At last "the legend ends" and Christopher Nolan's Bat-reboot comes to its thrilling conclusion. The character's re-invention, after his disappointing campy late 90's turns, made him respectable again and brought the hero back with a vengeance.
Batman Begins spent half of its time showing us Bruce Wayne's progress from Billionaire orphan to Billionaire orphan with a penchant for bats and ass-kickin' and the other half of its time giving us a taster of Batman in action complete with megalomaniac villains, cool-as-f*** gadgets and loads of action. What Nolan and co. brought to the table was a serious, semi-realistic approach, an emphasis on plot and a scale worthy of the character. The Dark Knight was the money shot: taking everything that was good about Begins and cranking it up to 11 with two fantastic villains, a deep, bittersweet plot, thrilling action by the buckets and raised stakes. Neither film was perfect but they were solid and, The Dark Knight especially, delivered what we expected from a Batman film and more.
So how could they ever top that?
Don't get me wrong, The Dark Knight Rises certainly goes further than its predecessor. The scale is unprecedented for the character and just seeing Batman in such a HUGE movie is worth the ticket alone. For the first time ever, through the film being more of an ensemble piece this time, we feel the reality of Gotham as a vast metropolis in deep, deep trouble. Sure Ra's Al Ghul had a doomsday machine of his own in Begins but you never really believed he'd get his way or that Batman was well and truly done for. Even in The Dark Knight, as much of a threat to the status quo as The Joker was, it was all more about breaking the city's spirit, its hope, rather than turn it to ashes. This time, however, newcomer bad-guy Bane isn't joking...
Not. One. Bit.
No magic tricks, no choices, no make-up.
Gotham is f***ed.
In no less than an hour, the film reduces Gotham City to some kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland. Batman's MIA, Harvey Dent is dead, Gordon's in the hospital... so much for The Dark Knight's trio of hope! The Joker didn't just win, he gave Bane everything he needed to go all out. In fact it's such a shame that The Joker couldn't be and isn't in this movie, he would have LOVED this shit. There's actually no mention of him at all, which is frankly a little odd. Did everyone just forget?
Tom Hardy plays Bane, a big-ass mountain of a man with an appetite for destruction when it comes to Gotham. His plan? To finish what Ra's Al Ghul started: bring the city to its knees and start over from scratch. Except this time, he can back up his megalomania with raw fire power and intricate planning. He's not just a tough lump content with going "BOOOOMB!" or saying his name over and over while driving people around, this is a smart, powerful adversary and he delivers on his promises.
It's just a shame an actor as good as Hardy has to spend the entire film speaking through an ashtray :P
I get it, that's Bane's "thing", and Hardy is brilliant in the movie: his Sean Connery/Ian McKellen/Bill Nighy-style voice is unexpected, odd and distracting at first but it turns out to be a genius choice that really makes that character unique. It's a kinda goofy voice, but it works and, at times, even makes the villain seem a bit more sinister. Anne Hathaway's Catwoman, meanwhile, goes in and out of these weird, wannabe sexy vocal tones. This is something that, for me, has always been something of a problem with the Nolan franchise: people doing silly voices. Batman himself, The Joker, Tom Wilkinson's Falcone, even Gary Oldman's Gordon, to a certain extent (remember "I was trying to FIGHT DA MAAAB!!!" in TDK? lol), all seemed to be putting on some kind of movie voice when none was honestly required. Yes Batman is trying to camouflage his voice and, who knows, maybe The Joker is too, but when your city is going to hell and you've got other "heroes" around you speaking normally, it sticks out like a sore thumb. This is definitely one strange-sounding movie...
But sadly, this is the least of The Dark Knight Rises' problems.
Begins' plot and structure were simple, maybe even too simple. The Dark Knight fixed that, giving us a dense, multi-layered, dramatic story all the way through. Rises, however, feels muddled and is messy as hell. Yes the core plot is simple enough (think Rocky III) with the hero being taken out and the film essentially being about his glorious comeback. But the film introduces too much in its first hour and fails to glue everything together convincingly after that. I get that Bane wanted Batman's punishment to be "more severe" than death by first showing him his city going down the drain but putting him in a hole far away just felt like delaying the inevitable. It's like when James Bond is left in a room with nothing but a matchbox and dynamite while the villain lays out his plan and turns his back on him. There's a lot of that going on here. You get Bane telling The Bat his entire plan then another character at the end explaining the reveal... In its third act, the movie really struggles to stay convincing in its own comic book world and what were mere nitpicks early on soon turn to distracting mini-plot holes.
What happened to Bruce's limp?
Did he find/put on his leg brace off camera?
Don't the police have shields?!
I bet this movie has hundreds of deleted scenes, sure feels like it.
F***ing 12A (PG13).
At this point I should warn you again: please don't read the rest of this review until you've seen the film as I'm about to talk about the ending.
Here's, in a nutshell, why the film fails to live up to its predecessor: a lot of it does feel forced.
Aforementioned performances, plot threads, one-liners, at least The Dark Knight had this solid structure to hold it together, this tries a lot of cool things and only some of them stick. Yes The Bat (aka The Batwing) is awesome, really awesome and single-handedly saves the third act from being a joyless payoff (the Bat-Pod helps too), but how the hell do you "hide" this giant plane on a rooftop? Let alone in an alleyway! Yes it makes sense for Marion Cotillard's Miranda Tate to be Talia Al Ghul but it would have made more sense if it had been established in Begins rather than set-up here and now. It would have also been more of a surprise if some dodgy editing near the end didn't kind of reveal some foul play on her part. And when did Selina Kyle start developing feelings for Bruce Wayne/Batman? Whatever happened to her friend/fellow thief/lesbian lover? Oh and how the hell did Wayne get back to a completely closed-off Gotham? Where was Alfred? Off buying more TANGERINES?! And who made The Scarecrow president of the world? Why are we talking about sewers and ice when The Penguin and Mr Freeze are nowhere to be seen? (lol) And if Joseph Gordon-Levitt's John Blake is, indeed, Robin... when's he gonna join the circus? And how can he be the city's new Batman? He's not a member of The League Of Shadows! He didn't bring some blue flower up a mountain. Is Wayne going to train him at all or just leave him there?
You see what I mean?
The only question I was asking during The Dark Knight was "How DID he get these scars, anyway?!".
It sounds like I'm panning the film but I'm not: The Dark Knight Rises IS an impressive achievement and a lot of it is actually very good. Like I said, the scale is massive, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is fantastic giving his best performance to date and creating a character that not only rings true but which you really care about, Bale is better than he's ever been in the series and you really do want the Dark Knight to rise! You obviously know he'll make that so-called impossible jump in the Lazarus Pit (yes, I'm calling it that) but it's still satisfying as hell when he makes it. Unfortunately, the main issue is that the film never fully takes off. Begins really kicked-off about halfway through, The Dark Knight kicked-off straight-away but this is such a muddled storyline, all-too similar to the first movie's by the way, that you'll just be spending most of your time trying to figure out every plot-hole that comes your way and remembering how much better Michelle Pfeiffer was in that Catwoman role.
Overall, this is indeed, sadly, a bit of a disappointing end to a trilogy that just seemed to be getting better and better. It's an epic spectacle with a lot at stake, a lot of great characters, a lot of action and a lot of heart but something along the way just fails to truly engulf you in this epic conclusion.
Good, just not very good.