The Dark Knight Rises
- Director:Christopher Nolan
- Cast:Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman
- Release Date:July 17, 2012
- Running time:164 minutes
- Film Worth:$19.50
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Epic and exhilarating in its ambition and execution, Christopher Nolan delivers another landmark in comic book cinema and also a wholly satisfying end note for fans.
It's always unfair to view a film through a comparative lens, but sometimes, it's flat-out unavoidable. With 2008's The Dark Knight, co-writer/director, Christopher Nolan, followed up his superb 2005 comic book adaptation, Batman Begins, with a work of staggering brilliance. Keenly intelligent and tragic in tone, this sprawling urban thriller changed the face of comic book movies forever, largely through the sheer force of its undeniable maturity and blue ribbon quality. Though principally tracing the almost Biblical fall from grace of golden boy DA, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), into crazed criminal, Two-Face, The Dark Knight was effectively lorded over by the late Heath Ledger, and his operatic turn as the villainous Joker. It is a performance (and, indeed, scripted creation) so inventive, imaginative and singularly powerful that with The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan is effectively duelling with a ghost. And that is a battle impossible to win. But while The Dark Knight Rises is not the equal of its lauded predecessor, it certainly gets within spitting distance, and that is no mean feat. You have to credit any filmmaker that sets themself an impossible task, and with The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan delivers not just another landmark in comic book cinema, but also continuing evidence of his daring as a director. The Dark Knight Rises is big, nasty, shocking, electrifying, smartly characterised, and, most importantly, not even remotely disappointing.
It's eight years after the chaos wrought by the late Two-Face and apparently still living Joker (who goes glaringly, conspicuously unreferenced through the entirety of The Dark Knight Rises, either in silent tribute to Ledger, or through the fear that the mere mention of his name will ignite a torrent of distracting, lovingly shadowy memories in the audience), and the masked vigilante, Batman (Christian Bale, as soulful and engaging as ever), is in retirement. But with the emergence of the brutal mercenary, Bane (a ferociously muscled up Tom Hardy is truly terrifying as one of the Batman comics' greatest, but lesser known, villains), Gotham's unofficial protector must return as his beloved city is wracked by terrorist shockwaves and sent hurtling towards wholesale collapse.
With The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan maintains the gritty, hyper-real tone that he so supremely established in his first two Batman films. Gotham feels like a real city, and the film's images of urban explosions, chaos in the streets, concrete rubble, an army of police trapped underground (after falling into a particularly cruel trap laid by Bane), and a massive metropolis in mourning can't help but evoke memories of 9/11. It's a brave (perhaps unintentional) reference from Nolan, but it brings the accordant resonance and power. Unfortunately (and again, perhaps unintentionally), Bane and his henchman - who set out to take Gotham from the rich and return it to "the people" - come off like some kind of bizarre and ugly reactionary appropriation of the world's peaceful, media-catching Occupy movement. In this case, Nolan's ripped-from-the-headlines approach pays slightly uncomfortable dividends.
That said, everything else in The Dark Knight Rises feels deliriously right. Though the plot - literally a race against the clock to prevent utter urban annihilation - is decidedly simple (particularly when stacked up against the snaking, labyrinthine narrative whirl executed in The Dark Knight), it is multi-layered, captivating, and punctuated with surprises. All of Nolan's existing characters (Michael Caine's Alfred, Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon, Morgan Freeman's Lucius Fox) are given plenty to work with, while new players, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (excellent and inspiring as a heroic cop), Matthew Modine (crumpled and tarnished as a decidedly less heroic cop), and Marion Cotillard (alluring and charming as an enigmatic high society love interest for Bale's Bruce Wayne) are all rock-solid in support. The film's biggest surprise, however, is undoubtedly Anne Hathaway as a comic book-faithful Selena Kyle (also known as, but never referred to in the film, as Catwoman), a canny, excitingly limber thief who becomes Batman's uneasy ally as Gotham burns. She's funny, sexy, extremely likeable, and provides welcome sass and levity in what is an appropriately dark and often grim film.
Exhilarating and wholly satisfying, The Dark Knight Rises proves that allegedly "low art" can have just as much impact as apparently "higher" forms of entertainment, providing a modern mythology that is epic in scope, rich in meaning, and ultimately and utterly unforgettable. The Dark Knight Rises doesn't make you forget its towering predecessor - it makes you remember it even more keenly, which, in hindsight, is far more valuable. Widely touted as the endgame in Christopher Nolan's Batman series, The Dark Knight Rises is cinematic proof that all good - nay, great - things must come to an end. It's a bittersweet reckoning indeed...