompass all of our modern day fears within its extensive running time (which just might have been too short). The Dark Knight Rises is many things: chaotic, messy, apocalyptic, choppy and colossal. Despite all of the problems, it remains entertaining and I think even those sorely disappointed–like myself–will find themselves re-watching it just for the sheer thrill of the ending of a landmark trilogy in the comic book world. It’s as flawed as it is daring.
It’s been 8 years since Batman last showed his face. During that time, Bruce Wayne has become a recluse. Now he lives in utter solitude, growing a beard and spending his time doing….well, who knows what. Wayne has retreated into a dark place, and has withdrawn from his life as Batman and is now Bruce Wayne full-time. Naturally, trouble is brewing in the sewers of Gotham. A man named Bane (Tom Hardy) is building an army. Bane is an illusive, masked character with a booming, strong English accent. He’s built like a tank, skilled in martial arts and very intelligent. He wants to create a new Gotham; one without the rich and corrupt and where the people run it. Catwoman makes her debut in the final act of the trilogy. Played surprisingly well by Anne Hathaway, it’s difficult to put a tap on her personality. She seems to play both sides of the field, sometimes selfishly. Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes his second appearance in a Nolan film–the first being Inception–and here he makes little impact, through no fault of his own.
One of the biggest issues with Rises is the pacing and chaotic first act. In a film that feels urgent and apocalyptic, it’s normal that it should feel this way, but to an extent. Nolan seems to have forgotten to help us along a little, so we’re not left in the dust wondering what’s going on. Characters are racing around, Bruce is moping about and five other events are occurring simultaneously. It’s incredibly difficult to get your bearings. Even if just 30 minutes were added on, it could’ve helped us to settle in a bit more. Sometimes you just want a break. Luckily, we are eventually given some form of reprieve but it comes rather late in the game. Nolan has created a problematic scenario where he wants to give ample screen time to everyone, making this somewhat of an ensemble piece like The Dark Knight, he often forgets his protagonist: Batman.
It was always going to be difficult to top the greatness and near-perfection of The Dark Knight. This was going to be a huge challenge for Nolan, some might say insurmountable. But with Rises, his ambitions are epic in scope and almost too large. With that said, much of the action scenes are spectacular to behold. Like in Inception, Nolan has a knack for creating some amazing sequences. Much of them are actually the fights between Bane and Batman. Nolan is also known for chaotic action set pieces where it’s hard to tell what’s going on–this isn’t the case here. Along with that, there’s also a terrific scene in which a football game is disrupted and the stadium is ultimately destroyed by Bane. This scene in particular stuck with me for many reasons. Bane is looking to implement a new social order, and sports are often considered a luxury–a decadence–so this would naturally be one of his first targets. In the previous films, Batman usually receives some kind of new gadget from Lucius Fox. He does not disappoint here, either, when The Bat is unveiled. Some of the scenes of the craft gliding around Gotham are astonishing, especially in IMAX.
What would it have looked like if The Dark Knight Rises had been less ambitious? It certainly wouldn’t have had the impact it did on the audience, who either left disappointed or in a state of awe at the grandiosity of the work. After the sudden, devastating loss of Heath Ledger, it seemed near impossible to really bring a villain that could match his performance. Tom Hardy doesn’t have the charisma or the quotable lines, but it shouldn’t be gauged by how well it measures up to the Joker. Judging the film on its own terms makes this a substantially better film. I’d go as far as to say it’s better than Batman Begins. All of the cast do their best with what they have, especially Bale, whose performance in several scenes is as strong as any in the series. I can’t help but feel, however, that their performances are lost in the scale of the work. Nevertheless, this trilogy brought a seriousness to comic book films that were once scoffed at for their ridiculousness. While The Dark Knight Rises is marred by a cornball ending, it is without a doubt an endlessly enjoyable piece of entertainment.
Written by Justin Webb