Cinema: The Dark Knight Rises (SPOILERS)
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS
There are endings in films that will transcend what came before it. When you think of films like SEVEN, THE FRENCH CONNECTION or many others, you remember the ending and not what came before. The end is what sticks out the most. With THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, the ending is such a shock to the system as to stun you into silence. However, what precedes is so vast, so epic that the ending will be as it should be – a part of a whole.
The film is set eight years after THE DARK KNIGHT. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is now a recluse and Batman is no more. But, when Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) stumbles onto a huge plot that will literally destroy Gotham, Batman comes out of retirement. The plot of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is so huge as to transcend summary. There is too much to cover and too many plot devices, characters and events that need to be compartmentalised. The film clocks in at just under three hours. This isn’t a film, it’s an experience. It is a document. The film’s strength lies in many different areas. Chief amongst them is the story. The story is a document. Great films are a mirror of the times we live and this is no exception.
Bane (Tom Hardy) is destruction incarnate. Enacting his grand scheme of ending Gotham’s perceived injustices and bringing “balance” to the world, he locks the entire city down and crushes the police and city government under rubble. Bane, like Ra’s Al Ghul, wants the city to return to harmony – by freeing everyone in it of law and civilisation. Indeed, he calls his plan “the second era of Western civilisation”. The finer points and allegories in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES could be picked over for days. Is it a libertarian’s wet dream? Or is it saying that society needs a fascist overlord in order to reach its full potential? Nobody knows. Christopher Nolan has put forward many different viewpoints, but one thing is clear – it cannot be taken in with one viewing.
The cast leave everything on the screen. Christian Bale gives his most nuanced and balanced performance yet. Here, Batman is not some superhuman smart-alec but a fully developed human being who is ravaged by his own burden. Michael Caine acts as the surrogate father who begs him to see reason before he does the unthinkable. Anne Hathaway is not the disappointment you think she is. Her role is that of societal individualism – she looks out for herself and nobody else. She acts as a counterpoint to Batman’s complete selflessness; how he is prepared to give everything and anything to people he doesn’t know. And he does.
We come to Bane. To say that Tom Hardy’s portrayal is terrifying is an understatement. The man is not a man – but a beast. In what is one many jaw-dropping scenes in the film, Bane crushes society in Gotham with such scale that harkens back to vintage epics like BEN-HUR and BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. His commitment to Bane being the physical equal of Batman is self-evident. He hulks muscle and – you guessed it – breaks the Bat. The fight scene between them is harrowing to watch and is sufficiently brutal. What follows after is what makes the film the best out of the entire DARK KNIGHT trilogy.
Christopher Nolan has done something nobody thought possible. He made comic-book heroes socially relevant. It’s been said before that how comic-book heroes attach and stick with viewers is by rewriting them from literary greats. The Hulk is really Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Superman is really the immigrant experience in America. With THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, it’s Charles Dickens and A Tale of Two Cities’. Bruce Wayne is Charles Darnay – an aristocrat who is broken by a revolution and returns to champion his city, despite a grave cost. Nolan’s direction is flawless and brave. The sheer scale of the film and his commitment to limiting CGI in favour of in-camera effects is evident throughout. When the police and the revolutionaries battle, it’s not a collection of pixels and models clashing together – it’s real people.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is, arguably, the film of this generation. We live in a world of “one-percenters” and the 99%,where high finance dictates law and lives and governments seem ready to collapse at every turn. This film doesn’t address those concerns or give comfort. If anything, this film feels like a cautionary tale of what could happen if everything stopped working. A film can’t change those things – how could it? But it could get people thinking. And that’s what THE DARK KNIGHT RISES does. It gets you thinking.
DROP-D RATING: 10 / 10
Addendum: I promised spoilers. LOOK AWAY NOW.
- Talia Al’ Ghul is a character in the film.
- Liam Neeson / Ra’s Al Ghul features in one scene and that’s it. It’s a fairly pivotal scene.
- Cillian Murphy / Scarecrow has an extended cameo.
- The Joker is never referenced. This was done out of respect for Heath Ledger.
- Robin is mentioned… once.