"The Dark Knight Rises" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Since creating two of the best Batman films ever made, it's obvious that the conclusion to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy was incredibly hyped-up. Audiences and critics couldn't wait to see how this story will wrap up, especially since Nolan has been able to craft fantastic characters, such as Heath Ledger's Joker and a more humanized Bruce Wayne. While the epic finale, titled "The Dark Knight Rises", is another great superhero film, it fails to reach the overhyped expectations at times, presenting a film that is slightly weighed down by its clunky story and overlong runtime.
The movie starts eight years after the end of "The Dark Knight", with Batman (Christian Bale) taking the blame for Harvey Dent's murder, forcing the Gotham police to hunt him down instead. Now living as a recluse and hanging up the leather suit for good, Bruce Wayne refuses to talk or see anyone. In fact, no one has even seen the eccentric billionaire for the past eight years. However, when a new threat comes to Gotham named Bane (Tom Hardy), Bruce must come out of hiding to put on the batsuit once again.
At the same time, he is now being pursued by a secret vigilante known as Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), who is trying to obtain his personal records and fingerprints for her own gain. There is also a police detective named John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who not only knows Wayne's secret identity, but will stop at nothing to help Gotham's protector. While also dealing with all of this, James Gordon (Gary Oldman) is pursuing Bane and the threat to Gotham, which may have ties to Batman's first major enemy, Ra's Al-Ghul. Sounds like a lot huh?
The movie feels like a lot. The runtime comes in at just under three hours, and Nolan makes sure to utilize every second of that time. However, because of this, there is so much there that it makes the viewer feel very overwhelmed. Nolan has some fascinating ideas throughout the movie, but he tries to make them a reality in just one film, which I truly think doesn't work. He could have utilized these ideas more in the two previous movies, instead of trying to pull them all out in the finale.
At the same time though, this does feel like a massive blockbuster epic. Even if the movie feels way too convoluted, Nolan knows how to go out with a bang (literally). This movie is huge, with fantastic action sequences and beautiful cinematography. It also features the storyline of the hero being knocked down to rock bottom and having to fight their way back to the top to defeat the villain. All of this is included here, and I think Nolan did a great job of including it. It does feature problems though, with some of the movie being much slower and dragged-out than other parts. But, with what Nolan was trying to do, I can appreciate what this film is, and I did have a good time with it.
In addition to there being way to much in the story, Nolan also makes some choices that don't benefit the movie well. The main example of this is the major plot-twist in the last twenty minutes of the movie. I will not say it here to avoid spoilers for those reading, but there was truly no rhyme or reason to craft this plot twist. It makes no sense in terms of the story, and it's easy to spot the twist in terms of flashbacks towards the latter half of the movie. There are some that love this plot twist and some that don't, and I fall into the latter category.
Bale and Hardy gives pretty good performances as Batman and Bane, respectively. Bale plays a sort-of washed up and broken down character, one that doesn't really know where to go in life. His character goes through multiple changes throughout the movie, each with a fascinating change by Bale in the role. I seriously think Bale has given the best Batman performance on-screen so far. In terms of Hardy in this role of the antagonist, I applaud his visual and voice transformation. He plays this terrifying, larger-than-life villain that perfectly suits what the character was like in the comic books. He may not be as great as Ledger's Joker, but still a worthy villain (if you can understand him through that mask, that is). I would also say Hathaway does a great job of embodying the classic role of Catwoman, and it's obvious she has taken inspiration from Michelle Pfeiffer in "Batman Returns". Other than that though, many of the other roles start to blend it and don't really stand out much.
While I truly can appreciate what Nolan did (or was trying to do), I don't think some of it works the way he was intending. Yes, this is a great blockbuster finale for his Batman trilogy, but there are many ideas and storylines that seem like too much or simply didn't work as well in terms of the film. This may not have necessarily been the finale the fans of the trilogy were hoping for, but it does fit in terms of Nolan's Gotham. Whether you love or hate this conclusion, it's still true that this is, without a doubt, one of the best superhero trilogies ever made.