Director: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway
Plot: A new terrorist called Bane holds Gotham City hostage, forcing Batman to return and save the people who vilified him for Harvey Dent’s crimes for which he took the fall.
Of all the identikit comic book franchise films being churned out at the dozen by film studios these days, the current Batman series is by far and away the best and most convincing. Not content with using the same old formula, writer and director Christopher Nolan has fashioned a trilogy featuring protagonists who are not CGI-ed up the eyeballs, but rather significantly more realistic than pure fantastical superheroes such as Hulk or The Green Lantern. Following the two well-received instalments Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, our dark-suited friend receives a resolution to his story, courtesy of an epic finale.
Eight years following the events of The Dark Knight, Gotham City is in the ascendency. The Dent Act (named in honour of Harvey Dent who is perceived as a fallen hero for justice), has practically eradicated organised crime from the streets, the driving force being Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman), who believes that the people are not ready to hear the truth about what really happened. Meanwhile, a new villain named Bane (Hardy) emerges, who it is revealed has a deadly plan in store for Gotham. Whilst following up a lead on the kidnapping of a congressional representative, Gordon is captured by Bane, but escapes – his speech revealing the truth about Dent falls into Bane’s hands. Gordon is injured and promotes patrol officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to detective so that he can relay the investigation directly to him.
Bruce Wayne (Bale) has been living the past eight years as a recluse, not even once bringing out the batsuit, due to Batman taking the blame for Harvey Dent’s transgressions. He has locked himself away within Wayne Mansion, while the Wayne Enterprises empire continues to crumble. Both Gordon and Blake (who has deduced Batman’s real identity) encourage Batman to return and nullify the threat from Bane, who attacks the stock exchange, bankrupting Wayne and forcing him to let Wayne Enterprises go. Bruce encounters the mysterious Selina Kyle (Hathaway), who has fashioned herself as a cat burglar. Whilst following a trail, Bruce finds himself trapped and locked in a battle with Bane, who casts him into a prison which is virtually impossible to escape from. While Bane holds Gotham to ransom, Bruce must find a way to escape from the pit for a showdown as the eponymous Dark Knight.
The Dark Knight Rises has various layers, many of which can only be touched upon here. There are an array of subplots which weave together very well and it is to the credit of writers Nolan and his brother Jonathan, that all of these story strands come to a head to nicely round off the trilogy. There are elements of both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight throughout the film – from the raw, medieval-style elements injected into the proceedings as Bruce Wayne attempts to escape from the prison via a wall with few footholds to the more conventional touches of CGI as Batman revs up a spaceship of a batmobile. One major criticism of The Dark Knight was the very uneven pacing – the first hour was hard going before the action finally sparked into life. On this occasion, there is a much more alternate style in how the talkie politics of the Wayne Foundation is regularly punctuated by the impressive and at times breathless adrenaline whenever Bane or Batman appear on-screen. This is an altogether more satisfying experience than its predecessors – a heady mixture of story and action that makes a refreshing change from the frankly dull nonsense that is more commonly thrown at us.
What sets Rises apart from other superhero films is the superb acting. No hasty casting of some random Hollywood heart-throbs here – instead we have a high-calibre bill featuring Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine – none of whom you would find in just any comic-book inspired fluff. Perhaps the only blot on the landscape is the villain – Tom Hardy plays against type as Bane and is in a similar position to Hugo Weaving’s ‘V’ in V for Vendetta, having to use his body language to convey emotion due to his face mask (which has a story all of its own), which covers his mouth and nose. Hardy does a sterling job, but the restrictiveness of the mask impacts on his ability to be an effective nemesis – it may be a necessary plot device, but it hinders any chance of Bane being a worthy opponent on the same level as say, Heath Ledger’s Joker. Hardy’s voice aside, which sounds like Darth Vader talking into a used toilet roll, the other head-scratcher is why Bale’s Batman has a much deeper voice than his alter ego Wayne – yet this just isn’t on a par with Clark Kent’s glasses as an inexplicable disguise. Terrific support in the shape of Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard and Morgan Freeman complete what is a superb roll-call.
The Dark Knight Rises has everything you could wish for from a Batman film – that is, except a convincing baddie. With such a fantastic storyline, acting and visuals this is certainly no reason to give it a miss. However, just a few tweaks here and there would have made this an absolute classic.