The Dark Knight Rises

Well, this is the big one for 2012. It’s the sequel to The Dark Knight, which is largely accepted as the best superhero movie of all time – certainly by me – and as much more than just a superhero movie. It tackled the big themes; good and evil, chaos and control, and the greater good – and was lifted by that scintillating performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker – arguably the best movie villain of all time.

So the big question is can this final chapter be as good, or even better?

 

 

Well, this is the big one for 2012. It’s the sequel to The Dark Knight, which is largely accepted as the best superhero movie of all time – certainly by me – and as much more than just a superhero movie. It tackled the big themes; good and evil, chaos and control, and the greater good – and was lifted by that scintillating performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker – arguably the best movie villain of all time.

So the big question is can this final chapter be as good, or even better?

It’s set eight years later, and Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) hasn’t been seen since. He’s locked himself away in Wayne manor — Howard Hughes style — with his busted leg and his trusty butler Alfred (Michael Caine).

Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and a plucky uniform cop Blake (joseph Gordon-Levitt) discover a terrorist group working beneath the city. They’re led by the mysterious cult figure Bane (Tom Hardy), a bald, hulking brute who speaks through a breathing apparatus mask (shades of Darth Vader!).

But it’s svelte cat-burglar – or should I say ‘cat-woman’ (Anne Hathaway) that tempts Bruce Wayne back into the world.

It will take far too long to explain the complex plot, but in a nutshell, Bane and his loyal army cuts Gotham off from the rest of the world and “occupies” it with the threat of nuclear oblivion.

Bruce gets back in the bat-suit and tries to stop Bane with the help of Gordon, Blake, Catwoman, and his gadget-guy Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), who equips batman with some cool new weapons and vehicles.

There’s some real surprise revelations in here I won’t spoiler for our listeners, including some major character revelations.

I was surprised to count four Oscar winners in the cast - Caine, Freeman, Bale and Marion Cottilard, who plays a powerful businesswoman. Few films can count four Oscar winners in its cast — and no superhero film can.

So this is pretty special, and it’s absolutely epic. Its 165 minutes long, and there’s almost 165 characters and 165 subplots and themes whirling around: terrorism, fear, paranoia, regime change, people power – the inmates ruling the asylum!

The Dark Knight Rises is a beautiful blockbuster spectacle led by an amazing cast who give pitch-perfect performances.

But — holy smokes Batman! — it’s not quite as slick or powerful as The Dark Knight, with its ultimate battle between chaos and control, and Ledger’s ultimate mad man bad guy.

It’s perhaps a victim of its own ambition. It’s almost too big, too sprawling, with too many characters, some of whom get lost in the action. Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman is a bit of a nothing character with nothing much to do. She really feels wedged in for sex appeal.

Morgan freeman and Marion Cottilard don’t make much of an impact, and the same goes for Aussie actor Ben Mendolssohn, who pops up as bad guy. And I love Michael Caine – I could listen to him read the TV guide — but he gives speeches and cries in every scene he’s in here.

That said, the action is suitably stunning and on a grand scale. The opening sequence is a very Bond-style mid-air plane hijacking. Bane implodes a football stadium mid-touchdown.  Much of it was shot with 70mm IMAX cameras, so do yourself a favour and see it on the IMAX screen.  The camera often pulls back for wide shots of New York City as the bridges are blown and buildings burn, and batman swoops around in his new bat-plane.

It’s one of the most beautiful looking films you’ll see.

The new toys are wonderful too. Catwoman throws her leg over the bat-bike, and when Bruce Wayne re-enters public life and the paparazzi are snapping away at him, he hits a remote that disables their cameras! So there’s a lot of fun to it too.

I like the way it links up to the other films, and especially to the over-arching villain Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson). It makes it a more complete trilogy and a fitting final chapter. But at the same time, it also reduces Bane to bit of a lesser villain – a Mad Max-style Humongous – who’s motives are unclear. He wants to occupy Gtham – but then what? And I don’t like that old nuclear threat. The bad guys never seem to realize they’ll be blown up too!

But the final scenes are just perfect, hinting at possible spin-off movies starring a new superhero.

The Dark Knight rises is not perfect, but it’s a spectacular conclusion that makes the trilogy the godfather of super movies.

Score – 8 / 10

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