Saturday, 21 July 2012

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES: MOVIE REVIEW



THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
Release Date: 20th July (UK)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Running Time: 165 Minutes
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman

Reviewed by Kyle Pedley


And so we come to it at last.

The Avengers Initiative has been assembled. Peter Parker is web-slinging once more. Yet in the wake of these worthy pretenders comes the real superhero event of the summer - the incomparably awaited The Dark Knight Rises. It is difficult to envisage a more hyped and anticipated movie release this year (except for maybe when we are all welcomed back to Middle Earth in December) but surely nobody on the planet needs reminding of that fact.
So how does it fare?
Firstly, those going in expecting a re-hash of The Dark Knight are likely to leave disappointed. For where the previous film felt more akin to a focused, frenzied crime thriller in the vein of, say, Michael Mann’s Heat seen through the filter of Gotham City, in this, Nolan’s final Batman outing, the movies comic book roots take front and centre, and in place of The Dark Knight’s erratic, chaotic surprise is an indomitable and epic ebb, a relentless advance to a grand, emotional crescendo for one of the most duly successful superhero franchises ever made.
Yes, The Dark Knight Rises is simply superb, quite possibly the best film of the year so far, and the level of achievement technically, narratively and artistically completely outstrips and overshadows anything the genre has offered in recent years and makes even it’s predecessors feel somewhat trivial and inconsequential in comparison. 
Taking place 8 years after the conclusion of The Dark Knight, the film begins, after a somewhat haphazard and underwhelming introduction to it’s chief protagonist Bane (more on whom later) in a Gotham of relative peace. The murderous Harvey Dent continues to be lauded a tragic hero, and in place a wrongly vilified Batman has retired, leaving Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne to slide into reclusion; ostracised from the world, his empire crumbling around him, a visibly broken man now hobbling around with assistance from a cane to endure the injuries and baggage (both physical and emotional) brought on by years of his selfless vigilante work. Michael Caine’s Alfred (who is given some great material and brings much of the emotional weight and heart to the film) remains unshakably loyal despite his parental instincts having him urge the man he raised to seek out more from life than his solitude and memories, and Gary Oldman’s jaded Commissioner Gordon remains plagued by the truth he helped cover up, his family having long since left him and unknowingly on the verge of being dropped from position. Nolan confidently takes his time re-acquainting us these with familiar faces and gradually introducing the newcomers, including the surprisingly prevalent Officer Blake (ably performed by an earnest Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and board member Miranda Tate (an excusably under-used Marion Cotillard), and allows a somber tone to perpetuate the films opening half hour.
But a storm is coming.
Enter Bane. Mercenary, warlord, purveyor of good singing. The Dark Knight Rises’ biggest challenge was always going to be stepping out from the shadow of Heath Ledger’s incredible, all-encompassing work as the Joker and allowing it’s central antagonist a presence and impact of it’s own. Fortunately with Bane, Nolan and actor Tom Hardy have done just that, by shrewdly turning to a completely polar villain that provides an equally menacing threat for completely different reasons. Where Ledger’s Joker represented the anarchic and uncontrollable mayhem of crime and violence, Hardy’s Bane is an envoy of relentless war and the iron fist of organised, implacable terror and power. In favour of unpredictability and surprise, Bane and his men are ruthless and shockingly efficient architects of deliberate, plotted death and disaster, and, without wanting to cast any major spoilers, manage to bring Gotham, and Batman, to their knees in a way the Joker could only imagine. He is also the series most physically proficient villain so far, a lumbering yet agile monstrosity, and the unsetting, sophisticated and almost jovial voice work Hardy brings to the role is both unexpected and disconcerting, helping to round out a genuinely menacing and unsettling threat. There’s no denying the character lacks quite the same impact and will unlikely reverberate culturally to the extent the Joker did, but realistically that was always going to be the case, for this is a far less showy role, but thankfully one that Nolan, Hardy and the team have all crafted something unique and imposing out of. Drawing in ties to Batman Begins’ League of Shadows, a covert organisation of master criminals, lends Bane and his plans extra gravitas and relevance, and allows for some neat narrative links that help utilise the villain and his goals in drawing the trilogy as a whole to a neater close.
The other major newcomer is obviously Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle a.k.a Catwoman, and in many ways the character was always going to be the film’s hardest sell, so iconic is Michelle Pfeiffer’s interpretation of the role back in 1992’s Batman Returns and how jarring the concept of the character seems in the more realistic imagining of Nolan’s Gotham. As to be expected, much of the character’s more outlandish backstory and comic-book/feline elements are removed (she is never referred to once in the film as Catwoman, for instance), and in some ways makes her presence and motivation in the film feel, on paper at least, a little atypical and perfunctory - good girl turned bad, became the criminal she is doing what she had to in order to survive etc. You’ve heard it all before. Yet somehow, this streamlining of the character and the distance created from her lack of clear backstory and more generalised motivations do a great job of lending to her enigma, and allows Hathaway to have tremendous fun crafting a terrific anti-hero who stays true to the spirit of the character by being incredibly physical, sinfully attractive, viciously self-serving and delightfully ambiguous. This is Catwoman how she simply had to be imagined in Nolan’s universe, with neat touches such as her 'ears' being a result of her high-tech goggles pulled back over her head giving plenty of knowing winks to the origins of the character, and any reservations about Hathaway in the role should be put aside for she is undoubtedly one of the films highlights. Whilst she does bandy around much of the film’s second act with relatively little to do, she is nonethelss a welcome spark of fire to the film as a whole, a brilliantly judged addition to the series, and one that is beautifully tied in to the film’s themes of identity, self-sacrifice and it’s central protagonists own personal journey and trajectory.
For as genuinely excellent as these newest characters are, this is thankfully Bruce Wayne/Batman’s film, and it is gratifying to see the focus return so centrally to where it always belonged. Whereas the character felt somewhat sidelined last time around, in The Dark Knight Rises we have a story and journey that is perfectly focused around the final arc in Wayne’s story, as his convictions, beliefs and choices are pushed to breaking point and he is dragged, almost literally, to hell and back. It is a brilliant study of spirit and fortitude, and the cost of sacrifice to one’s cause. Where other films in the genre toy with such themes, The Dark Knight Rises feels meaningful, significant, human. To dwell any further on the characters trajectory and fate in the film would be to unfairly spoil and undermine the films key strength and through-line, but needless to say this is Bale’s most effective and rounded turn yet in the role. More so than in either Batman Begins and particularly The Dark Knight, I believed in Batman, I believed in Bruce Wayne.
In tandem with the brilliant cast of characters comes the vision and spectacle of Christopher Nolan filmmaking, and The Dark Knight Rises seems to be the first time the director has completely let loose with the comic book foundations of the franchise and ran with them, at least within the confines of his own creative niche and style. The artistic liberation that Inception allowed him seems to have benefitted the series as visuals and standards are raised across the board and sights are turned to a more operatic and sweeping finale. As is to be expected the astral production values are self-evident, and unsurprisingly this is every bit as technically and artistically proficient yet confidently restrained as The Dark Knight and Batman Begins before it. Hans Zimmer's score is once again brilliantly foreboding, moving and thematic, and everything from the costume design through to the stuntwork and choreography all authentic and effective without being egregious or overtly Hollywood-ised.
Having said that Rises is, as mentioned, the most outlandish and fantastical of Nolan’s Batman movies, with the sight of the caped crusader dodging missiles over the skies of Gotham in his new vehicle of choice or taking down mercenaries with a similarly-suited Catwoman in tow leading to a decidedly less naturalistic feel than what has come before in the series, though this is not inherently a negative thing and allows for some truly fun and entertaining vignettes or moments amongst all the despair and dread. Whilst some elements of the plot do devolve to somewhat disappointing action-movie cliches (the central threat that Bane presents to Gotham feels a little uninspired despite it being grounded in the Gotham/Wayne universe) and the film overall doesn’t feel quite as smart as The Dark Knight, there are plenty of supremely satisfying Nolan-esque twists, and the stakes are raised exponentially with the whole film taking on an incredibly epic and all-encompassing scope that feels both befitting and final for this last outing. Characters and plot are brilliantly juggled and played into a tremendously well executed and satisfying third act and an emotional denouement for the saga as a whole that is not afraid to lean on sentiment and honour the resplendent storytelling and investment Nolan and his fans have poured into his remarkable trilogy.
At just shy of 3 hours, this is the longest installment in the franchise so far, and yet a superb sense of pace and progression, Nolan’s signature masterful intercutting and balancing of character and narrative married with a clearly defined three-act narrative structure keeps the audience engaged and prevents anything from feeling over-wrought or over-long. This is masterful, engrossing and entertaining filmmaking at it’s absolute finest and much like the Lord of the Rings trilogy of similar length, everything on offer has such purpose, conviction and payoff and is of such paramount quality that the overall effect is one of an almost bewilderingly brilliant and resoundingly complete motion picture experience. 
It is difficult to remember back to before 2005’sBatman Begins when the character and franchise languished in the shame of Joel Schumacher’s appalling misfires of the late 90’s, so culturally dominant and wholly accepted is the work Nolan and his team have since done. Like the aforementioned Lord of the Rings trilogy did with the fantasy genre, and Star Wars with Science Fiction before that, an industry benchmark and tent-pole has been resolutely set and a standard for the genre firmly realised, and as this remarkable trilogy, surely the greatest superhero saga of all time, draws to a close, it is hard not feel both thrilled to have been present for it, but also a great swell of pity for whoever attempts to reboot or outdo this Gordon’s beacon of not only comic-book adaptations, but great, entertaining filmmaking as a whole.

(A)MUSINGS RATING - * * * * * (5 out of 5 stars)


For more news, updates and exclusive content from (A)musings, be sure to 'like' our Facebook page and also follow us on Twitter!


ADDENDUM - AURORA CINEMA SHOOTINGS

Given the high profile and direct relevance of this recent news case, all at (A)musings Media would like to express our  immense sorrow and immeasurable grief at hearing of this terrible and senseless tragedy. We do not wish to appear insensitive or disrespectful promoting and praising the film without acknowledging this awful occurrence.

It is harrowing and unimaginable to hear of the cinema, a place where we all go to enjoy and appreciate the social and universal art of film and seek the escapism that the movies provide being invaded by this mindless, inexcusable and utterly abhorrent level of violence and callous disregard for human life. 

We wish the families, friends and associates of all involved in this terrible situation the very deepest sympathies and condolences, especially to those who have lost someone dear to them.


Kyle Pedley
(A)musing Media Editor, Founder and CEO

7 comments:

  1. Great review.

    Wasnt sure I was gonna like where they went with catwoman but hathaway really surprised me and everyone Ive spoken to has said the same. Bit unsure with Bane, his altered voice in the prologue was a bit over the top. The ADR work they'd done since last year was really obvious.

    I dont think its quite as good as The Dark Knight (and not just because of Ledger's Joker) but still a great end to the series.

    Brilliant work guys! (the film and this review)

    Drake

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great review and props on the touching addendum.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Awesome review. I enjoyed the praise of this film. My favorite movie thus far.

    Also compassionate response to the Aurora Shootings.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great review!

    I agree with you about this being an fitting end to the trilogy. Chris Bale was at his best and Anne was great as Selina as well.

    Check out my review .

    Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi all,

    Thanks for the comments, glad you all enjoyed the review and appreciated the addendum. We felt it was fitting to acknowledge the terrible happenings in Colorado.

    And buddy I'll be sure to go check out your review in a moment!

    Kyle

    ReplyDelete
  6. Blake's final scene definitely points to another Nolan adaptation, with Gordon-Levitt in the lead role, I hope...

    ReplyDelete
  7. reviewnya min :) nice one wants to read the latest movie reviews, can be directly to http://gostrim.com/category/movie-review/ happy reading :)

    ReplyDelete

Sharing your musings! Let us know what you think...