The Dark Knight Rises – 4.5/5 stars

This is amongst one of the most highly-anticipated films of 2012.  It is following one of the most talked-about sequels in recent years and marks the end of an era for comic-book fans (in some ways).

The Dark Knight Rises follows eight years after The Dark Knight and Gotham City has become a city of peace.  Having hung up the cape, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has turned into a recluse as he feels the loss of former love Rachel Dawes, as well as the responsibility in Harvey Dent’s death, who has posthumously becomes a city icon.  However,  a terrorist leader called Bane (Tom Hardy), with links to Wayne’s past, plans to destroy Gotham.  This and the introduction of a cat burglar, Selina ‘Catwoman’ Kyle (Anne Hathaway), forces Wayne to confront his demons and become Batman once more.

The reboot of Batman in 2005 was always a risk.  After the disastrous Batman & Robin, little did we, as well as Warner Bros. would know that this would be a gamble that would pay off big-time.  And now, seven years later – Nolan had a bigger risk: trying to make a dreaded threequel that can top The Dark Knight amongst intense hype from fans and film critics alike, as well as make a film great enough to ‘complete’ his trilogy, therefore achieving something that no-one else had: a great comic-book superhero movie trilogy.

Let’s get one thing straight: The Dark Knight Rises is not The Dark Knight.  It’s very easy to try and draw comparisons between the two and it is ultimately these comparisons where you can see how The Dark Knight Rises fails what its predecessor succeeded.  You can say that it’s difficult to judge the villain of the piece especially when the one in the previous film set the bar so high.
Unfortunately, this ultimately is The Dark Knight Rises‘s Achilles Heel.
Bane is not as complex and twisted a bad guy as Heath Ledger’s Joker but it was the latter’s desire to ‘play’ with the folks of Gotham that partially made The Dark Knight so compelling (there’s no pencil equivalent in this one!).  It made the film darker and all the more amazing.

Also, all but the last hour or so of the film develop too damn slowly – the reclusiveness of Bruce Wayne and the knock-on effects this has on supporting characters such as Alfred (Michael Caine) and even Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) are sorrowful, but there is only so much in a character’s misery you can wallow in before it becomes pity.

Having said that, the choice of Bane as the main villain is interesting.  In terms of Batman villains, he may not be as closely associated with Batman as, say, The Penguin or The Riddler, but to have someone who is not only incredibly intelligent but also matches Batman’s physical strength presented a more than formidable adversary.  He shares the Joker’s dreams of chaos and anarchy but in his own words, ‘he wants to break Batman’ –  a goal that no other villain had in Batman Begins or The Dark Knight.   Tom Hardy is a force to be reckoned with and towers Christian Bale in terms of character dominance – built like a machine, his damaged background hiding behind a mask (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?), he is the perfect parallel for Christian Bale and the fight scenes between the two are relentless.  The only thing that dents Bane is his gravelly voice – it was hard to tell what he was saying….

In fact, the cast is varied and great.  Bale puts in a strong performance as Bruce Wayne: a broken man – physically and emotionally; Hathaway is slick and though she isn’t almost bat-crap crazy like Michelle Pfeiffer, she plays the sexuality card to a tee.  Oldman could have been used a bit more but the old-timer methods of Commissioner Gordon paves the way for rookie cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), whose faith in Batman and determination not to surrender to anarchy leads to a possible future away from uniform.

The special effects are brilliant – rather than the destruction of vehicles or buildings, the seemingly randomness of explosions spotted around Gotham heightens the sense of unease as what is yet to come.  Nolan creates the right amount of tension and in key parts, the sense of despair that makes you think ‘oh crap.’  Not only has he, along with co-writer David S. Goyer, written quite fitting dialogue and included enough nods to other comic books to cater for the more hardcore of Batman fans, but the story becoming one to allow the whole Nolan reworking to effectively come full circle is the biggest hats-off you can give.

The idea of The Dark Knight Rises as the end of an era is indeed a sad one but one that is easily justified; the character had been reinvented and this unique view on a comic-book character has left its mark as the benchmark for great comic-book superhero films.

Overall, The Dark Knight Rises has emotion, Bane bad-assery and explosions. Although not as good as The Dark Knight but better than Batman Begins, it is going to take guts and a super supremo to make a Batman film as good as Christopher Nolan.

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