Director/s: Christopher Nolan
Running Time: 165 mins
Budget: $250 million
Released: 27 July 2012 (South Africa)
Eight years on, a new terrorist leader, Bane, overwhelms Gotham’s finest, and the Dark Knight resurfaces to protect a city that has branded him an enemy – imdb
Before I begin, please be warned that this review does contain spoilers, usually I avoid commenting on aspects that would give away certain things about a film, however with The Dark Knight Rises it would be too difficult not to as the film is difficult to quantify given that it is just shy of three hours and that there is a myriad of things happening throughout its duration.
The Dark Knight Rises is the long-awaited (and much-anticipated) conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s reboot of the Batman franchise. Set eight years after The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne has since given up the cape and cowl and has been reduced to a recluse after Rachel Dawes’ (Maggie Gyllenhaal) death, refusing to see anyone, Bruce spends his days hidden away in his manor and as a result of this, Wayne Enterprises dwindles along with his fortune and reputation. Bruce Wayne giving up on being Batman was the first thing that surprised me, as I assumed that The Dark Knight Rises would revolve around a more worldly, and finely tuned Batman whom had been fighting the good fight for the last eight years after defeating the Joker (Heath Ledger) but this is not so. In fact, Batman has devolved somewhat in the sense that he’s been out of the game for such a long time that when trouble once again rears its head, one cannot help but get the feeling that he is hopelessly outclassed and you’d be forgiven for thinking so as Wayne hobbles along on his walking stick (due to the injury he sustained after the fall with Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight), further compounding his problems. It would seem that The Dark Knight Rises is more about Bruce Wayne than Batman, as Bruce struggles to come to terms with the fact that he can no longer be Batman. Bane’s arrival compels Wayne to become the Batman once more, and with Rachel gone, Wayne has nothing to lose except for his life, a fact which Alfred (Michael Caine) reminds him of when he tells him that the world needs Bruce Wayne not Batman and that Bane is not to be underestimated.
Enter Bane – played by the brilliant Tom Hardy, Bane is the first notable character seen in The Dark Knight Rises as he makes his brilliant escape from CIA operatives in an opening scene involving men in tactical gear, extracting him from a plane mid-flight. As many will agree, a good villain can either make or break a story, or steal it all together, much like the late Heath Ledger’s sterling performance as the Joker in the previous outing. Needless to say, there will be an immediate comparison between the Joker and Bane, as viewers will attempt to determine which villain is the best and I believe this will be a difficult decision because both villains are equally great, but for different reasons. Ledger’s Joker – a self-proclaimed ‘agent of chaos’ was creepy and menacing, from his voice to his mannerisms, including small details like constantly having to lick his lips due to the scars on either side of his mouth which created a perpetual grimace. The Joker was all about creating madness and destruction, and proving that he could bring anyone down to his level. Bane however is different, the first thing you’ll notice is the voice. Bane wears a special headgear that garbles his speech, and in order to make the character more menacing, Tom Hardy created a voice that would contradict his body, and it worked beautifully. Obviously, Nolan had to change the Bane character in order to suit his stark version of the Batman universe and so instead of having Bane’s mask/suit inject him with the drug known as Venom (as seen in the comics), the mask in the film acts as an anesthetizing dispersal device that keeps Bane’s pain (after receiving grievous injuries to his face) below the threshold of being excruciating. What makes Hardy’s Bane even more dangerous is that he used to be part of the League of Shadows before he was ex-communicated from the order. So not only is Bane masterfully trained and physically superior to Batman, he also proves to be a masterful tactician who manages to create more damage and anarchy than the Joker ever did, through a carefully laid out series of plans, raising the bar to a nuclear level. As I stated previously, this film isn’t so much about Batman as opposed to Bruce Wayne, and in comparison, Batman has minimal screen time compared to Bane and Wayne. There are two relatively short battles between Batman and Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, namely the first encounter between the two which is absolutely brutal as a frustrated Batman is pushed to the limit and beaten to an inch of his life complete with the infamous knee-to-spine scene and a final battle that has the hero and villain going at it in broad daylight, amongst hundreds of other people in one of the most electric and furious fights put to screen.
Cue the love interests, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). Anne Hathaway portrays Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises, but is never referred to by that moniker as the newspapers call her the ‘cat burglar’. Nolan’s version of Catwoman is far more reserved than Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal of the character in 1992’s Batman Returns or Halle Berry’s appalling performance in 2004’s train-wreck Catwoman, forsaking the cat-suit in favour of a polyurethan-coated spandex one and a sort of visor that resembles cat ears. Marion Cotillard portrays Miranda Tate, an executive board member of Wayne Enterprises who attempts to get Bruce Wayne to rejoin society and continue his father’s work. Cotillard also represents one of the films twists with her dual identity. Initially the viewer is thought to believe that Bane is the son of Ra’s Al Ghul, however this is a misdirection as Tate turns out to be Talia Al Ghul and Bane her protector, though I’m sure that anyone who follows the comics will know that Ra’s had a daughter and not a son.
Another new character to the series is John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a young police officer who uses sharp powers of perception and deduction to determine the identity of Batman. Soon enough Blake is promoted to detective by Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), and together with his aversion to the Harvey Dent coverup as well as his growing distaste for firearms, it would seem that Blake would be the ideal candidate for Batman’s successor. As the film reveals John Blake’s legal name – Robin John Blake, his candidacy as the Bat’s heir is solidified.
So is The Dark Knight Rises better than The Dark Knight? It’s a question and topic of debate that will carry on between movie goers for ages to come (I myself was asked this same question today) but it is a very difficult question to answer because both films are very different from one another. The Dark Knight is a magnificent film, but for Christopher Nolan to succeed with a third and final installment it had to either match or surpass its predecessors. Needless to say, whether you watched the write-ups or trailers of The Dark Knight Rises before actually watching the film itself, it would be impossible not to have high expectations as The Dark Knight set the benchmark for excellence, combine that with a plethora of media hype and hyperbole for this latest entry, and you’re going to have some pretty insane expectations of The Dark Knight Rises. The Dark Knight improved upon Batman Begins with the evolution of Batman himself with an improved suit, Batmobile (Batpod anyone?) and skill-set which he put to great use in order to defeat the Joker. Since Bruce Wayne has been out of the scene for eight years in The Dark Knight Rises, his suit remains unchanged since the second installment and he is without the Tumbler (Batmobile) since its destruction from taking an RPG hit from the Joker. As for Bane, he proves to be just as menacing as Ledger’s Joker, and far more sinister, given his imposing physique and his ominous body-language, not to mention the fact that he is also a far more capable fighter than the Joker, which is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt as he violently thrashes Batman. Bane is not only physically challenging, as his mental faculties and abilities as a tactician rival that of Bruce Wayne himself and being as intelligent as he is, Bane also has some of the greatest lines in the entire trilogy.
Notable Bane quotes:
Gotham, take control… take control of your city. Behold, the instrument of your liberation! Identify yourself to the world!
Calm down, Doctor! Now’s not the time for fear. That comes later.
When Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die.
Theatricality and deception, powerful agents for the uninitiated. But we are initiated, aren’t we Bruce?
Ah you think darkness is your ally? You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was already a man, by then it was nothing to me but blinding!
You fight like a younger man, with nothing held back. Admirable… but mistaken.
Needless to say, The Dark Knight Rises isn’t perfect. For one thing, I found it strange that a man (Bruce Wayne) who had been reduced to a recluse for eight years over his beloved’s death would so easily bed Miranda, whom he’s never taken interest in or doesn’t even share chemistry with, so Miranda/Bruce hookup – pretty stupid. But perhaps the one thing that really cheapens the film is Nolan’s cop-out ending where Batman flies (in the Bat – essentially the bat-jet) over the ocean away from Gotham as he carries a neutron bomb which detonates, seemingly killing Batman. Batman’s death would have made a poignant ending and would have remained in character with Nolan’s style but this was not so as Bruce Wayne programmed an autopilot into the plane (another one of the twists) some six months earlier, which he used to escape the blast. What makes the ending worse is that the audience is made to feel the sadness and anguish of his death with the funeral and perhaps worst of all, the scene where Alfred breaks down with grief, only to have that all snatched away by an implausibly ‘happy’ ending.
The Dark Knight Rises sets a new precedent for superhero films, in that it is a deep, thought-provoking and action-packed film that will demand your utmost attention from start to finish. The Dark Knight Rises is a relentless film in that it requires you to constantly pay attention for the film is extremely long and has a lot to tell. In my opinion, The Dark Knight Rises must be seen at least twice in order to fully appreciate all its many intricacies as the way you’ll watch it the second time will change because you’ll know who’s who with the result that you’ll focus on those characters more like Miranda for example, in order to see the signs and events that led up to her betrayal. While many may agree that Heath Ledger’s Joker was a superior villain, Hardy’s portrayal of Bane is not to be overlooked as his representation of the infamous villain is perhaps one of the most impressive performances ever. Overall, The Dark Knight Rises is a brilliant film (though not without flaws) and a worthy conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s superhero trilogy. Highly recommended.