Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is a reclusive Howard Hughes-like figure, hidden away in Wayne manor, mentally and physically broken from his battles as Batman. Gotham has largely forgotten Batman, believed to be responsible for the death of the lionised Harvey Dent, the city has moved on since the end of The Dark Knight.
Wayne still lives with his loyal butler Alfred (Michael Caine), as ever, the heart of these films and Bruce Wayne’s link to humanity, who reminds him that he isn’t living his life.
Lured back into the world by two women, Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), socialite investor in Wayne Enterprises’ clean-energy programs, and cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), Wayne finds his world and Gotham on the brink of collapse when a new villain, the remorseless Bane (Tom Hardy), emerges with a plan to destroy Gotham and everyone in it. Batman must return to confront this new threat, to save both Gotham and his own legacy from ashes.
You really need to have seen Batman Begins before watching The Dark Knight Rises. Bane’s modus operandi is similar in tone to that of Ra’s Al Ghul, Batman’s former mentor and nemesis. Bane states that: “Gotham is beyond saving and must be allowed to die” and he means it, targeting Gotham’s stock exchange and football stadium in two hugely impressive set-pieces.
Modern-day themes and fears are central to this final part of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy; corporate collapse, global and local terrorism, and class warfare (people may draw parallels with the recent ‘occupy’ protests), which could be lifted from any recent headline. These are distilled in the dubious motivations of Bane, who for all his ‘smash the system’ rhetoric actually makes a few good points.
In Bane, Batman faces an enemy with similar motivation of the Joker, but in a much more physically imposing form. Hardy manages to instil Bane with some personality beyond his face mask and monolithic appearance, however his performance, and especially his dialogue delivery suffers due to the constraints of his mask.
Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), although still oozing sex-appeal, is less fetishist than in previous outings, here she’s a real presence, with a real story arc and a sly sense of humour, she has great chemistry with Bale.
Unlike The Dark Knight, where The Joker was central to the whole, here the film revolves around Batman, and fittingly, this is also Christian Bale’s best performance in the role, he was always good as Bruce Wayne, portrayed this time as an older, more thoughtful, melancholic character, and this time his Batman is a more fully rendered character.
The returning cast of Michael Caine and Gary Oldman are as solid as ever, Marion Cotillard is restrained and the introduction of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an earnest young police officer gives the audience hope for Gotham’s future.
As with Nolan’s previous Batman movies, this is more dark and serious than most superhero movies, and the previous Batman outings. There are many ideas thrown around in this film, not all of which lead to the expected conclusions, and it feels like Nolan has tried to fit a little too much in there, however the film works, it is spectacular entertainment.
It is visually beautiful, and cinematic on a massive scale, again due to Nolan regular, Wally Pfister’s gorgeous cinematography and fantastic production design by Nathan Crowley.
The film is also quite long, the first half build-up gives each character their moments, as well as a backstory that encompasses the previous movies and beyond; as it moves into a massive second half everything is geared towards a spectacularly ambitious conclusion. It’s been a big year for superheroes, with Marvel’s The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man already box-office hits; it’s time for DC’s Dark Knight to stake his claim back at the top where he belongs.
Quality: 5 out of 5 stars
Any good: 4 out of 5 stars