THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. LOTS AND LOTS OF SPOILERS. MORE SPOILERS THAN A DRIFT CAR PARTY. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Ok, now that’s out of the way, The Dark Knight Rises. I’ll get to the Aurora shooting in a moment.
It is, in a word, brilliant.
I’ve spent months waiting in anticipation for Chris Nolan’s swan song in the Bat-verse, and I was not left disappointed. The Dark Knight has been – and still is – my favourite movie for years, and the next installment could only be more awesome, right?
The wait was worth it, and the third movie kicked major ass. However, for me, it didn’t beat TDK.
That’s not to say it was an inferior film; far from it. TDKR was everything I’d expected and more from both a sophisticated Batman film and a Nolan film (continuing the tradition that I have never disliked a Nolan film ever). There was action. There was drama. There was some exceptional acting. The entire thing was like a well-crafted, long-led-up-to epic conclusion that delivered on all of the promises made by the previous films for a stunning conclusion.
The problem is that TDKR is not like TDK – if we’re comparing them to other films, The Dark Knight is The Godfather with Batman, whilst The Dark Knight Rises is Apocalypse Now with Batman.
The former is a gangster, crime movie, with a labyrinthine plot that connects a lot of disparate elements together and weaves a great and depressing narrative amongst a group of idealists fighting for control against an anarchic, unreasonable enemy. The latter is a war film, with lots of shit blowing up.
Ok, that’s underselling the point a little, but it’s true. The Dark Knight Rises is more of an action film than its predecessor was, which means it has a significantly different feel of focus; it’s much more in line with Batman Begins‘s way of storytelling, and very much gives the impression of the two films being book ends around the middle installment. It is also, like any Nolan film, something you will need to watch at least twice to get everything; it’s not incomprehensible, and 99% of the film is apparent from a first viewing, but a subsequent one would give you that last little 1% of easter eggs and hidden references that slip you by the first time.
The comic book influences are apparent; vast chunks of Knightfall, No Man’s Land and Birth of the Demon are present, and for the really hardcore fans (like me) you’ll see some twists get telegraphed a little too much – biggest example that come to mind is Miranda Tate/Talia al Ghul. While it was brilliantly executed, I called it at the start that she’d be R’as’s daughter. She was far too sultry, intelligent and slinky to not be, though I am a little miffed she ended up knocking boots with Bruce rather than resident feline Selina Kyle.
Speaking of – anyone who wants to tell me Anne Hathaway can’t do a good job as Catwoman can fuck right off. She nailed it from the first scene in Bruce’s mansion, getting almost arrowed in the head, and only went upwards from there. She stuck to the reference material like an obese man’s body odor, and she was an absolute joy within the film. Her relationship with Batman was spot-on. Her modus operandi and lack of compunction for killing was emulated near-perfectly. She looked smokin’. She ticked all the boxes. She fell down a little when it turned out she was concretely linked to Bane (rather than just tangentially, which is what I’d hoped) but was anything but disappointing.
Tom Hardy was also quite pleasant as Bane; if you remove any comparison to Ledger’s Joker, then he carries the film as an adversary marvelously. It was nice to see a real fistfight between Bats and a villain (R’as didn’t count; he had a sword) that felt brawly, all-out and really intense. He was hard to understand at times because of the mask (although that was genuinely creepy to see, and he does cut an imposing figure) but did a buttload better than Jeep Swenson in Batman and Robin. Mind you, Michael Cera could’ve done a better Bane than the one in Batman and Robin, but still.
Awesome special effects, exemplary music by Hans Zimmer (missed James Newton Howard and his intimate music, though – they did recycle some of it from the previous films, but some new material would’ve been nice), superb acting by the regular quarter of Bale, Freeman, Oldman and Caine. New blood Joseph Gordon-Levitt reaffirms what his acting told us in Inception by being one of the most salient, interesting elements of the pieces and giving a sterling performance.
So all in all, it’s a wonder of a film and a fitting conclusion to the trilogy (so fitting I wept like a schoolgirl). There are, however, two problems I see that may prevent it from garnering the level of fame it deserves:
1 – IT WILL BE COMPARED TO THE DARK KNIGHT
This is unavoidable; it’s the sequel for Christ’s sake. As I said above, though, it’s a far different flavour to what came before it. It’s inevitable that people will pair Joker and Bane and declare the clown as superior, and they’ll say that Marion Cotillard doesn’t stand up to Aaron Eckhart’s tour-de-force as Harvey Dent, and they’ll put the plots side by side and dissect every tiny element to find a way to legitimise The Dark Knight‘s place as the best of the trilogy.
It’ll happen, and it’s expected, but it’s not entirely warranted. In a way it’s like comparing the original and prequel trilogies of Star Wars: part of the same universe, but with significantly different feels and cinematic goals. You can like both equally as apples and oranges, or compare the two as roses by any other names, but in the end they are markedly different to each other. Same thing here. If you’re doing a comparison then keep in mind they’re almost entirely different films. Which brings me neatly to…
2 – IT WILL BE COMPARED TO THE AVENGERS
This one’s a little more unfair; a lot of comparisons can be drawn between them, though. Both have waited 4 years for the conclusion of their journeys. Both have an A-list cast. Both are titanic superhero movies released in the same year (well, there’s Spider-Man too, but since Sony are still withholding him from Marvel’s movie universe I’m kinda biased against them, so they don’t count). Comparing The Dark Knight Rises to one of the greatest films of all time – and, more importantly, one with almost the same level of expectation and hype behind it – sounds like something a lot of moviegoers will try to do.
But as with The Dark Knight‘s example above, they’re two different films. I can’t tell you which film I prefer between Rises and Avengers; one’s a dark and brooding exploration into the darkest recesses of the soul while pummeling gangsters and the villain from Star Trek Nemesis, and the other’s a heroic team-up on lighter and fluffier heroes with a dark cinematic background battling an army of anorexic aliens who make Nicole Richie look like she got meat on her bones. They’re both fun for different reasons, with different characters, different goals, blah blah blah…
I’m starting to repeat myself now. All you need to know is that The Dark Knight Rises is a beautiful, moving, poignant, action-packed, character-driven, fast-paced superhero movie that reaffirms to me the reason why a young man in a Penrith cinema four years ago decided to take up the Batman as his personal idol.
And whatever you crazies might believe, my idol doesn’t need human sacrifice. I mean, seriously – what the fuck? What is clinically wrong with you, you murdering, cold-hearted bastard? What drove you to do that?
At time of writing, a suspect has been apprehended. It makes me so sad that the release of a marvelous film with a deeper message about the resilience of the human spirit should be clouded by this tragic event. If this suspect is in fact the person responsible – dressing like Bane and gunning down moviegoers for whatever reason – then take a page from Catwoman’s book. You may not have a Bat-pod’s cannon, but a handgun works just as well.