After eight years of relative inactivity in the streets of Gotham, mainly thanks to a Harvey Dent act – constructed in false honour of Harvey Two-face from The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne is a recluse in his manor, hobbling around with a walking stick and never showing his face. However, he’s kicked back into life – quite literally – by Selina Kyle, a swish, sassy cat burglar who’s also not bad to look at.
It soon transpires she’s working for a greater evil, Bane, a hulking badass who was born in a prison known as “hell on earth”. Walking around with a hugely creepy gas mask in front of his face and casually disposing of anyone who gets into his way, Bane christens himself “Gotham’s reckoning.” But Bruce Wayne, never one to take attack to his beloved city lying down, fancies letting Batman reckon with him.
Nolan’s final instalment of his epic Batman trilogy is the most ambitious of the three, and no shortage of love nor money has gone into creating it. Action sequences which would be hard to direct at the best of times are made ten times more so with the almost unmanageable size of the quantity of extras employed – the American football game stands out in particular here.
There are one-on-one fight scenes, as well as thousands-on-thousands, and some of the martial arts sequences (particularly involving Selina Kyle aka Catwoman) are thrillingly choreographed. But the real challenge didn’t lie in any part of the action, but bringing the trilogy to a close in both an emotionally satisfying way, and one that did justice to the massive Batman franchise. Other critics have been left wanting by the ending, the direction of the film (at 164 minutes, it will test your bladder), as well as the sprawling nature of the screenplay.
Indeed, Nolan co-write this film with his brother Jonathan, and at times, the dialogue (between Batman and Bane in particular) feels twice as portentous as that of Inception, and, considering I sure-as-hell was no fan of Inception, that’s certainly saying something. Another aspect of the film that has bugged some people is that the majority of time, it was difficult to decipher what Bane was actually saying due to the mask in front of his face.
This was infuriating and confusing, definitely, but overall, I was quite impressed with how it contributed to the eerie, ominous sense of the film. Then there are the plot holes. Usually when I watch a film, I choose to suspend belief and just go with it, but there were a few subtle things that even I couldn’t ignore – for example – how policemen who had been trapped under rubble for months were suddenly as sprightly and energetic as ever. I won’t reveal any others at the risk of spoiling the plot, but plot holes are so rife in the film that some wags have taken to giving TDKR the moniker “The Plot Holes Rises.”
But all this pales in comparison in the grand scheme of things, when the end product is so epic. Chris Nolan recruited the majority of the cast of Inception for The Dark Knight Rises, so he must really enjoy working with them.
Of the Inception crew, Marion Cotillard impressed me the least here. There were times when her facial expressions were borderline Drama GCSE, and considering the amazingly accurate depiction of Edith Piaf she has given before, we all know she can do a lot better.
Michael Caine was very good, as he has been throughout the trilogy, and he has a few heart-rending scenes in which he tells Bruce how much he means to him. But my favourite performance of the Inception bunch is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays a John Blake, cop, who, like Wayne, is an orphan, and thus sees him as a kindred spirit. Blake is very resourceful and comes to Batman’s aid at various points throughout the film and makes for a commendable supporting hero. And as the baddy, Tom Hardy is absolutely terrifying. He had a thankless task, having to follow-up Heath Ledger's terrifying Joker as the Batman villain, but he gives Bane genuine malice when the character could have easily become a hilarious caricature and for that, Laurels should be given to Hardy (boom boom :p).
Christian Bale, surely one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood, takes the lead role again wonderfully. It doesn’t quite match up to his work in The Fighter, The Machinist or my personal favourite, All the Little Animals (remember that film? lol), but in a role that is so easy to get wrong, he gets pretty much everything right.
However, every scene he shared with Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman was stolen from her, for she was sensational. I had my qualms about seeing wholesome Princess Mia from The Princess Diaries playing such a sexy, amoral role, but Hathaway nails it. Her fight scenes are electrifying, and she deserves further plaudits when you consider she’s doing them in six-inch stiletto heels. Like a real cat, Hathaway slinks about the film like she owns it, and as a result, it really feels like she does. There’s also an engaging turn from English Rose Juno Temple as Catwoman’s friend and possible lover. Temple doesn’t do much, but it’s a proud moment to see her in such a huge blockbuster.
So engrossing that I did not check my phone once throughout the viewing of The Dark Knight Rises, I honestly couldn’t recommend it enough. It definitely has flaws, and several blog entries could be dedicated to the inconsistencies alone. But the overall good in the film – and boy, there is a lot of it – more than counterbalances it.
Christopher Nolan has really done himself proud here, and for this alone, I am willing to forgive him for Inception (incidentally, Hans Zimmer’s score at points really do sound Inceptionish throughout the film (528491 from Inception sounds like it was played in every scene in TDKR), but we’ll allow). His brooding direction has given Batman what was seriously lacking in the previous cringeworthy George Clooney-starring Batman Forever films – soul.
Much like Bruce Wayne, I haven’t been fulfilling my film critic duties much this year. But The Dark Knight Rises is my very own Bane, in that sense. The passion for cinema is back, all thanks to this film.
And at the end of the day, there is no bigger compliment I can pay a film than that.