Poor Christopher Nolan.
It’s hard to remember the last time a director had so many hoops to jump through, and as this film has drawn closer those hoops have turned into flaming rings of death surrounded by chainsaw-wielding sharks. But rest assured, good nerds – The Dark Knight Rises more than lives up to the ridiculously high expectations surrounding it.
Eight years have passed since the events of The Dark Knight, and Gotham City is enjoying a long period of peace. Batman is nowhere to be seen, while Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has donned a scruffy beard and taken to hobbling around Wayne Manor with a cane. But when the city faces a new threat from masked terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy), Wayne dons the cape and cowl to protect the city once more.
At 165 minutes long it’s the heftiest film of the trilogy, and admittedly it does take a while to get off the ground; a lot’s happened in the interim that we need to be brought up to speed on. But after an hour’s worth of exposition, this movie becomes a very different beast, full of the same kind of grandiose set-pieces that we’ve come to expect from Nolan.
The aim here is obviously to provide a definitive end to the trilogy and in that respect, Nolan certainly succeeds. Plot points and key scenes from both films are mentioned, questions are answered, and you’ll walk away from the theatre feeling like things have reached a satisfying conclusion.
As always, Nolan’s casting is superb, and the old quartet of Bale, Cane, Freeman and Oldman all maintain the exceptionally high standard of performance they’ve given throughout the trilogy – Caine in particular gives Alfred a nice streak of wit to provide a few chuckles at Master Wayne’s expense.
The newbies, meanwhile, are all excellent additions. Anne Hathaway oozes sex appeal as Selina Kyle, and has a genuine and electric chemistry with both Bruce Wayne and the Batman, whilst Marion Cotillard is charming as Miranda Tate, an entrepreneur who’s trying to bring Bruce out of his shell. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, meanwhile, manages to make the cliché of a beat cop who listens to his gut seem completely organic, and fits in perfectly as a kind of protégé to Jim Gordon.
Then there’s Tom Hardy’s performance as masked brute Bane, which is equal parts captivating and somehow slightly surreal. With the sophisticated English accent there’s a hint of Malcolm MacDowell’s performance in A Clockwork Orange and it makes for some mighty uncomfortable viewing. But the quiet brute feels somewhat pale compared to Ledger’s bombastic Joker, more predictable, and somehow less interesting.
Rises doesn’t surpass The Dark Knight, but then Nolan set the bar at a pretty much insurmountable level with that one. What it does do is provide an emotional and satisfying ending to the Dark Knight Rises trilogy, which will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest comic book adaptations of all time.
Whoever decides to reboot this franchise is either very brave or very stupid.