Image Source: Wikipedia (Copyright: Warner Bros., the film publisher or graphic artist.)
Written By: Luke Mythen
Distributors: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production Companies: Legendary Pictures, DC Entertainment and Syncopy
Director: Christopher Nolan
Producers: Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan and Charles Roven
Scriptwriters: Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan
Main Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Morgan Freeman
Released: July 16 2012 (NY) and July 20 2012 (UK & US)
Running Time: 164 Minutes
Back in 2003, a little-known director named Christopher Nolan (Insomnia, 2002) began working on the reboot for the Batman franchise that Warner Brothers had been waiting for. At this time, Nolan had only made a couple of feature films, all of which were very low budget; however, they were all well-received at the box office and by critics alike. And so he and David Goyer (Man of Steel, 2013) set about the task of drawing up a new way to tell Batman’s origin story and a new theme for the franchise.
In 2005, Batman Begins was released, and it was a huge success; this was the film that all Batman and comic book fans alike had been waiting for since the dreadful Batman Forever (1998). And after that came arguably the greatest comic book movie of all time with The Dark Knight. The film will forever be remembered for the performance of the late Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain, 2004) as the Joker, rightfully earning himself an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2009.
So it’s understandable that the announcement of the most recent installment in the franchise was greeted with mass excitement. Before the confirmation of the Dark Knight Rises, the Internet had been awash with speculation about the title, whether Nolan would direct it, and who the villain would be portrayed by. Now, I am reviewing this retrospectively; it has been almost three years since this film was released. I still remember the day I went to see it for the first time: I queued up early, having already pre-booked my tickets online. And, fortunately, the movie lived up to the hype as I shall now explain.
To begin with, the story picks up eight years after the Dark Knight, and it is really interesting to see where the characters are at this point; they are still struggling to cope with the actions and decisions made eight years earlier. Bruce Wayne had become a recluse within his own home, and therefore Batman hadn’t been seen since the death of Harvey Dent/Two Face. However, there is a dark force coming to Gotham in the form of Bane. Batman must come out of retirement to fight the evil Bane and protect his beloved city.
Now, I am not going to give any more of the story away in case you haven’t seen it already. Because this was the final installment, and that this was emphasised by Christopher Nolan from the beginning, fans speculated about whether Batman would live, die or pass on the baton onto someone else. The film is around two hours and forty minutes, which is an awfully long time; yet the movie is so enthralling that the time passes by very quickly; you are so engrossed into the story and the images on-screen. Part of the reason concerns production. Along with the Dark Knight, Nolan decided to film certain scenes in this film in the IMAX format. These scenes look fantastic on the big screen; Nolan is a master of the IMAX camera, and it really helps the movie, especially in the action scenes with the Bat and Tumbler fight complex.
Running concurrently with all the fighting is a very warm story that runs deep through the majority of the characters. The theme of the movie is hope: despite everything that happens in the film, the characters cling onto Batman as hope, and at times even Bruce Wayne looks up to Batman. This movie has to deal with a number of story arcs coming to an end, and occasionally it does seem to be juggling too many plates at once, but they all come to a deserving and worthy end that fans should feel comforted by.
The casting and acting is brilliant. Each actor brings something different to their character. Tom Hardy as Bane was a good choice: Hardy is a method actor, and so he gained around 40 pounds to make sure he was big enough to play Bane. But it is his eyes that steal the show: for the majority of the film, he wears a special breathing mask that covers up everything other than the eyes (which puts a lot of pressure on the scriptwriters to tell the story when you can’t see the lead villain’s mouth). Tom does a fantastic job and, in particular, he deserves a lot of credit for diverting us from the fact that Heath Ledger is not here to play his role, and instead he gives us a completely different and totally believable and threatening villain; a villain that can even stand toe-to-toe with Batman in a fight on a number of occasions.
However, it is Anne Hathaway who steals the show this time around. A lot of fans complained beforehand that she wasn’t good enough to play Selina Kyle and that she wasn’t fit enough for the role. But credit to Anne: she went through six months’ worth of prep in the gym before shooting and closely studied how cats move. She is perfect for the part: she doesn’t allow the suit to overtake her on the screen, and she brings a new look and style to a very well-known character. She is by far the best part of this film.
In addition, the cinematography is absolutely fantastic, and that is all down to Christopher Nolan’s brilliant cinematographer Wally Pfister (Transcendence, 2014). Every shot looks visually stunning on a large canvas, and this allows colours and sound to really fly off the screen.
Overall, The Dark Knight Rises was a fitting conclusion to the greatest comic book trilogy of all-time, and maybe even the greatest trilogy of all-time period. The climax left me feeling satisfied, the action was enjoyable, and the story was interesting from beginning to end. A worthy end to a classic trilogy.