The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
” A Fire Will Rise”
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman
Synopsis: A new menace emerges and the Dark Knight rises again to protect the city from a merciless terrorist with the help of anti-heroine Selina Kyle.
And so, with The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan brings to an end the trilogy that began, fittingly enough, with Batman Begins (2005) and gained a seemingly unstoppable momentum with The Dark Knight (2008). The second movie was always going to be a difficult act to follow, largely thanks to Heath Ledger’s anarchic re-imagining of The Joker and the nihilistic path he chose to follow, and by choosing to explore the opposing form of villainy — organised revolution instead of total chaos — writer-director Nolan unfortunately saddles himself with unavoidable narrative constrictions that prevent The Dark Knight Rises from surpassing its predecessor and thus results in a movie which, while truly spectacular at times, and clearly the product of a highly-charged and creative intellect, nevertheless comes across as something of an anti-climax.
The action takes place eight years after the conclusion of The Dark Knight. Harvey Dent is revered as a hero thanks to Batman’s decision to assume the mantle of villain in order to assist the prevalence of the rule of law in Gotham City. While Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) struggles with his conscience over the methods by which he and Batman (Christian Bale) have achieved their aim, Bruce Wayne has become a recluse, his body damaged by the years of punishment it received as he wore the cape of Batman. Now, at a point when organised crime has been all but driven out of Gotham, a new villain appears in the guise of Bane (Tom Hardy), a hulking brute of a man wearing a Lecter-style mask over his mouth (which, it has to be said, makes it difficult to decipher what he’s saying at times). Bane has amassed an army in the sewers of Gotham with the intention of taking over the city.
Meanwhile, Wayne interrupts cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) in the process of stealing his mother’s necklace. Kyle escapes, and it’s only after she has gone that Wayne realises she also got away with a sample of his fingerprints. When Wall Street comes under attack from Bane and his men, Batman emerges from retirement, but is unable to prevent the terrorists from attacking. Later, he learns that his stolen fingerprints were used to authorise financial transactions that have left him penniless following the Wall Street hijack. In the guise of Wayne, Batman uses Kyle to lead him to Bane’s lair, but find himself at his enemy’s mercy when she betrays him. With Batman out of the way, the path is clear for Bane to continue with his plan to overthrow the city and detonate a Nuclear weapon.
While The Dark Knight Rises’ plot isn’t exactly difficult to follow, there’s always so much going on that it’s sometimes difficult to keep up with what exactly is happening, and even why particular scenes are taking place. And while Nolan is to be applauded for refusing to dumb down his storylines, he sometimes seem to lose himself in the detail which is why we sometimes lose sight of the overview. Characters come and go. Some look as if they’re going to be key to the storyline only to be unexpectedly killed, while others disappear for long stretches — even Anne Hathaway’s Kyle (Catwoman in all but name) has little to do in the movie’s second half.
The new characters who do play an integral part in the movie are a mixed bunch. Hathaway makes an arrestingly feisty foil for Batman, an independent maverick who ultimately questions her allegiance only to her own cause in the face of Batman’s more altruistic motivations. Hathaway, of course, has to operate in the shadow of Michelle Pfieffer’s memorable 1992 incarnation, and does well in the role. Less convincing is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s role as Blake, a clever but idealistic cop in whom Gordon sees memories of himself as a younger man. Blake is certainly clever, but that doesn’t stop him from being incredibly bland with precious little depth or texture. In fact, the only way he could have been duller is if he had been filmed in black-and-white. Pretty early on it becomes clear that he’s shaping up to become Batman’s sidekick, and as a sidekick he should receive a lot less time than the hero at whose side he will one day be kicking. Another new character is that of Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), an environmentalist with whom Bruce Wayne enjoys a romantic interlude. For much of the time it’s unclear exactly what Tate’s purpose in the movie is until an eleventh hour twist that is as unnecessary as it is unlikely.
And finally we have the lead villain, Bane. Tom Hardy works hard in trying to inject some level of memorable villainy into the part, but he’s prevented from doing so by the mask that covers half of his face and a botched backstory which never provides any real reason for his revolutionary activities.
The Dark Knight Rises is an acceptable enough movie in its own right, with some spectacular set-pieces (and, it has to be said, some impressive performances from the less showy regular members of the cast such as Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and, especially, Michael Caine), but it’s clear to all but the most avid Bat-fans that Christopher Nolan set the bar way too high with The Dark Knight for any subsequent movies in the franchise to have a chance of coming anywhere close to matching it.
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