The Dark Knight Rises

thedarkknightrises*** ½

3 ½ out of 5

CONTAINS SPOILERS

After the success of The Dark Knight, this film has a lot to live up to. I’ll come straight out and say this isn’t as good, but really the question is does it stand as a film in it’s own right? Yes it does. In fact, if you view it as the concluding part of a trilogy, then it’s excellent.

As the third part in the saga it offers the question of what happens when you have succeeded, when most of what you were fighting for has been solved.  Bruce Wayne is crippled at the beginning of this film, his crime fighting having taken a toll, and he has gone into retirement. Gotham’s crime has been drastically reduced, and it hasn’t been good news for those that tried so hard to make that happen. As one character says of Comissioner Gordon, “He was a war hero, this is peace time.” This being a film, the peaceful time doesn’t last long. If anything, things get worse than ever before.

It is rare in these films that you genuinely belief that the hero is in serious trouble, but that happens several times here. The stakes here are much higher. By the time this film gets going, the whole of Gotham city is threatened, and it only escalates from there, in the last third or so of the film the city has been completely taken over by angry escaped criminals, and the fight for the citizens is one of survival. On top of that, there is a nuclear bomb that is set to go off.  As you might have guessed, the tone of this film is more closer to a blockbuster high octane disaster movie than previously.  There are A LOT of explosions. It can’t really be said that it has a light tone, but the visual look and cinematography is lighter than before.

This film heavily publicised that Catwoman, arguably the most well known of Batman villains other than the Joker, would have a large role in this film, which she does.  In this incarnation she is depicted fairly traditionally, as a classy cat burglar and jewel thief. It doesn’t really bring anything new to the part, but perhaps that was the intention, going back to basics. Of all the depictions of Catwoman, I like Michelle Pfieffer in the Tim Burton directed Batman Returns one best, as in that film and with that performance she was a truly fascinating, so this more by-the-numbers version isn’t quite as good. However, considering what the last big screen version of Catwoman was the disastrous Catwoman film starring Halle Berry (seriously, if you haven’t seen that, don’t waste your time. It’s not even fun to watch as a bad movie), then this one is a definite improvement. Anne Hathaway seems to be enjoying herself. But it’s largely how you’d expect. Anyone familiar with the character will expect her to be a bit of a grey area, morally ambiguous and a bit fickle as to which side of the good/evil fence she is on. This time, while she clearly has fun stealing, ultimately her motive is she turned to a life of crime out of desperation, and now she wants to get out it and start afresh.

Bane proves a formiddable foe. Physically he is more than a match for Batman, and he seems a real threat. Although I have clearly labelled that this review contains spoilers, I’m going to choose not to reveal some of them because there are some MASSIVE twists in this film. What I will say is that Bane, while he is no dumb hired muscle, turns out to be more of a weapon than a mastermind, and the biggest twist is the indentity of the mastermind. I was kicking myself because when it is revealed, I should have seen it coming.

There are some problems with the film. As with many Batman films it is a little on the long side, the scenes in the hellish underground prison could possibly have been trimmed a little, and the scene with the choir boy singing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ in a stadium before Bane unleashes hell is a little cringey. But the film manages to wrap everything up well for the whole of the Christopher Nolan version of the Batman saga, and the ending is a very definite end, with a message that a hero should leave on a high with leave a lasting legacy.

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