By now I’m sure you’ve all seen it, read the reviews and written your own opinions, but one thing is for sure, The Dark Knight Rises is a game changer for comic book movies. While the movie isn’t perfect, its magnificent cast ensemble and extraordinary set-pieces helps provide an epic conclusion to the best comic book movie trilogy of all time.
Watching Tom Hardy as Bane quickly erased any fears that the final instalment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy would suffer from having a villain that didn’t quite match up to Heath Ledger‘s Joker. Despite wearing a mask that covered his facial emotions, Hardy’s Bane was formidable, frightening, and easily the best incarnation of the character in recent memory. Unlike many comic book villains, Bane’s origin was fleshed out and his motives were explored to an extent in which his story was just as interesting as Bruce Wayne‘s. It’s unfair to compare Bane to Joker and it’s questionable as to whether Joker would have even appeared in the third film anyway had Heath Ledger not tragically passed away. Nolan prides himself on selecting villains that serve the story. Bane’s brutality provides the perfect contrast to an aging Bruce, and it’s clear Nolan has taken some inspiration from Frank Millar’s ‘The Dark Knight Returns‘.
2) Selina Kyle
Managing to almost steal the show is Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle. Until now, Nolan’s Batman films have lacked a dominant female lead. There was Rachel Dawes, but the contrasting personalities of Katie Holmes’ and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s interpretations left a lot to be desired. In a dark and broody Gotham, Selina is a welcome injection of fun, adding many laugh-out-loud moments to the film. My only complaint towards the character is that she wasn’t featured in the movie enough.
3) The Fight Choreography/Editing
I’ve previously criticised Nolan’s Batman films as using poor cut transitions during the fight scenes that pull the viewer away from the scene. An example would be Batman’s first appearance at the shipping dock during Batman Begins where Batman’s assault on Falcone’s men could barely be seen due to the nauseating camera cuts. In contrast, The Dark Knight Rises has the trilogy’s best action scene with a breathtaking fight between Batman and Bane that will live long in the memory of comic book fans. It showcased Bruce’s desperation matched up to Bane’s brutality, and we all know what happens when Batman took on Bane in the comics….
4) John Blake
I was tempted to add John Blake into the things I didn’t like about The Dark Knight Rises. Why? The film’s ending revolves around the revelation that Blake is Nolan’s ‘Robin’, and that with Bruce Wayne “deceased”, Blake rises as the new guardian of Gotham City. With Nolan achieving the impossible by giving us a realistic take on Robin, it disappoints me that Warner Bros are going to reboot the Batman franchise with Bruce Wayne again, leaving Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s ending up to the imagination.
As the new good guy of Gotham City, Blake is one of the most likable character’s Nolan’s ever put on screen. He successfully worked out Batman’s identity, rescued Jim Gordon, fought side by side with Batman and presumably ended up taking on the mantle. Not bad for a rookie…
1) Miranda Tate
Miranda Tate being a cover identity for Talia Al Ghul was probably the worst kept secret in Hollywood. Despite actress Marion Cotlillard repeatedly denying she was playing the daughter of Ras Al Ghul, set-pics from the film immediately confirmed otherwise. Regardless, Talia’s story is actually well handled. Her origin from the prison (or metaphorical Lazuras Pit) mirrors Bruce’s story in an interesting way. An intriguing theory I’ve heard is that Bruce Wayne is the Joe Chill to Talia Al Ghul. Chill murdered Bruce’s parents, inspiring him to later become Batman and protect the citizens of Gotham. In Talia’s eyes, Bruce murdered her father Ra’s, robbing her of the opportunity to make peace with her father. For that, Talia’s story is well-crafted, but Cotillard’s screen time robs the character of making a lasting impression. Her cover-up crusade to bring clean energy to the world through Wayne Enterprises’ reactor never feels believable, and despite Talia manipulating Bruce, it was odd to see her jumping into bed with him so soon in the movie as their relationship hadn’t received any real development.
2) Plot Errors
It feels like a crime to accuse writer, screenwriter, producer and director Christopher Nolan of being lazy, but wouldn’t a nuclear bomb explosion outside of a large city at some point cause severe radiation poisoning? Granted the bomb exploding mid-air certainly wouldn’t have caused a tsunami as the water would have absorbed most of the blast impact before it reaches the city, but it certainly would have created some lasting radiation. Perhaps I’m wrong, but electing to ignore this repercussion certainly took me out of the movie. A side note though is that there is some movie potential to stem from it. Frank Millar’s epic masterpiece ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ explores a gang of ‘mutants’ rising up and taking control of Gotham. There’s no chance of it happening, but wouldn’t it be awesome to see Warner Bros create a continuation of Nolan’s films set even further in the future where Batman’s actions have doomed the city to radiation poisoning and an uprising of mutant gangs?
Another disappointing aspect was the inconsistency of Batman’s physical and mental state. Christian Bale’s performance was his finest yet, as he really showcased Bruce’s emotional struggle leaving the cape and cowl behind. How Bruce jumps from a retired hermit state straight back into the dark knight is a different matter altogether, as Bruce defies numerous injuries through the film that would leave most men dead or crippled. If the exoskeleton Bruce wore helped his limp, why wasn’t Wayne Enterprises marketing this groundbreaking exoskeleton technology more efficiently?
3) Jim Gordon’s Screen Time.
In a movie that provides so many new characters, some of the older one’s were undoubtedly going to get shifted and it turns out to be Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon. When the film opens, we are shown Gordon’s grief with having to lie about the man that held up a gun to him and his family. The city treats the fallen Harvey Dent as a hero, while Gordon’s inner struggle to contain the lie is never really given the development it deserves. We only learn that his family have left him and moved away through a brief comment from one of the police officers. Oldman’s absence is further felt when Gordon is injured at the hands of Bane’s mercenaries.
Now the one thing I can’t decide on. The ending. Some argue Alfred seeing Bruce and Selina Kyle in Italy was all in his head. After all, how could Bruce survive a nuclear explosion? An opposing theory is that how could it be in Alfred’s head when he barely new Selina Kyle. I commend Nolan for giving us an Inception-like ambiguity to the film, but if I had to choose, I’d say Bruce was alive. The disappointing thing is that we’re unlikely to ever see Blake’s story as the new protector of Gotham City. At least in the film medium anyway. For now though, The Dark Knight Rises is a fantastic piece of cinema, defying the trend of disappointing threequels. Nolan, Bale, Cain, Freeman and Oldman did the impossible.
They brought Batman back from oblivion.