Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Four years on from the release of The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy comes to a climactic finish with The Dark Knight Rises. Set eight years after the night of Harvey Dent's death, we see things have changed drastically in Gotham. Bruce Wayne is now a recluse, the streets are free of organised crime and the Batman has become little more than a scary bedtime story. There is a complete shift in tonality from The Dark Knight, Nolan strips the people of Gotham of the personal responsibility he showed they had the capacity to take, deciding the unelected few are more capable. Perhaps thematically The Dark Knight Rises is less satisfying than its immediate predecessor, but the stakes are raised, and the film delivers high octane action and fantastic performances from all members of its cast.

The core group of Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Michael Caine (Alfred), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox) and Gary Oldman (Commissioner Gordon) is joined by a good few members of the Inception cast; Joseph Gordon-Levitt appears as John Blake, a rookie cop who still believes in the Batman, Marion Cotillard Smoulders as Miranda Tate, a wealthy philanthropist interested in doing business with the now faltering Wayne Corporation and Tom Hardy commands the screen as Bane, Batman's latest and deadliest adversary. Another new addition to the cast is Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle (Catwoman, although she is never called such within the film). Despite making the film look bigger and better with swooping cityscape shots and various impressive backdrops (deserts, cities, prisons, even the sky becomes an important location) Nolan achieves the most personal Batman film to date, completely due to the fantastic one-on-one scenes between the actors: most notably the scene between Michael Caine and Christian Bale in Wayne Manor (for those of you who have seen the film, you know exactly the one I mean).

Bale's bitter, hardened Bruce Wayne has aged noticeably since his last outing, having become more resentful and less able to wear his mask (both the literal one and the figurative). Anne Hathaway as Kyle asks him 'Who are you pretending to be?' to which he replies smiling 'Bruce Wayne, eccentric billionaire'. The dichotomy between the carefree man he is supposed to be and the tormented figure he has become has never been more simultaneously pronounced and yet blurred. As most of the characters struggle with their conscience and past traumas, the moral compass of the film is undoubtedly John Blake, played superbly by Gordon-Levitt. His story-arc keeps the rest of the film from becoming morose and reconnects the franchise with its earlier, less world-weary roots.

It would be remiss to neglect mentioning Heath Ledger's sorely felt absence in the film. Nolan deliberately does not mention the Joker at all following Ledger's death prior to the release of The Dark Knight. Tom Hardy does a fantastic job as Bane, who is definitely Bond villain-esque in voice but still terrifying. He operates in a very different world from the Joker, and is at the opposite spectrum of evil. Whereas the Joker thrives on chaos, Bane is undoubtedly a man with a plan. Which villain you find more frightening depends on which side of the coin you are most disturbed by. Personally I feel the Joker put it best himself in The Dark Knight: 'Nobody panics when everything goes according to plan'. However, though Bane begins as a menacing and interesting character, he is ultimately let down by the script.
For fans of the franchise The Dark Knight Rises is sure to please. With numerous references to both of the previous films, it feels like a true conclusion to the epic saga. It is in essence more of a sequel to Batman Begins than The Dark Knight, but captures some of the true horror which is prevalent in the latter.

By Emma-Lee Davidson


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