Christopher Nolan’s Batman films are among the few you can get away with coming to a verdict on before even seeing. The big reason is that, regardless of what we’re given, it’s going to be quality work. At this point it’s, well, pointless to talk about Batman Begins and The Dark Knight since they both live up to said pedigree. And just like the initial skepticisms for those two films, concerns are beyond cast aside in The Dark Knight Rises.
Not many films get the idea of effective marketing, but The Dark Knight Rises really has it down. The trailers often showed similar footage and, beyond the limited release of the prologue, all we had to work with were fragments. As such, this is less a movie to spoil and more one to discuss in limited detail.
The film is set eight years after The Dark Knight, with Gotham’s criminal activity apparently at an all-time low. During that time, the city has thrived off of a lie which has taken its toll on those who know the truth. Much of the film’s first half reacquaints us with just what consequences have followed, which is played off as the more immediate threat ensues.
Enter Bane, who we all know from the trailers as the man who’ll become “Gotham’s reckoning.” In a recent behind-the-scenes video, actor Tom Hardy said “The Joker wanted to watch the world burn. Bane’s here to pull the pin on the grenade.” There’s really no other way to say it, as Bane is pretty much the embodiment of a Batman villain in the form of a terrorist. It gets to the point that you almost forget this is based on a graphic novel. That is, until one or two tiny parts creep up and remind you that nothing is quite off limits, even under Nolan’s direction. The presence and role Bane has is infrequent but significant. It’s just a shame that his lines are still tough to make out, despite addressing the concerns of many fans (including myself). Eventually it comes down to actions speaking louder than words, but it’s still tough to get a first impression when much of what you hear sounds like sheer distortion, bass and accent.
The villains from the Dark Knight films have been perhaps the most memorable. And while Bane does more than enough to leave an impression (or two), we thankfully get a bit more of our heroes a la Batman Begins. Superb as The Dark Knight was, the film was really about the Joker; his show-stealing scenes almost took away from our actual hero. Not so much the case here. Christian Bale puts on his best performance as Bruce Wayne and Batman, with the rest of the main cast matching his commitment. In fact, while we’re on that subject, Michael Caine deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance. He has hardly three or four scenes, but those moments really count and stick with you.
It’s a good thing we have these characters to enjoy and invest ourselves in, because without them, the story would definitely cripple. Plot points almost come off like small details at first, but quickly play bigger and even pivotal roles. To the more indifferent viewer, these are bound to be potential problems, but to the film’s credit, it’s at least trying to take itself and its audience seriously. If you can’t get the entire picture, you’ll at least get the gist of things.
What The Dark Knight Rises manages to be, more than anything, is an effective concoction. For a while it brews and swells with set ups and potential before utilizing the last hour to build the intensity with more than a few gripping, boiling points. It leaves you panting, losing breath but still wanting to be subjected. The universe is deeply grounded with characters pulling you in while the action and tension leave you immobilized. It’s a fine, worthy conclusion that shows it’s less about matching or outdoing its predecessors, but more about ending the series on a proper note.