It has been seven years since the reboot of the Batman franchise and four years since the iconic second film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga; the haunting and astounding The Dark Knight. A film which included a posthumous Oscar winning performance from the late Heath Ledger, record breaking box office returns and left the Caped Crusader on the run from those he had protected. But does this last film in Nolan’s trilogy impress or does it simply suffer from the dreaded ‘third movie syndrome’?
Directed by Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises picks up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight and the city of Gotham, after prospering through the ‘Harvey Dent Act’ which saw criminality essentially eradicated, has now become a cynical landscape where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer – a message which sits on the foundations of the film. Where Dark Knight’s message was a comment on The War on Terror, Rises pokes a finger at those responsible for the current financial woes of the planet. Although, the catalyst to this cynicism is of course due to the disappearance of the Batman, and as the citizens of Gotham try and wrestle with the supposed guilt of Christian Bale’s Batman, many fires do indeed begin to rise.
In the eight years Bruce Wayne has been ‘out of action’ he has become a reclusive and shadowy figure contending with his own personal afflictions, with Michael Caine at the centre, beautifully heightening the sensitive and emotional link between the two. But when he finally dons the Bat suit and returns to the streets of Gotham, he must also contend with the physical man mountain of Tom Hardy’s villain, Bane. A masked mercenary, who compared to the anarchic role of The Joker in The Dark Knight, is meticulous, cunning and brutal – a man with a plan; a revolutionary communist in a capitalist society. It’s a shame but the comparisons to Heath Ledger were always going to crop up upon the announcement that Hardy was to play the villain in the follow up. However, with just the use of his bulking stature and his eyes, Tom Hardy not only holds his own under the weight of expectation but injects the role with swagger and most importantly, confidence – something that is clear to see in the new additions to Nolan’s universe. Anne Hathaway slips into her role as Catwoman (and that catsuit) brilliantly. Sexy without the gratuitousness and more importantly another strong female presence in a male dominated cast.
There is also another character which is symbolic of the films title – the city of Gotham. In the two previous films, Batman was always seen at night, hiding in the shadows. However by bringing him into the light, Nolan highlights hope, hope against the dark. However, it is on the shoulders of Director of Photography Wally Pfister (a man who shares Nolan’s belief of film over digital), to which Gotham is superbly lit and framed. Night scenes in particular are a joy to behold. With the the flashes of police sirens and the glow of street lights bathing the city streets, Michael Mann would certainly be proud and for someone who began lighting scenes for softcore pornography early in his career, Pfister has certainly honed his art and through this partnership with Nolan, he has become the best in his field.
In the 165 minutes The Dark Knight Rises is on screen, Nolan has certainly continued where he left off. He has again created a gritty, intelligent and black superhero movie, which makes standard blockbuster fluff look as unappealing as Bane’s jockstrap after an intense workout. This is Nolan’s most mature Batman film and it completes a trilogy which in years to come will be regarded as one of the most important, influential and, quality wise, the best in cinema history. See it.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012), directed by Christopher Nolan, is distributed in the UK by Warner Bros. Pictures, Certificate 12A.