By Kelly O’Brien
The third instalment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, is a stunning and intellectual conclusion to what has become a cultural phenomenon. Currently showing in cinemas across the globe, The Dark Knight Rises is not to be missed.
Beginning with a fantastic opening sequence, a CIA manned plane is hijacked. Liberated by the manoeuvre is Bane (Tom Hardy), a muscular menace with a muzzle: a modern day mix of Darth Vader and Hannibal Lector.
In no time at all, Bane has control of Gotham’s underground and seeks to destroy the city from the bottom up. Assaulting the Stock Exchange and stealing a nuclear bomb, Bane sees himself as Gotham’s liberator, delivering the city back into the hands of its people.
While Bane gathers strength for Gothams “reckoning”, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) hides himself away in Wayne manor, seeing no one but his butler Alfred (Michael Caine). Alter ego Batman has also become a recluse. Having taken the rap for the crimes of late District Attorney, Harvey Dent, Batman is a fallen hero who, to the people of Gotham at least, is more menace than saviour.
Alerted to Bane’s antics by the svelte and sultry Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), The Batman does eventually return to the streets of Gotham. His years of inaction come with a price, however, and it might be a case of too little too late for the caped crusader.
While The Dark Knight Rises is, without doubt, one of the best films of the year, it’s not without problems. Bane’s artificial voice box made his speech very difficult to follow, for example, rendering much of his dialogue unintelligible. The voice itself was akin to Sean Connery on helium, which had a hugely negative effect. While the mask itself was suitably scary, its presence acted like a barrier between Banes character and the audience, transforming him into nothing more than a problem for Batman to overcome. It would have been nice to feel some sort of emotion towards Bane, loathing, fear, pity even, but those feelings never quite hit the surface.
Catwoman, while deliciously devious in her cat burgling antics, didn’t quite hit the spot either. A serious lack of character progression results in some of her actions/decisions (particularly towards the end) seeming random and inexplicable.
On either side of The Dark Knight, Nolan made The Prestige and Inception, thought-provoking films that pushed many a boundary. While Nolan was free to experiment a little more with both films, neither of them beholden to the particular expectations of a franchise, we can still see their themes reflected in The Dark Knight Rises. Touching on some very dark subject matter, The Dark Knight Rises asks us what it means to wear a mask and explores preoccupations about identity, morality and self-sacrifice.
Every film has its problems and The Dark Knight Rises is no different. Despite some character glitches and a slow pace at times, it’s a truly fantastic visual experience. The plot is intellectual and intriguing, with a wry sense of humour and some heart-wrenchingly sincere moments. The ending is second to none, much to the testimony of Michael Caine and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the last fifteen minutes are the best of the entire film.
While Nolan’s Batman finale isn’t perfect, and may not be the greatest instalment of the trilogy, it does manage to solidify this three-part tale of the Batman legend as one of the best ever told – in any medium – while also delivering one of the best blockbuster movie experiences of the summer.