Should I Watch..? The Dark Knight Rises
What's the big deal?
The Dark Knight Rises is an action superhero drama film released in 2012 and is the concluding part to Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. It sees Christian Bale return for the last time as Bruce Wayne, a reclusive billionaire traumatised by the murder of his parents into becoming the masked crime fighter Batman in Gotham City. This time, Wayne must come out of self-imposed retirement in order to battle a vicious revolutionary named Bane who seeks the destruction of Gotham at any cost. Like its predecessor The Dark Knight (1), it also took over $1 billion at the global box office but was ultimately overshadowed by Marvel's equally epic superhero film Avengers Assemble (2). Despite its commercial and critical success, many Batman fans were disappointed that the movie failed to match the sky-high standards established in the earlier films.
What's it about?
Eight years have passed since Batman took the blame for Harvey Dent's crimes and went into exile. With Batman gone, police Commissioner Jim Gordon oversees the implication of the Dent Act which gives him powers to virtually eradicate organised crime from Gotham. Bruce Wayne has become a recluse, hiding from the world in Wayne Manor until he meets catburglar Selina Kyle who escapes with Wayne's fingerprints. She makes a deal with one of Wayne's business rivals in order to have her criminal record deleted but she is double-crossed.
Soon afterwards, a masked militant known only as Bane appears in Gotham and creates a popular movement among the population to reclaim their lost belongings after the recent financial meltdown. With the police seemingly unable to stop Bane, it falls to Alfred to try and persuade a reluctant Bruce to become Batman once again in order to save Gotham one last time. But Bruce is more concerned with activities at Wayne Enterprises which is losing money after a failed attempt to build a fusion reactor to power the city. Handing control over to board member Miranda Tate, Bruce is now free to tackle Bane and his legion of supporters - although Bane's true purpose is much darker than simply robbing from the rich...
Bruce Wayne / Batman
Commissioner Jim Gordon
Selina Kyle / Catwoman
Officer John Blake
Ra's al Ghul
Jonathon Nolan & Christopher Nolan *
Release Date (UK)
20th July, 2012
Action, Superhero, Thriller
What's to like?
Once the film gets going, there isn't much that can touch The Dark Knight Rises for heart-stopping tension and blood-pumping action. Once you get over how cool Batman looks in full flow, the film offers a lot more action than we saw in the likes of Batman Begins (3) which relied more on dialogue than set pieces. But this is a long film and dialogue is just as important as the plot offers one or two surprises - truthfully, this is my favourite script of the trilogy. It offers a thoroughly contemporary tale about people's frustration with the unfair banking system and the Occupy Wall Street movement at that time. Even today, people are still struggling after the financial collapse of the last decade or so - just ask the Greek people how they feel.
Bale's grizzled features and grim determination finally match the character he's playing. Both Wayne and Batman feel like they have nothing to lose, as though defeat and death wouldn't be that bad. The darkness that has pervaded this series from the start is still there and given a proper voice through the unlikely form of Hathaway's Catwoman whose commentary on proceedings might match our own. Despite the awkwardness of her costume, she does well in the role and gives the series a proper heroine who isn't merely a damsel-in-distress.
The hardest part to play is definitely Hardy's Bane, whose facial features are obscured by a menacing mask. Despite this, the character's body language gives the requisite feeling of total physical dominance that Bane possesses and Hardy does a good job of translating the character to screen - certainly better than the last version we saw in Batman & Robin (4)! However, the mask does mean his dialogue is somewhat garbled and difficult to understand which is a shame considering how many good lines he delivers.
- Hardy has said that the hardest thing about shooting the film were the fight scenes - not because they were physically demanding but that because he is such a massive Batman fan, it felt like beating up his childhood hero.
- During filming in Pittsburgh, a thief tried to make off with an unmarked police car though he claimed he was an actor and the crime was for the movie. Local newspapers reported the story with the headline "Like Batman, car thief's story does not fly".
- The scenes shot at Heinz Field, home to the Pittsburgh Steelers, contain a number of Steeler personnel - look out for Hines Ward, Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu, Mike Wallace, Heath Miller and former coach Bill Cowher among others.
What's not to like?
So apart from Bane's dodgy vocal delivery, is there anything to criticise? Sadly, yes - despite my belief that the script is the best yet, it does become somewhat predictable towards the end. The twist ending is sign-posted very early on and it does disappoint that it isn't better.
On a personal level, I also feel that the film is trying too hard. It throws in too many new characters (and even finds time to bring back a dead one, briefly) and at times, some of these characters aren't given enough screen time. I felt sorry for Hathaway and Gordon-Levitt, whose young cop appears and disappears without leaving much impact on the film as a whole. Lastly, it is sad that this will be the last we see of Bale and Nolan working together on the character. I would have liked a spin-off, given the hints we get for one during The Dark Knight Rises - there has yet to be an adaptation of Nightwing for the silver screen and I reckon that Nolan could do a fine job. But personally, I wouldn't want to follow this - these three films have been an excellent reminder to all that when it comes to crime fighting and funky costumes, there's no-one who can knock the Batman.
Should I watch it?
It was always difficult to replicate the huge success of The Dark Knight or Batman Begins but The Dark Knight Rises is still an excellent conclusion to what has been arguably the strongest superhero trilogy of all time. Exciting, thrilling, gripping and astonishing, the film is quality entertainment that sadly struggles to fill out its over-long running time. It can't sustain its own momentum but the film remains one that's essential for any die-hard Batman fan.
Great For: Batman fans, action fans, anti-capitalists
Not So Great For: investment bankers, Bane fans
What else should I watch?
Assuming that you have already watched Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, fans of the Caped Crusader currently have three options. Firstly, they can bite their tongue during Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (5) which is a slow, boring and depressing release featuring Ben Affleck as Wayne. Secondly, there are a number of much better animated Batman films that were released direct to video but are still worth checking out. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns has recently had parts one and two combined into one long film while Batman: Under The Red Hood is an equally dark take on the Batman's unending battle with his nemesis, The Joker. Both are well recommended.
The last option is to go back and revisit the earlier movies but of those, only Tim Burton's Batman (6) and Batman Returns (7) are worth the time or effort. Batman Forever (8) is a clunky half-way house between the dark vision we've become used to and the camp silliness of the 60's TV show (which, of course, had its own big screen outing with Batman: The Movie (9)) and also suffers from Tommy Lee Jones seriously miscast as Two-Face and Jim Carrey screwing up The Riddler. And then there's Batman & Robin, a film which is so bad that I emailed an invoice to Joel Schumacher asking for my two hours back. So far, no reply...
© 2015 Benjamin Cox