The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Review

The Dark Knight is my favourite film of all time. It helps that I’m a huge Batman fan, having read the comics since I was a kid and watched the Animated Series when I was younger too. I love Burton’s Batman and felt the pain when Schumacher destroyed the series. I was happy enough when Batman Begins got the series back on track but nothing could prepare me for how amazing Dark Knight was going to be.

It wasn’t just a great Batman film or even the best superhero film ever but was just a great film. If it was possible to take Batman out of the film or change the key characters to people that we didn’t have prior knowledge of, the film would still be one of the best ever made. The story is unrelenting and gripping, the performances are amazing, Ledger’s Joker being a stand-out example, and Nolan’s direction and interpretation of the character is perfect. He delivered the Batman, the Joker, the Commissioner Gordon and Two Face that I had been reading in the comics since I was a kid. No camp, silly fun, no bat-nipples or silly looking car. This was how Batman was supposed to be.

So yesterday I woke up nervous. The last time I watched a third film in a series that I was this excited about was Spiderman 3 and we all know how that turned out. The difference was, Spiderman 2 was great but by no means amazing. Dark Knight would be very difficult to follow and almost impossible to top. Somehow, Nolan manages to match the Dark Knight but never quite betters it.

Bane was the perfect choice of villain for the third film.

That doesn’t mean I was disappointed though. I was literally on the edge of my seat for the whole final third of the film. Its run time is well over two and half hours but the time flew past and I could have sat and watched for another hour. The new characters are brilliantly realised and the actors we have already watched for the past two films play their parts so comfortably that they now embody their comic book counterparts.

The biggest addition had to be Bane. Bane was a perfect choice of villain. Joker was the mental, chaotic match for Batman where Bane is his physical match. The actual fight between the two is amazing and brutal to watch. Nolan doesn’t hold back and shows every smashing punch and rib-cracking blow to the point where its uncomfortable to watch in places. Tom Hardy manages to make him scary in a whole different way to Ledger’s Joker. The combination of the mask and perfectly chosen British accent make him a powerful and unnerving threat.

The physical battle between Batman and Bane was realistic and sometimes difficult to watch.

Nolan also manages to cast Catwoman perfectly too. Anne Hathaway makes the role her own and presents a completely different take on the cat burglar than both Pfeiffer and (shudder) Halle Berry. She holds her own in the combat and action while still looking stunning in her “cat-suit.” If anything, she is the character that is under-used and could have done with more to actually contribute but this is a small gripe.

Hathaway’s Catwoman is brilliantly realised but maybe slightly under-used.

The next best addition is Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Blake. He is the great “everyman” character and the best addition to the series after Bane. His overall story has a great conclusion that practically had me jumping out of seat and whooping with excitement in the packed cinema.

The rest of the ingredients that made The Dark Knight such an incredible film are all here. The story is fast paced, gripping and action packed. The run time is long but never wasted and it builds to a satisfying conclusion. Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack perfectly compliments the action and made the whole cinema rumble with a satisfying thunder when Batman finally appeared for the first time or when Bane revealed his “masterplan.” The familiar actors, from Bale through to Oldman and Caine are all present, correct and on fine form. Alongside the dark, realistic action and peril is the usual, light, tension breaking jokes that have complimented the series so well.

All the more familiar characters play their parts comfortably too.

For the Batman fan in the audience, there is also plenty of nods to the comics. Anyone familiar with Knightfall or even No Man’s Land will not be disappointed. I was very pleased with myself when I guessed some of the story and where it was going based on my knowledge of the comics but this only added to my enjoyment of the film. The ending is a particularly brilliant example of this.

As much as I loved Dark Knight Rises though, it didn’t top The Dark Knight. This is because its more of a continuation of that film rather than a film unto itself. The themes are similar and the tone is exactly the same. Even the “three-act” structure has more than a passing resemblance for it predecessor. As good as Bane is, and he is fantastic, he never comes close to Ledger’s Joker or even Eckhart’s Two-Face. Even the finale for the film, the great crescendo of action to finish the story, felt familiar and never got close to the amazing and exciting conclusion of The Dark Knight.

Blake is a great new character and probably my favourite addition to the trilogy.

This is a minor gripe though because regardless of the film that preceded it, what this did was finish Nolan’s Batman legacy perfectly. He has now delivered, in my opinion, the perfect trilogy. The story ends with a satisfying conclusion and if they never made another Batman film for as long as I live, I would be happy. Nolan is now my favourite director as is responsible for my three favourite films of all time. (Both Dark Knights and Inception.)

Overall, Nolan has not disappointed, in fact he has delivered the perfect conclusion to the best film trilogy ever. I have always loved Batman, since I was a kid, and Nolan’s film version has always been the best on-screen version of the superhero. Bane is a brilliant villain, the action is realistic and hard-hitting and Zimmer’s soundtrack thunders superbly as we watch the fall and rise of the Dark Knight.

Rating – 5!

(1-3 – awful/avoid. 4-6 – average. 7-8 – good. 9-10 – fantastic.)

Nolan has now delivered a perfect trilogy.
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