It’s been four years since our last encounter with Chris Nolan’s Batman, though eight years have passed for Bruce Wayne since his dealings with Gotham’s most notorious villain, the Joker, in The Dark Knight. In that span of time, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has retired his cape and kept himself locked up in his mansion, no longer able to manage the duality of being a vigilante and playboy. His body has simply caught up with him. Overall crime has gone way down in Gotham, but as we know, that never lasts long.
In the opening scene – which tries to replicate Joker’s diabolically fantastic bank robbery opening in the previous film – we are introduced to the villain of The Dark Knight Rises, Bane (Tom Hardy); a big, bulky mercenary who dons an apparatus around his mouth that both masks pain and gives him a charmingly eerie voice. Bane and his crew hijack a plane in order to capture a scientist that will aid him in reeking his own brand of havoc on Gotham. Of course, this is enough to bring the bat out of his cave.
This time around, Batman has more help by his side than just Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman). First, we have Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), better known as Catwoman (though she’s never referred to by that in the film). A character that seems to always walk a fine line between right and wrong, Kyle is a sexy addition to the cast, but not much else. Though Hathaway does a good job, her character is arguably the least crucial element to the film and quite possibly should never have been included. Rises also introduces John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a rookie cop that shares a similarly dark past with Wayne (he knows who is behind the mask), and assists Commissioner Gordon. Levitt, big part or small, is one heck of an actor and along with Oldman and Hardy, ups the game for the rest of the cast.
The main problem with Rises is how long it takes to get going. It wasn’t until a little over an hour into it that I felt I was sucked in. That is quite a long time to wait for an individual film to get moving, but considering this is part of a bigger picture, I was a little more accepting. It is at this point when Batman first encounters Bane. For the first time we really get to hone in on Hardy’s performance (best of the film). We are obviously restricted when watching Bane because of the apparatus I mentioned earlier, but it is Hardy’s voice and even more significantly, what he does with his eyes, that is truly captivating.
The threat of a nuclear explosion that would flatten Gotham puts the entire city in a panic. With nearly the entire police force trapped in Gotham’s tunnels, Bane unleashes Marshall Law and chaos ensues. It is only after Batman has been forced to remember what he is fighting for – the safety of Gotham and its people – that he, as an image, and as a hero, can rise again and fight for what he believes in (cheesy, I know, but themes are important!).
The Dark Knight Rises is so large that it would be difficult to cover it all in this review. Overall, I did enjoy the film. Its epic scale, performances and story were enough to win over its slow pacing in the beginning. Similar to other trilogies, Rises accomplishes what Return of the Jedi or Godfather: Part III did (yeah, I just wrote that) and provides us with a good, satisfying ending to Nolan’s arc, yet like the others, it is certainly not as strong as its predecessors.
– Kyle Owen