July 21, 2012 by Vinnie Leduc
The new Spider-Man might’ve been great, but the new Batman is truly amazing. As our most anticipated movie of the year, Christopher Nolan’s trilogy three-quel had me so excited that I volunteered to take three consecutive graveyard shifts at the hospital earlier this week in order to ensure having Friday off to rewatch Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and even Batman: Gotham Knight in preparation of the popular rebooted franchise’s conclusion. I didn’t read many comic books growing up, but there was one series that my brothers and I read over and over: “Knightfall”, in which Bane was captivatingly introduced. I wondered how Nolan would present the nemesis in The Dark Knight Rises and ultimately whether the new superhero film would mark the end to probably the best trilogy ever in movie history. It did.
The trailers and prologue that accompanied IMAX prints of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol had already established that The Dark Knight Rises would continue the rebooted series’ traditions of gorgeous cinematography, elaborate heists, and pervasive thrills. And again, Nolan fearlessly digs deep into the psychological, societal, and emotional facets of the diamond that he incepted in the hugely underrated Batman Begins and emphasized in the first sequel. The filmmaker hasn’t missed a step since The Dark Knight, much less in his entire directorial career!
The conventional hero’s arc that Nolan masterfully spun for The Caped Crusader in his origins story reboot and then extended with an unconventional sequel that blew critics and audiences away is successfully completed in The Dark Knight Rises with redemptive and gratifying closure of astounding caliber. Is it better than its predecessors? This may be a cop-out answer, yet I think in some ways yes and in other ways no.
Compared to that of the notorious Joker, Bane’s villainy could be considered more destructive and influential in the antagonistic goal to effect the downfall of Gotham City, a modern-day version of self-imploding Rome or Constantinople, and the subsequent ignition of anarchic chaos citywide. However, handicapped by the metal mask that muffles not only his sometimes hard-to-decipher and somewhat weird voice (which makes Batman’s oft-parodied straining gruffness a lot more tolerable) but also muzzles his lower facial expressions, Tom Hardy can’t touch Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance.
Some of that can be attributed to Nolan and writer David S. Goyer, but this was likely and expected. When it comes to true and primal terror, crazy brains beats crazy brawn any day. This doesn’t prevent the trilogy bookend from being awesome on its own, nor does it dilute its excellence. I’m really glad the portrayal of Bane was far from the stupid version in Batman & Robin and closer to the unforgettably shocking one in “Knightfall.” This much is sure: at the very least, The Dark Knight Rises lives up to the hype and the incredibly high bar set by The Dark Knight.
Oscar nominee Anne Hathaway’s character, played superbly, could very well be one of the best female ones of the year. In a career-highlighting supporting role, she’s like Charlize Theron’s in Prometheus and Snow White and the Huntsman, with a little of her own spunk and all-around sexiness thrown in. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Oscar winner Marion Cotillard are great additions, too, as is much of the returning cast, which includes Academy Award winner Christian Bale in the franchise titular role, Academy Award winner Michael Caine as butler Alfred, Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Academy Award nominee (finally) Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, Academy Award nominee and notable badass Liam Neeson, and Cillian Murphy.
All throughout The Dark Knight Rises, Hans Zimmer’s booming and brassy score envelops you in the high-stakes scale and the grandeur of the scope. The final hour, which separates itself from those of The Avengers and the third Transformers, is not merely a summer blockbuster mega-spectacle; it’s a profound exhibition of climactic cinema, not entirely reliant on CGI or special effects… it’s Batman beyond. Speaking of which, The Dark Knight Rises would have been arguably more powerful had it ended a shot or two earlier, but I’m not mad at the final product’s theatrical conclusion. The way it finished is understandable and more importantly, still satisfying… and still epic.
I’ll admit I missed some stuff with the fast-paced storytelling that matches, if not surpasses, that of The Dark Knight. All the more reason to especially look forward to rewatching The Dark Knight Rises, hopefully in IMAX. It’s another instant classic in Christopher Nolan’s legendary résumé that retains what made the first two films masterpieces, all while tying in to them seamlessly. The Dark Knight Rises gets 5 out of 5 stars or A or Excellent.