WARNING: REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. And in Hollywood, more often than not, that ‘end’ comes right around the third film in a series. This is because Hollywood, for some inexplicable reason I have no intention to delve into in this all too brief review, has a peculiar affinity towards the number 3. Sure, a third film doesn’t necessarily mean the end of a franchise – the Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Wars, Scream, and the recent Spiderman reboot are all proof of that – but more often than not, the third film in a franchise does bring with it a certain amount of closure to what has come before it. And Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises is no exception. In fact, it may just set the new benchmark in closing out a trilogy definitively, while still leaving open the potential of a new director’s vision for another inevitable – let’s face it – trilogy, in the future. But before the next new instalment begins, the current must come to an end. And for that to happen in Christopher Nolan’s dark, bleak “Batman” universe, all hell must first break loose.
The Dark Knight Rises opens eight years following the tragic events of The Dark Knight. Heath Ledgers diabolical Joker is no more, and out of the ashes of Aaron Eckhart’s false hero Harvey Dent, Gotham City has been restored to its former glory: Free of organised crime and, for the most part, free from evil. But Gotham’s new makeover is nothing more than a thick layer of well applied make up, and under the surface, a new evil is rising under the powerful watch of Tom Hardy’s bulked up Bane, who has a potent vision for Bruce Wayne’s (Christian Bale) idyllic Gotham. A vision that will not only bring about Gotham’s darkest hour, but will also force a reclusive Batman out of his self imposed prison.
There’s no denying the greatness of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight series. Part film noir, part kick ass action movies, Nolan’s ability to weave together vast numbers of characters into a storyline and design that is simultaneously dark, thrilling and theatrical is a skill perfectly suited to the Batman legacy. But whilst Batman Begins and The Dark Knight stood proudly as self contained films whose storylines progressed organically based on the motivations and actions of their dark central characters, The Dark Knight does, I’m afraid to admit, occasionally stumble in this department.
It’s clear from the start what Nolan’s vision for this closing instalment is meant to be. And it’s an amicable one that is surprisingly original in spite of a few clichés along the way (more on that later). But unfortunately there are several moments in the film where Nolan’s desire to bring Gotham to its knees in new, unimaginable way’s seems to give way to any real logic on how it got to that point in the first place. I mean are we really supposed to believe that just because one of their leaders happened to lie about Harvey Dent’s demise that a mob mentality instantaneously takes over when this is bought into question by a maniacal mad man in a mask? Or that the loss of the city’s entire police force to the dumbest tactical move ever is enough to cause a once prosperous city to implode on itself? Fear is certainly a powerful motivator as the Batman legacy has made clear to us in the past, but The Dark Knight Rises really pushes the boundaries on just how much can be attributed to such a simplistic emotion. Is fear really enough to make a man jump to an unreachable ledge? Or to turn everyday citizens into a rebel rousing mob? This viewer had his doubts.
And unfortunately the doubts don’t end there. There are two further problems in The Dark Knight Rises that tarnish the immaculate sheen of its predecessors. The first is a simple one that ultimately comes down to the poor design of Hardy’s Bane character. Despite the actors best efforts to emote with a meat grinder attached to his mouth, needless to say, his dialogue comes across often muffled and unintelligible. There was some discussion within fan forums when the first trailer came out in relation to this, and despite Nolan’s insistence that nothing has been done to rectify the issue, there is an undeniable echoey quality to Hardys’s dialogue that sounds very much like it has been cross dubbed with Liam Neeson’s. The result however not only makes the dialogue even more unintelligible at times, but also feels mismatched with Bane’s bulky frame, diminishing the threatening quality of the character immensely.
Further compounding this, Nolan’s track record and proven affinity for all things Film Noir means the revelation of Bane’s master can be seen coming like a halogen powered lighthouse on a crisp, clear night. To be fair, in this particular instance, the twist makes sense, and the set up, for the most part, is well orchestrated. But Nolan’s over use of the femme fatale character can be witnessed throughout almost his entire film anthology, and it’s a shame, because if it were more sparingly used, perhaps the big reveal would not have been so blindingly obvious from the start.
Now at this point it might sound like I didn’t actually enjoy The Dark Knight Rises at all, but the simple truth is, that despite the grievances mentioned above, The Dark Knight Rises is one of the best films of the year to date. In fact, it is a testament to Nolan’s brilliant skills as a storyteller and director that, as a reviewer, I actually feel bad nitpicking it at all. But I honestly believe that if it weren’t for the aforementioned issues, then The Dark Knight Rises would be a near perfect film. Instead, it is merely a triumphant send off to its stellar predecessors. And a fitting conclusion to Nolan’s dark superhero fable.
For the time being that is…
RATING: 4 / 5 STARS