After a weekend of tragic news surrounding the midnight screenings of The Dark Knight Rises, it feels slightly pointless to post this image from Madrid on the eve of the film’s opening there, however, it’s such a joyful image of people celebrating the release with style, that I wanted to share it.
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
Two fantastic new Dark Knight Rises covers from the UK Empire magazine… the Catwoman one is AWESOME.
The duo gave the interview exclusively to UK’s Empire magazine for a special Batman/Bane edition.
On Bane: “He’s brutal, brutal. He’s expedient delivery of brutality. And you know, he’s a big dude. He’s a big dude who’s incredibly clinical, in the fact that he has a result-based and orientated fighting style. The result is clear. “Do you know what I mean? It’s: f**k off and die. Quicker. Quicker. Everything is thought out way before. He’s hit you, he’s already hit somebody else. It’s not about fighting. It’s just about carnage with Bane. He’s a smashing machine. He’s a wrecking ball. The style is heavy-handed, heavy-footed, it’s nasty. Anything from small joint manipulation to crushing skulls, crushing rib cages, stamping on shins and knees and necks and collarbones and snapping heads off and tearing his fists through chests, ripping out spinal columns. It’s anything he can get away with. He is a terrorist in his mentality as well as brutal action. So he’s horrible. A really horrible piece of work.”
About filming the fight scenes: “It’s very overwhelming. When you’re training in a rehearsal room you go, ‘Okay, I have a contact with seven people. This guy I chin, this one I slip and I punch, this one I pick up and suplex, this guy I kick in the face, and this one, he stops a hammer with his head. And then I meet Batman.’ That’s all alright in a rehearsal room, but then you add 1,000 people that are all dressed the same as the seven you’re supposed to hit — ’cause they’re all police officers — and I don’t know where my police officers are. But the stuntmaster’s like, ‘Don’t worry. They will find you.’”
About Christian Bale’s Batman: “He looks really intimidating! There’s a three-year-old in me that’s going, ‘Oh my God that’s Batman! That’s Batman and he’s going to hit me! But I love Batman!’ Then I look in the mirror. And I hit him back. Twice as hard.”
On Bane: “With Bane, we are looking to give Batman a physical challenge that he hasn’t had before,” says the film’s director, Christopher Nolan. “With our choice of villain and with our choice of story we’re testing Batman both physically as well as mentally. Also, in terms of finishing our story and increasing its scope, we were trying to craft an epic, so the physicality of the film became very important. Bane’s a very different kind of villain than Batman has faced before in our films. He’s a great sort of movie monster, but with an incredible brain, and that was a side of him that hadn’t been tapped before. Because the stories from the comics are very epic and very evocative — very much in the way that Bruce Wayne’s origin story is epic and evocative. We were looking to really parallel that with our choice of villain. So he is a worthy adversary. What Bane represents in the comics is the ultimate physical villain.”
About casting Tom Hardy in the role: “He has this incredible disjunct between the expressiveness of the voice and the stillness of the movement of his body. He’s found a way to play a character who is enormous and powerful with a sort of calm to it, but also is able to be incredibly fast at times. Unpredictable. He just has a raw threat to him that’s extraordinary. It’s a very powerful thing when you see it come together, beyond what I had ever imagined. That’s what you get from working with great actors.”