It is always a marvelous feat when a film can endure its own hype, and not disappoint eager moviegoers. For The Dark Knight Rises, being an entertaining film is doubly important, considering the recent events involving the movie. Thankfully, this is a great film. It isn’t perfect, but it’s an epic conclusion to a great trilogy, and it will satisfy audiences with almost every moment.
Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Batman has gone into hiding, Bruce Wayne has become a recluse, and Gotham City enjoys uninterrupted peace. Yet, there’s still room for evil and corruption to grow. A board member within Wayne’s now failing company sets out to take over by hiring seductive and skillful cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and mysterious mercenary Bane (Tom Hardy) to steal Wayne’s money. Unfortunately, Bane has even bigger plans, which include finishing the work of Batman’s old enemies, setting events into motion that will destroy the entire city and everyone in it. Only one man seems up to the task to stop Bane, but weighed down by age, he’s a shadow of his former self.
The Dark Knight Rises is a dense movie. There’s a lot of plot and plot twists to establish, new characters to introduce and old characters to welcome back. As such, every scene and dialogue exchange feels important, yet also overwhelming. There’s rarely a break where the audience can just stop and process the information – so inattentive viewers beware! The rest of the audience will be held in rapt attention, consuming this deep story.
The new characters introduced to the series are welcome additions, since they are thoroughly charismatic, well written and well-acted. Bane makes for a satisfying villain in his ferocity coupled with a deep intellect and cynical worldview. Hardy does an excellent job in the role, compensating for a filtered voice and his face-restricting mask by making smart choices with his gesticulations to convey his menacing presence. While not plumped up to the size of his comic book counterpart, Bane is still truly intimidating. Anne Hathaway also handles her role well, effortlessly moving from her adopted con personas back to her normal hardened personality whenever she pleases. Her character also has the biggest arc in the film; it’s just a shame that Selina Kyle – and her relationship with Bruce Wayne – wasn’t developed more. At times, it seems like Kyle and Wayne create what they have simply because the script called for it. Still, special kudos goes out to her character design. Kyle is never called Catwoman, but smart use of a flip-back visor gives her the look and feel of Julie Newmar’s Catwoman from the 1966 Batman television series.
The direction and cinematography are on par with Nolan’s previous Batman offerings. The Dark Knight Rises sets the tone early with a breathtaking set-piece in midair, featuring gunmen hijacking a plane from the outside. Visual effects are also put to good use, like Batman’s cycle and the damage done to a stadium after an explosion, and these moments are sure to draw applause from the audience. Sadly, the action sequences – namely the fight scenes – aren’t on par with other recent comic book adaptations. They’re better than the previous Batman films in that the action can be clearly seen, but the choreography is also very apparent as well. Bad guys with firearms inexplicably run up to Batman rather than shoot at him from a distance. In group fights when Batman is outnumbered, bad guys won’t attack all at once, instead opting to wait their turn to get punched. The choices made to achieve a PG-13 rating also hamper the believability of the film in certain scenes, like when a group of police officers rush right into concentrated fire from small arms; only a few officers fall. Nevertheless, the point of each scene is made, and the despicable murder is juxtaposed nicely against the heroic sacrifices throughout the movie.
What really sets The Dark Knight Rises apart, however, are the conspicuous political themes peppering the story. The antagonists in the film convince the populous to demonize the rich, casting them out into the streets, destroying their homes and claiming their property as their own. One character laments that “this house used to be beautiful.” To which a compatriot replies with satisfaction, “Now it’s everybody’s house.” More than class warfare, the film also touches on green energy, corporatism, appeasement and other topics. Whether or not audiences agree with the light the film casts onto these issues, it’s refreshing to see something come out of Hollywood with a unique opinion.