Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan may have inadvertently created the hardest job in cinema – directing the reboot to the Batman franchise. There almost certainly will be one at some point, whether it’s in a couple of years or ten years. Nolan has taken a franchise that looked dead in the water of the debacle of Batman & Robin and turned it into the greatest comic book franchise in cinema history. The Dark Knight Rises plays a very big part in that success.

It’s been eight years since the death of Harvey Dent, and Batman hasn’t been seen since taken the blame for his murder and the people he killed. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has now become a recluse, his body damaged from the pounding it’s taken since he became The Dark Knight. Batman though isn’t really needed anymore; thanks to Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) crime in Gotham is at a record low. That is until the super-strong Bane (Tom Hardy), and versatile cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) arrive in Gotham, forcing Bruce Wayne out of semi-retirement to wear the bat suit once again.

Something that has happened in nearly every Batman movie (except Batman Begins) is that the villain steals the show from the caped crusader. In The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan manages to keep things fairly balanced. Just when it looks like Bane or Selina Kyle could start to dominate proceedings, Batman is given twice as much attention. This is after all supposed to be the end of his story, at least in terms of this trilogy, and Christopher Nolan seems to be very conscious of that. Christian Bale doesn’t quite reach the heights of his performance in Batman Begins, but the role of the dark broken hero certainly suits him.

Tom Hardy certainly has a commending screen presence as Bane, but one of the most common complaints from audiences will be his voice. At times it is very difficult to hear what he is saying, but the lines you do catch generally are some of the best in the film (“When Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die”). Anne Hathaway though is the one who gives the stand-out performance as Selina Kyle. She is a femme fatale in every sense; stylish and just as much physical prowess as Batman. She also brings to the character an understated sexiness, which Christopher Nolan at no point exploits through camerawork. He rightly assumes the audience will already have noticed how beautiful Anne Hathaway is without having to spell it out.

Michael Caine also returns as Alfred, whose role carries much more emotional weight in this final chapter. The real heart of the movie lies with Alfred, and a couple of his conversations with Bruce Wayne could well reduce audience members to tears. Gary Oldman once again gives an understated but superb performance as Commissioner Gordon, a man struggling with the guilt of being the only person knowing who Harvey Dent really was. And of course there is Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox, busily trying to keep Wayne Enterprises going in Bruce’s absence. There are also new faces through, with the young moral cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Wayne Enterprises board member Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard).

There are a lot of characters and a lot of storylines to get through, and around midway through you do begin to worry that it’s all about to fall off the rails. Nolan keeps things well on track though, and does the very thing most trilogies fail to do – give it a good ending. I obviously won’t spoil the ending, but it does allow the audience to take away from the film whatever it wants. It is very satisfying, and indeed gives this remarkable trilogy the send-off it deserves. Christopher Nolan is certainly a very intelligent man, who treats his audience like they have a brain, instead of being patronising like many blockbuster movies. It’s without a doubt one of the best movies of the year, and firmly cements Nolan’s Batman trilogy as one of the best in cinema history.

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About Eric Wood

Eric Wood is 21 years old, from Bury in Greater Manchester, and a graduate of Salford University where he studied Journalism and English Literature. His first novel comes out later in the year, and he begins work directing his first feature length movie in the summer. Eric absolutely adores all forms of writing and loves movies so he’s the ideal film critic. His greatest inspiration for many years has been Michael Crichton, as Crichton has written novels, non-fiction, screenplays, and directed movies. Eric would love to be able to achieve all of those things in my lifetime.
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