Tis the summer of comic superhero blockbusters and its safe to say that “The Dark Knight Rises” is the one we have all been waiting for.
(Some spoiler’s ahead)
TDKR picks up eight years after the Joker’s rampage on Gotham led to Harvey Dent’s (Aaron Eckhart) horrific death and Batman’s sacrificial transformation from hero to outlaw. It’s peacetime for Gotham City, kept on a tight leash by an army-sized police force and anti-criminal legislative powers, both enabled by the Dent Act. Bruce Wayne has hung up cape and cowl, skulking about his neglected manor with the shades drawn. The Batman is long gone, forced into exile to protect Harvey Dent’s reputation, as well as keeping Gotham in ceasefire mode.
Alfred (Michael Caine) his beloved confidant, informs him that Wayne Enterprises is in major financial trouble, thanks to a clean-energy research project which Bruce spearheaded and then mothballed.
All set to change that is Bane (Tom Hardy), a masked, ruthless and calculating terrorist who infiltrates Gotham City and re-introduces lawlessness, armed with a loyal band of followers (escaped convicts) and sinister motives.
With the help of a demoralized Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), rookie cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and cunning jewel thief Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), a beat-down Bruce resurrects Batman for one more battle against evil.
Bane does what he is expected to do but with the air mask he uses to stay alive, his dialogue is difficult to comprehend and leaves the audience puzzled and frustrated, especially as most of what he is saying is essential to the surrounding events. His ridiculously beefy appearance and militaristic look does make an impact initially but fizzles out eventually as he gets repetitive and – dare I say it – sometimes boring. I’m sure I can’t be the only one who noticed his accent change a few times?
Even though her appearance is marked by a dodgy Hans Zimmer piano motif, Selina Kyle on the contrary is surprisingly impressive, although she is never actually referred to as Catwoman in the film. Hathaway is great in the role – slick, smooth, sexy – but Selina Kyle never gets the sweeping arc she deserves. She flirts with Bruce, she steals some pearls, she beats up the big burly men AND she sets Batman up but still her role isn’t integral to the plot. The screenplay has difficulty reconciling her sinister sexiness with the otherwise encompassing gravitas. That Catwoman doesn’t quite gel shouldn’t be too surprising though as Nolan has never shown a much proclivity for writing great female roles.
The real surprise of the movie is John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the idealistic beat cop who fights for the goodwill of Gotham and gets a taste of glory along the way. He befriends Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and takes a keen interest in Bruce Wayne as he is one of the few who knows his secret. It’s his love of his home turf that we sympathise with. This is how true heroes are made, with compassion, honesty, motivation and devotion.
The action scenes are deployed with classic James Cameron-style masterful pacing, while the entire movie is gorgeously shot. Nolan’s film is a reminder that superheroes aren’t merely a frivolous distraction, but an embodiment of our best selves.
See the movie for its spectacle and glory, but buried within is what could have been a clearer narrative, sharper dialogue (though bad guys are usually given barbed witticisms, this time Bane is vapid), and a more suspenseful evocation of disaster as a nuclear bomb ticks away.
All of which brings us to the unavoidable question, ‘Is ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ better than (2008) ‘The Dark Knight’? No, it isn’t. But that doesn’t lessen its brilliance and the performances of the cast. TDKR works superbly as a concluding film while Dark Knight worked fabulously as one of the best chapter’s of Batman’s life, thanks to Joker and the brilliance of Heath Ledger. It’s unfair to compare the two films. I will however compare Bane with Joker and the latter easily wins the race, as he kept us all on the edge of our seats continually – and most importantly we acknowledged his psychosis because we could actually hear him!
With their Batman trilogy, Nolan and Bale have revolutionized superhero films from colorful action adventures to serious meditations on justice and power. The franchise’s loyal fans won’t be disappointed with this immensely satisfying conclusion to Nolan’s epic trilogy, which I believe is one of cinemas best.
Now I don’t know about everyone else but I, for one, am all comic book blockbuster exhausted!