This is the film we’ve been waiting for since 2008. The film that ends Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. The final Batman movie. The superhero film we both need and deserve. The Dark Knight has risen, and my mind has been shattered. I don’t think any comic book/superhero movie has dared to do as much – and succeed – as TDKR does, and I honestly believe that, had anyone besides Christopher Nolan and his team handled the film, it would have crashed and burned.
As I was sitting in the theatre, watching this final chapter in glorious IMAX, I couldn’t believe how well Nolan handled this film. Everything about this film works. The story, the casting, the acting, the action, the script, the music, the vision – everything works together, and not once did I find myself wishing the film had done something different, wishing that it had gone in a different direction.
Essentially, The Dark Knight Rises is Batman perfected.
To give a very brief – and spoiler free – description of the film, without giving too much away, Rises takes place 8 years after the events of The Dark Knight, and in those 8 years, Batman has not been sighted once. He’s truly taken the fall for Harvey Dent’s death, even though we all know Dent was trying to kill Gordon’s son, and it’s only until Bane reveals himself that Bruce Wayne even considers to don the cape and cowl again.
Wayne stopped being the Batman for a reason, though; it’s not just about protecting himself from the police. In his mind, he’s lost everything that was good and lovely in the world when Rachel was taken from him by the Joker. He has nothing to fight for, and he essentially faces the question, “Why do I fight?”
Christian Bale gives his best performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman to date, which I found pleasantly surprising. He was fantastic in Batman Begins, but I felt his character was weaker compared to others in The Dark Knight. I don’t know if that was the fault of Bale, Nolan, or the writers, but, whatever the problem was, they fixed it in Rises, and I couldn’t be happier.
Other returning cast-members – Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman – all give excellent performances as well, but I believe the newcomers are the ones who steal the show.
Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman is perfect (pun fully intended), and I was absolutely stunned by her performance. I’ll freely admit that I was worried she wouldn’t fit into Nolan’s Bat-verse (I couldn’t see her as anything but the princess-type character from Disney’s The Princess Diaries and Ella Enchanted), but she lands on her feet with feline finesse and delivers a compelling and relatable character that audiences are sure to enjoy.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, John Blake, is another great addition to the roster. Blake is an idealistic, hot-headed cop who follows his gut instead of the rules, and Levitt pulls off the character perfectly. Again, I was worried about Levitt being in this movie; Nolan brought over a lot of the cast from Inception, and I was afraid Levitt’s character would be a rinsed-and-reused copy of Arthur (his Inception persona). But my fears were proved wrong, and Levitt delivers one of the strongest performances in the movie.
The strongest performance, however, is Tom Hardy’s Bane.
Though radically different from his comic book counterpart, Tom Hardy’s Bane is breathtaking to behold on screen. Like Heath Ledger’s Joker (who was also radically different from the source material), Bane is a truly evil character. He holds no reserve in killing people, and he relishes in chaos. However, he and the Joker are different in that Bane is not sporadically and diabolically insane. He is startlingly and maliciously intelligent. His plans are exact and methodical. He leaves no room for chance, no room for deviation, and for those reasons his character is mesmerizing.
If the Joker was just a “dog chasing cars,” Bane is the one who drives the car. Like a thunderstorm, Bane’s mind roils with darkness and thought, and when he attacks he strikes like lightning. I literally covered my mouth with my hands and pulled my legs up into my chair when he and Batman started fighting on screen because Bane is that intense. The Joker might be Batman’s archenemy in terms of morality and mentality, but Bane is Batman’s true physical rival, and it was astonishing watching him reveal his madness through his brute strength. If Tom Hardy isn’t nominated for an Academy Award, it will be a crime against all things good in cinema.
And this is where I must commend Christopher Nolan, Jonathon Nolan, and David S. Goyer. They have crafted and delivered a masterpiece. The characters they have developed are so nuanced and real that you literally get chills watching their actors bring them to life on screen.
But what is a superhero movie without music?
It’s lame, that’s what. Thankfully such is not the case with The Dark Knight Rises, and I personally believe the music in this film completely outdoes the last two movies. In Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, composer Hans Zimmer collaborated with the extraordinary James Newton Howard, but Zimmer flew solo for Rises, and the result is pure musical goodness. And while his overreaching theme from Batman Begins is most certainly present, you can feel Zimmer’s creativity unleashed in this film’s score, especially through the themes for Catwoman and Bane. Each theme fit each character perfectly, and the overall feel of the soundtrack is, in a word, epic.
I honestly haven’t heard a Zimmer score like this since Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. He expertly captures the themes of menace, power, tragedy, and triumph that are present throughout the film, and I am now all the more excited to hear his new Superman score (yes, that’s right, he’s scoring Man of Steel).
I could go on and on about this film, but I’ll end by saying that The Dark Knight Rises is the perfect ending to Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. Is it a perfect movie? Yes and no. The beginning is slightly confusing at first, but it explains itself as the film progresses. I also would have liked to see more of Selina Kyle/Catwoman, but that might’ve asked too much of the audience (the movie is already 2 hours and 45 minutes). Petty gripes aside, I can say with total honesty that this is by far the best Batman movie to date, and one of Nolan’s best movies to date. It ties everything together perfectly, and you’ll leave the theatre wanting to see it at least two more times.