As the Dark Knight Rises hit cinemas the world over on July 18 it would be fair to say there had never been so much expectation placed on a single movie. After the commercial and critical successes of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan has the unenviable task of creating a movie that, simply put, had to be incredible.
Fortunately for him, that’s exactly what he has done.
Set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, we see a broken Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) who, in his struggle to deal with the loss of his beloved Rachel, has hidden himself away from the world and relinquished his role as the Batman. However, when Gotham comes under attack from the mysterious terrorist leader Bane (Tom Hardy), Wayne returns as the Dark Knight to once again protect his city and become the symbol of hope to the people.
Bale excels at portraying the inner demons of Wayne, particularly his struggle to completely let go of being Batman, even after all the terrible things that came with it. On the other hand, aspects of Bale’s performance seem too forced, though this was more down to Nolan cramming as much into the 160 minutes of action as humanly possible, resulting in certain parts of Wayne’s dialogue feeling rushed.
Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman are typically first class in their respective roles as Commissioner Gordon and Lucius Fox. But they are outdone by veteran Michael Caine, who is outstanding in bringing real gravitas to Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred.
One of the big surprises of the film was the performance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, star of Indie rom-com 500 Days of Summer. As cop John Blake, Gordon Levitt delivers an assured and believable performance that made him one of the film’s standouts – it is little surprise that he is being touted as Hollywood’s next big thing.
But it is Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Bane and Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman that really stole the show. Hathaway superbly combines sleek and elegance with the raw sex appeal and dry wit of her character, and is the source of much of the humour in the film, as well as some of the most electrifying action sequences.
As for Bane, Hardy’s overtly physical and brutal take on the character is, at times, utterly terrifying. The mask he wears, which delivers anaesthetic to numb his constant physical pain, warps his voice to create a character that you aren’t sure is even human. What really makes Bane stand out though, is the softer side of his character, which is only displayed towards the climax of the film. The revelation of his plight is genuinely moving, even though at it comes when point when Gotham is deeply submerged in chaos.
Overall, the sheer scale and spectacle of The Dark Knight Rises is enough to make it one of the landmark films of the last decade with colossal sets, jaw-dropping special effects, compelling soundtrack and an epic storyline that will genuinely leave you breathless.
But it doesn’t quite do it for me.
Nolan clearly went all out in an attempt to upstage The Dark Knight, but you feel at times his ambition almost gets the better of him. The Dark Knight Rises is a long film at 165 minutes, but even so some parts still feel rushed as there is just so much that happens. The storyline is epic but almost would have been better off being made into two films rather than the one, as too often you feel like Nolan is cramming.
The other major issue is that it feels far too much like a superhero film.
The true brilliance of The Dark Knight was the fact that it was a sensational film that just happened to have Batman characters in it. It was edgy, dark and got the small details right. The best scenes of the movie weren’t the huge scale explosions, but the intimate conversations between the characters, where we got a true glimpse into their fractured psyches and truly grasped just what it was like to be one of them.
The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t have these moments, electing for the big spectacle and relying heavily on pre-determined expectations of beloved characters instead, rather like Batman Begins.
The Dark Knight Rises still makes for one of the most impressive and epic movies ever, and is probably the greatest superhero movie of all time.
But The Dark Knight is still the best film in the series.
8.8 Out of 10