The Dark Knight Rises

Finally the conclusion to the Dark Knight trilogy is upon us. Unlike the Batman films of the late 80s and early 90s, this new trilogy has managed to retain the same principal actors, production team, writers and director throughout, allowing for more consistency and continuity throughout. And where most reviews so far have been spoiler-free, where the film is now on general release, this review shall be utterly spoiler-ific. So be warned. I also went to see this film three times before writing the review, just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.

First up, I really enjoyed this movie. I recently re-watched Begins and TDK on a special double screening at my local cinema, and considered this to be an event movie. Even before the film began we were treated to the first trailer for next year’s Man of Steel, which had me just as excited. The film then begins, and we get the familiar beats, with the bat logo coming from cracking ice. Then the scene with the plane from last year’s MI4 Imax screenings (which nods towards Licence to Kill’s opening when Bond snatches Sanchez’s plane in much the same way – Licence to Kill was also released in 89, same year as Burton’s first Batman).

The film establishes the city of Gotham eight years after the events of TDK. The city is in peacetime. Gordon is about to reveal the truth about Dent, but holds off. Wayne is a recluse who watches from the shadows. Selina Kyle soons makes her first appearance stealing Wayne’s mother’s pearls and Bruce’s finger prints. Bruce rumbles her pretty quick, and following a quick interchange she escapes, only to meet a slightly reinvigorated Bruce at a fund raiser by Miranda Tate. The interchange hear is reminiscent of Batman Returns, and has mostly been seen in the trailer. The Cat (never once referred to as Catwoman, much like in her early comic appearances) is introduced here as a very skilled and slippery thief.

The film follows Bane as he unleashes a terrorist threat on the city of Gotham, which wouldn’t feel out of place in a 24 series. Bane is ruthless. His introduction during the Bond-style opening shows his casual regard for the lives of his men, and the fanatical devotion they have to their cause. Bane later demonstrates this same disregard for their lives when two of his men appear to him with Gordon in tow. “What are you doing here?” he asks, appearing to address Gordon, yet actually addressing his men. He strangles one of them, then informs the other “Search him, then I will kill you”. He has cool, cold, calm to the way he states this. He is a huge physical threat.We are also introduced to Blake, played brilliantly by Joseph Gordon Levitt. He knows the Batman’s true identity, and is an orphan himself so can relate (in a carry-on-the-mantle kind of way). His character is honest and good. He saves Gordon after Gordon has been shot in the sewers and confronts Bruce about his alter-ego to ask for help as the police aren’t taking the the terrorist threat in the sewers seriously.

 

The Batman and Bane have their inevitable first showdown when Selina Kyle leads Bruce into Bane’s trap. The scene is superbly played with no music, just the beats of fists and kicks. The moment where Bane cracks Batman’s cowl feels especially brutal, and then we get that moment; the Breaking of the Bat. This moment is shown without any real build up, and isn’t over-played. It simply happens. With Batman broken, the rest of Bane’s plan kicks into effect, with the explosions around the city, and the destruction of the football stadium from the trailer, all of which look incredible on the big screen.

As Batman recovers trapped inside the prison that Bane (apparently the son of Ras Al Guhl) grew up in, we see mirror events to that of Batman Begins, as Bruce has to once again face fear and climb to his destiny. Even the look of the pit Bruce has to climb out of is similar to well he fell into as a child.

The supporting actors are given good character arcs. Matthew Modine starts as an ambitious political climber Foley, who hides when the city is under siege, but then later leads the charge against Bane’s mercenaries in his full dress uniform. Alfred leaves half way through after confessing burning Rachel’s letter, and speaking of his desire for Bruce to make it and live a happy life as there was nothing left for Bruce in Gotham any more.

It was also a joy to see Scarecrow’s sentencing hearings, with his grim prosecution of “Exile or Death”. It was a great cameo, and fun to see the character make an appearance in all three of Nolan’s Batman trilogy (a more successful villain than any of the Burton era ones).

On a personal note, it was fun to see Stargate SG1′s Christopher Judge cameo as one of Bane’s henchmen, along with William Devane who played the US President in both SG1 and Dark Knight Rises, and played a The Secretary of Defense in 24 (indeed there were also a few other 24 actors, most notably the terrorist who was shoe shining before performing the Wall Street heist, as well as the ex-prisoner who was forcing Torchwood’s Burn Gorman to walk the ice).

There are a few plot conveniences. The most glaring being Bruce suddenly turning up in Gotham after escaping Bane’s Middle Eastern prison on foot. There’s no explanation of how he was able to travel back (without passports or money as Bruce is broke at this point, or even transport to get him to the nearest airport) and no explanation of how he was able to get back into Gotham City, when at this point all the bridges into the city except one have been destroyed and the last remaining one is patrolled heavily by police. Also, the Wall Street heist appeared to be unneccessary, as once Daggett seized control of Wayne Enterprises he was then killed, and it all became irrelevent (even if it was a lot of fun to watch). Still, these can be forgiven as this is a great film and a great finish to the trilogy (it could have been another Spider-Man 3, X-Men 3, Superman 3, etc). I look forward to seeing it for a fourth time when the Blu Ray is released in Dec (if it follows suit with Nolan’s previous Warners releases).