Reviewed by Ian Forbes, Sobering Conclusion
All of you out there using floodlights to call for help can stop running up your electricity bill. It’s finally here. The long anticipated finale to Christopher Nolan’s helming of the Batman franchise. Batman Begins washed away the sins of director Joel Schumacher and the batsuits complete with nipples, setting the stage for a much more grounded and gritty version of the superhero, more in the vein of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight rebirth of the comic book series. The next film, appropriately titled The Dark Knight, elevated the genre into something even non-comic book fans recognized as quality filmmaking.
Now, with The Dark Knight Rises, it’s time for Christian Bale to adopt that often hilariously mimicked raspy voice and once again defend Gotham from would-be baddies. Here, the opponent is Bane (Tom Hardy), a ruthless thug attempting to carry out a scheme on a very grand scale. Along the way, Nolan introduces a few new characters into the mix (most notably Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman and an eager police officer played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt). How will it all play out? I’m not going to tell you; that would be rude.
I will say that it’s a bit unfair to even try to compare Hardy’s take on Bane to Heath Ledger’s mesmerizing performance as the Joker. Really, The Dark Knight was a film starring the Joker with Batman playing second fiddle. Here, there are multiple threads to weave among a number of characters and with that much-talked about mask dominating Bane’s face, the opportunity for Hardy to even be recognizable is basically non-existent. He does an excellent job, especially given the constraints of the facial apparatus, but no one will be clamoring for this role to be Oscar nominated come January.
Perhaps the most feared performance is that of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. It’s a very tricky role, a beloved character, and Hathaway (much like Ledger) isn’t known for exuding the kind of serious sensibilities Nolan’s Batman universe is known for exhibiting. All that being said, (and for full disclosure, yes I’m madly in love with her) I thought she did a fine job. Aside from a few issues with the dialogue and script towards the end, she added the right amount of sultry to counter-balance the Robin Hood complex Nolan went with for with this version of Selina Kyle (as did Frank Miller in his take on the character).
This isn’t the mentally unhinged version Tim Burton envisioned in “Batman Returns” and it certainly isn’t Eartha Kitt charming the cowl off of Adam West. I think whether people accept this version will largely be due to their ability to leave Hathaway’s previous roles in the rear view mirror (if they’ve seen more serious material from her like Rachel Getting Married, the idea of being something more than the Princess of Genovia isn’t so hard to imagine).
The actors carrying over from previous films are all back to form, which was nice to see. Really the most fun acting wise comes from the addition of the cast of Inception; the aforementioned Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Hooray! No Leo!). Cotillard always brings a great presence and an air of unpredictability (well, as much as the heavy handed script would allow) and I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the best actor of his generation and I will see him read the phone book because I know he’ll do it in some fantastic way. Having him work scenes with Gary Oldman is simply amazing and it only makes me even more excited for the upcoming films Premium Rush and Looper.
Nolan is famously protective of his films’ being spoiled prior to their release and that’s an understandable desire. I absolutely prefer walking into a film without any preconceptions or foreknowledge; it allows those elements meant to be surprising actually surprise me. Elements of The Prestige, Inception and Memento all came as wonderful and not altogether predictable moments. The problem here is that every reveal is so telegraphed that the last act doesn’t come as a surprise. Of course, I won’t be making allusions to those things just in case but I’d like to think any average filmgoer will have all the puzzle pieces fit together at least 95% of the way a good hour before the credits roll.
Will fans of the franchise enjoy this resolution of Nolan’s trilogy? Certainly. Is it better than The Dark Knight? Frankly, no. Aside from the anything already mentioned, there are also a number of events that simply don’t make much sense if you stop to analyze them. But this is a series that bucks all general convention by having both of its sequels be better than the original, and all that’s really important is whether it’s worth those $84 dollars and 5 hours of your life to see it in theaters.
That part holds true and The Dark Knight Rises maintains a standard of excellence Nolan has come to be known for and it’ll be very interesting to see what Warner Bros does in a few years; there’s certainly a viable direction to head towards and only time will tell if the people fronting the money continue to understand that you’re best off trusting the people you’ve hired to be creative, i.e. the hugely profitable and well-respected trio of films Nolan has pulled off. Interfering in that process results in things like Batman & Robin. Even my love of imitating Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze doesn’t want that again.
The Dark Knight Rises opens in theaters on July 20, 2012 and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language.
Also of Interest:
–The History of Batman on the big screen