I’ve been largely Batman-proof since Chris O’Donnell stuck a knife through the heart of the franchise back in 1997, courtesy of Robin. But now, 15 years on, The Dark Knight Rises and all is forgiven. The Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy is done (probably) and, although I had my doubts about how the last in the series could overcome the awful absence of Heath Ledger, I needn’t have worried. I watched The Dark Knight Rises in Oxford’s atmospheric Phoenix Picturehouse, amid a crowd literally buzzing and humming with anticipation and excitement. It’s not often a whole audience applauds and cheers at the end of a movie, but this is what happened on Friday night. I was reduced to gasping ‘brilliant’ repeatedly while gulping like a goldfish.
In the cold light of day, my impression of The Dark Knight Rises hasn’t changed a jot and I can’t think of a movie I’ve enjoyed more this year, or for longer. I’m no Batman expert like many who watch it and I have superhero issues – you’re unlikely to catch me watching a Spider-Man or Superman film and I’ve reached Avengers saturation point – nevertheless during the course of these three films Nolan and Christian Bale have done a fine service to the Batman. With a cast as good and watchable as you can get, they’ve given enormous depth to the mythology, developed its strands and themes, added poignancy and great feeling to its back history. The Batman has become a hero worth cheering for, whether you’re unfortunate enough to live in Gotham or whether you’re in a cinema in Oxford.
There are no spoilers here for The Dark Knight Rises, by the way. There are plenty, though, for its predecessor The Dark Knight.
The Dark Knight Rises takes place eight years after the death of Harvey Dent at the hands of the Batman in The Dark Knight. The Batman has gone while Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) limps around his mansion, a damaged and depressed man. Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), meanwhile, tries to hold together an impotent police force, unable to reveal the truth about Dent, Gotham’s new saint and saviour. His days as Commissioner are numbered. Gotham, though, and the Batman can be saved, thanks to the emergence of a new force for evil, the first since the demise of the Joker and Two-Face and filling the hole left in their wake. His name is Bane.
Bane is a giant, masked man, his voice and actions preposterous and violent. He is a demon. His purpose is to gather to him Bruce Wayne’s gadgets. His mission, though, is to kill the Batman, the other dark knight. Feeding on legend from Batman Begins, The Dark Knight Rises seals off Gotham from the rest of the world and the countdown begins to its demise. There are devises that reminded me of The Dark Knight but here the scale is so much bigger. It’s almost as if the world will end if the Batman and Baine cannot fight til the death to save it.
I’ve heard comments about how Bane (Tom Hardy), the masked monster, is hard to understand thanks to his mumbling. I’m pleased to say that I had no trouble at all understanding every word (I’m slightly deaf so I was concerned). I’m especially glad of that because I was mesmerised by Bane’s language and phrasing.
Bane and the Bat are not the only masked creatures in this film. There is also Catwoman, played by Anne Hathaway who is superb in this role – a cat mix of innocence, charm, cruelty and sex. Among the police force, trying to keep it going as a force, is the charismatic and energetic Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Another member of Nolan’s Inception class is the beautiful Marion Cotillard as the love interest Miranda. However, Miranda is no successor to Rachel, taken from Wayne in The Dark Knight. In The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce and the Batman are very much on their own. Not even Alfred (Michael Caine) or Wayne’s CEO Fox (Morgan Freeman) can get close enough.
The darkness is like wading through mud under a moon eclipsed by night. Nevertheless, there are some moments of unexpected humour. There are some great one-liners. There are also moments that make the audience gasp in exquisite shock as they understand the wider significance of an event or a name. There are lots of in-jokes. I doubt I got half of them but that didn’t matter. There are also some other familiar faces.
This film may be 165 minutes or so but not once did I look at my watch – above all else, it belts along.
In The Dark Knight Rises, it is clear that events have reached a turning point for Wayne and the Batman. It can’t last. It’s just a matter of how it ends. And I was not disappointed.
I recommend you take a look at Excuses and Half-Truths for a review (with spoilers) by someone who knows what they’re talking about.