The Dark Knight Rises Review

I know this is a big claim, but I think that The Avengers has just been knocked off the top spot for superhero movies. Sure it may not gross as high and the film may not have the mass appeal that the family friendly action blockbuster had, but The Dark Knight Rises fills a very different and equally important role in the landscape of superhero films.

Let me start of by saying that The Dark Knight Rises is less of a Batman film, and more of a Bruce Wayne story. Yes, there are action scenes where the Caped Crusader battles swarms of enemies and these scenes are better than in either of the other Christopher Nolan Batman films, but the film’s focus and driving force is Wayne‘s constant struggle to find a new purpose, after the events of The Dark Knight left him without the love of his life, or evil to protect Gotham‘s citizens from. In the eight years since The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne has gone from suave, debonair billionaire philanthropist to a recluse, starved of contact with the outside world and lacking in any motivations. The movie really shows him in a very different light. Having seen the pain and suffering in Batman Begins that pushed him to don the suit, and seeing him fulfil his potential in The Dark Knight, this film does a terrific job of showing how once that is all gone not only has he lost his identity as the Batman, but seemingly his identity as Bruce Wayne in the process.

The film’s pacing is absolutely spot on. For a near three hour long movie, I went in expecting it to feel longer than your average film. In the end, the timing felt perfect. Not a single scene felt rushed, and the film as a whole didn’t feel too long or too short, it just felt right.

The returning cast all do a great job as they did in the first two films. The most impressive being Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, who adds a whole new layer of depth to his acting in this film, really taking his performance up a notch. Michael Caine as Alfred has some truly brilliant and touching moments, showing the father and son bond the two of them share at its most intense. We also see Anne Hathaway joining the cast as Selina Kyle (Catwoman), Tom Hardy as Bane (the new villain) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young police officer called John Blake.

Anne Hathaway does a superb job as Selina Kyle, completely blowing my expectations out of the water. She and Christian have a very natural chemistry when together on screen, bringing the playfulness the characters share in the comic books to light and really showed off how a femme fatale should be portrayed. She isn’t being exploited for her looks, she is using them to exploit others in a very classy and deadly way. Joseph Gordon-Levitt also does a great job in the role of John Blake. He adds a sense of optimism, hope, and youthful idealism that helps keep the film grounded and stops it getting too heavy during its darker scenes.

What impressed me most about the portrayal of Bane, and how he was acted by Tom Hardy, is that they found a way to live up to the legendary Joker performance of the late Heath Ledger. They couldn’t have picked a further villain from the Joker for this film. Bane is brute force and reflexes with a ruthless determination compared to the Joker, who was always about messing with Batman and Gotham on a more anarchic and psychological level. Bane is at his core a terrorist, bent on upending the government of Gotham, but his complete lack of any remorse at his actions makes him a truly terrifying foe to face. Tom‘s ability to convey emotion while behind a fairly full face mask is also impressive, and a testament to how much he put himself into the part. Using only his eyes, he conveys a great range of emotions and manages to get across much more of his motivations than many actors who aren’t wearing a metal face trap while on screen.

Without spoiling anything, there are some scenes in the film that mesh the sound and visuals to tremendous effect. One particularly chilling scene had the audience so quiet that you could not hear a single person breathing. Everyone was holding their breath collectively just waiting for what we could see coming. The use of audio in that particular scene made it all the more terrifying and just summed up what I love about this film, its ability to completely take you into its world, and make you feel for those involved. I would definitely recommend seeing this film in IMAX if possible. A good 80% to 90% of the film was shot in IMAX and it really adds to the experience. The opening scene, which is shot flying about Scotland, looked amazing and really benefited from Nolan’s insistence to film as much as possible in IMAX, as well as his attempts to reduce the amount of computer effects in the film. Filmed largely in the air, it really does benefit the scene. The only complaint I have for the IMAX version is that the occasional switching to 16:9 letterbox when you get to a non IMAX scene can be noticeable, but it’s quickly forgotten.

On the topic of disappointing things about the film, it occasionally suffers from heavy handed foreshadowing. While it is not too obvious at first, some of the later scenes in the film have their impact lessened because the film insists on rubbing your face in a point one too many times.

I’m hesitant to say much more, because you really need to go into this film knowing as little as possible. It is not as much about action as in The Dark Knight, but when it does action it does it on an even bigger and more impressive scale. The real highlight of the film is the emotion portrayed by the characters. This film brilliantly wraps up an amazing interpretation of this character, hints at what is to come and just left me feeling like this film had been everything I had wanted it to be. I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who enjoyed the previous two. The film takes the best characterisation moments from Batman Begins, pairing that with the brilliance of villain and strength of the action scenes in The Dark Knight and blends them into an amazingly crafted experience. What are you waiting for? Go book a ticket.

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