Set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, this third and final instalment from Christopher Nolan begins in a Gotham without Batman. Since taking the fall for the crimes of Harvey Dent, Bruce Wayne has become a recluse, and his financial empire has crumbled. When a new enemy appears beneath the streets in the form of Bane, Bruce will be forced to dust off the ol’ cape ‘n’ cowl for his toughest challenge yet.
My response to The Dark Knight Rises is mixed. On the face of it, this is my least favourite of this generation of Batman films. It relies a lot on events that occurred before, so it doesn’t really stand on its own two feet the way that Batman Begins and The Dark Knight did. Writers Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer seem like they’re tying up loose ends for much of the film’s running time. This doesn’t make it a bad film by any means, but it certainly has its problems.
First off, Rises repeats the mistakes of the previous entry by having a hell of a lot of plot crammed into its 164 minute running time. Once again, I found myself having to go over various events in my mind afterwards, trying to make sense of small yet crucial moments that sped by me in a blur. I also reckon I missed a good 10 per cent of the dialogue as it was growled, whispered or grunted at me. Bane’s voice is a huge issue, however there were many occasions when I missed lines delivered by other characters.
Secondly, the addition of Selina Kyle was a missed opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, Anne Hathaway is great in the role and her costume is suitably… distracting. However, considering this take on Batman had thus far had realism in its sights, the idea that someone as skinny as her could beat up a bunch of bad guys is simply preposterous. Before someone complains that I’m taking a comic book movie too seriously, blame the filmmakers. They were the ones that spent a good half an hour of Batman Begins explaining just how someone like Bruce Wayne could ever become the caped crusader. That they didn’t cast a credibly muscled woman in the role of Selina was a missed opportunity.
Finally – and this will vary depending on your knowledge of Batman lore and how carefully you pay attention – for the first time in the trilogy, the narrative is predictable. I am familiar with significant events from the comics, so I can’t complain when they stick reasonably close to the source material. But I had already worked out who would be playing who when the casting of the film was announced a year or two back, and I’m someone who eschewed every other form of publicity since then (never having seen any footage or even an on set photograph before I sat down in the cinema).
Despite all this, The Dark Knight Rises is still a good film. As I mentioned, Hathaway is a great addition, as is Marion Cotillard. The casting of these two goes some way to fixing the main problem I had with the first two films also – that is, the lack of female characters. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman are just as perfect the third time around, whilst Tom Hardy gives an impressive performance (enunciation notwithstanding) considering he’s hidden behind a mask for most of the running time. Matthew Modine is a welcome presence also, as is Australia’s own Ben Mendelsohn, who was presumably cast after the rest of the world went nuts over Animal Kingdom. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is also brilliant (yet again) as an idealistic young policeman.
Perhaps I’m viewing the film too harshly because the previous two set the bar so high. To be clear: Nolan’s final take on the Batman is a strong film, but easily the most flawed of the three. That the narrative is so intrinsically linked with that which came before is both a boon and a curse: the completed trilogy fits together nicely, but at the sacrifice of the final chapter having its own distinct identity.Rating: