WARNING: THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THE FILMS BATMAN BEGINS AND THE DARK KNIGHT
When I went to see The Dark Knight Rises for the first time, I wondered: could it ever achieve the greatness of its predecessor, The Dark Knight? The answer is sadly no, but it does bring Christopher Nolan’s epic Dark Knight Trilogy to a fitting conclusion. After the death of Rachel Dawes, and Batman taking the blame for Harvey Dent’s murders, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has gone into hiding. But his superhero alter-ego is forced to come out of hiding when the mercenary Bane (Tom Hardy, Warrior, Lawless) holds Gotham City to random.
While The Dark Knight worked fine as a stand-alone film, The Dark Knight Rises is best enjoyed after watching Batman Begins, since the finale ties in directly with the first film. Again, everything that made the first two films good returns. Most of the old cast comes back, including Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman. Even the new additions of Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose, Rust and Bone) and John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Looper, (500) Days of Summer) felt unexpectedly relevant. Nolan should also be congratulated for reviving the reputation of Catwoman (Anne Hathaway, The Devil Wears Prada, Les Misérables) following the mess that was the 2004 film. Here, Hathaway’s Catwoman is a quick-thinking and witty jewel thief who is a foil to the strict anti-guns Batman, and the chemistry between the two on screen works well.
The antagonist this time around is Bane, a thuggish mercenary who was ex-communicated from the League of Shadows, the same organisation that trained Bruce Wayne. Despite prior fears, Hardy is a brilliantly physical opponent and more than a match for Bale’s Batman. Hardy demonstrates the character’s intelligence and cunning better than previous adaptations, which was quite a challenge due to the full face mask he wears the entire film. This can make some of the things he says a little difficult to understand at times, but the audience gets the meaning of what he’s saying. This is done through his body language, piercing eyes and a generally intimidating screen presence.
However, I did find The Dark Knight Rises to be the slowest of the three. After a visually jaw-dropping opening with an aeroplane, it takes ages to get going again, and feels like about half an hour before Batman shows up. Even after this, I only counted three other appearances by the superhero in the entire film. This would have been boring if it didn’t tell the stories of the other characters that we know and love, although the balance could have been better. Another thing is that Michael Caine didn’t get enough screen time, and it would have been much better to see more of his emotionally driven performance. One other tiny flaw that I found with the film was that Heath Ledger’s character of the Joker wasn’t mentioned at all. I completely understand that Nolan did this out of respect for him, but it doesn’t give the character enough closure, especially since the last time that audience saw him was dangling from a rooftop at the end of the last film. Even if it was only a line or two of dialogue referencing where he is during The Dark Knight Rises, or the blowing up of the hospital, it would have been nice.
Of the three films, The Dark Knight Rises is the weakest, but that doesn’t make it a bad film. It has a lengthy, engaging plot that never feels boring. The acting is once again superb, the practical effects outstanding and the last 20 minutes of the film was the most tense I’ve felt watching a movie for a long time, thanks to Hans Zimmer’s goosebump-enducing score. The Dark Knight Rises brings to a close the greatest film trilogy of all time.