Review: The Dark Knight Rises
PLOT: After many years of being lost from the public eye, Bruce Wayne has found there is an evil brewing in Gotham City. Desperate to prove something to himself and those he loves, he returns to wear the bat-suit. Wayne finds an aggressive enemy in the form of a dark and demented fellow named Bane. Soon, the two are battling not for the love of a woman, but for the future of the entire cityÖ and possibly the entire planet.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES!?! Indeed, it does. For the first half hour or so as I sat back to take in Christopher Nolanís final chapter in the Batman Trilogy, even if it didnít quite live up to my expectations early on. The emergence of Bane (Tom Hardy) is exciting, just not as impressive as the reveal of the Joker (the late Heath Ledger) in the previous film. This is not to say that the moment isnít inspired, somehow it just didnít feel as explosive. However, Tom Hardy with his deep throaty growl underneath an ugly metal mask helps to make him one hell of a villain. He is a vicious brawny monster that seeks to free the people from a corrupt society that made a hero out of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). He seeks to save the public from their shackles only to be chained by his own. This would be exceedingly effortless for him if only Batman refused to return to save his beloved Gotham.
This latest chapter is deeper than simply bad versus good or right versus wrong for the most part. It deftly examines Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) after his alter ego has been deemed a villain. Since the previous film, Batman has been blamed for murdering Dent by a city with no knowledge of the actual events that transpired. One incredibly great moment features Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) publicly praising Dent for his legacy which presumably has left the city free from organized crime Ė at least that is what society believes. He does so at risk of exposing a truth which he feels may do more harm than good. DARK KNIGHT RISES examines the need for truth and the accountability of justice. When Bane explodes into the town with words challenging authority as he claims the desire to give back the government to ďthe people,Ē he clearly carries ulterior motives. Much like the filmís protagonist, nothing is as clear as it may seem for any of the players involved.
There are many themes that bleed throughout Nolanís majestic final chapter. The story examines such complicated issues as class struggle, social structure, morality and so much more. It carefully explores so many different layers that you begin to realize the need for the two-hour and forty-five minute running time. So much is packed into this final chapter that the longer than average running time feels absolutely necessary. While not all of it is completely effective - most notably the ho-hum romance between Wayne and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) Ė RISES completes the trilogy in a rewarding fashion without cheapening the grandeur of the series.
You could say that the sequel betters THE DARK KNIGHT in some ways with a story that is told on a massive scale with some serious issues to dissect on the way out of the theatre. There is no fear that this was simply a cash grab sequel, as this proves that Nolan clearly had a direction that he wanted to pursue. The script revisits BATMAN BEGINS with the return of Liam Neeson who connects Wayne to other key players. Another characterís return garnered some genuine excitement from the crowd that I was with. This is an indisputably well crafted feature that may not have the same level of thrills as the masterful performance that Ledger gave, yet it makes for a near perfect end.
DARK KNIGHT RISES is a reawakening for Wayne. Thus, Bale gives his best performance in the series thanks to the time spent examining Wayne and his destructive path. His character is forced to overcome a series of obstacles that is near maddeningly impossible. RISES offers a balance between the cerebral beginnings of BATMAN BEGINS to what Bruce Wayne started with in THE DARK KNIGHT. Early on when he faces a ferocious and methodical Bane, there is as much at stake to his inner peace as is his already wounded mortal body. One of the best sequences in the film offers us a little back-story on Bane as he offers Wayne the same chance we are lead to believe he was given. The literal light at the end of the tunnel in a prison is an effective way to watch our hero rediscover the strength to fight or what he once had.
Anne Hathawayís Selina Kyle is a complicated character that desires the chance to start fresh. She is a thief with slightly noble beliefs, even if they come at a cost. The rumors youíve heard are true; she is perfect in the role. She is able to project Selineís multi-layered Catwoman and gives THE DARK KNIGHT RISES an added spark. Thankfully, the rest of the cast is equally impressive including Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an idealistic police officer who sees past the corruption that surrounds him. And both Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are a welcome return as the two men who understand the heavy burden Bruce Wayne has placed upon himself.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is impressive indeed. Hans Zimmer creates a haunting and methodical score that swells underneath the film. The special effects are beyond impressive, both the usage of practical and CGI. And yes, seeing this in IMAX is one-hundred percent worth it. It seemed that the majority of the film was IMAX ready which combines fully with the breathtaking images on screen. From the towering shots of Gotham City to the exhilarating action set pieces, Nolan has crafted a worthy adversary when it comes to award season. Maybe the consistent tension from the previous film isnít as prominent here. Even still, this is one of the most ambitiously mesmerizing films I've seen in quite awhile, and it is one that could only come from Christopher Nolan.