“Let’s not stand on ceremony here, Mr. Wayne.” The hulking brute villain Bane (Tom Hardy) menacingly mumbles to Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) in full Batman regalia, before the two duke it out in their first violent confrontation.
It’s easily “The Dark Knight Rises” most stunning scene, but also a fitting line of dialogue for the conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, as he speeds right out of the gate, never letting down to stand on the ceremony of his creation. And Nolan’s grand finale of his staggeringly impressive reimagining of the Batman franchise is just that – a grand, sobering spectacle that delivers its ‘oohh’s and aahh’s’, but not much more.
Make no mistake, the series as a whole is a colossal achievement of genre filmmaking – a dystopic noir set to the tune of a big budget Hollywood blockbuster that both redefined the superhero genre as a whole, and cemented Nolan as one of the finest modern auteurs.
And “The Dark Knight Rises” is a stunning and wholly satisfying conclusion, but whereas “Batman Begins” was a fresh reimagining, and “The Dark Knight” greatly surpassed expectations and introduced one of the most chilling performances in recent years, “The Dark Knight Rises” doesn’t quite live up to its hype, and is ultimately a flawed masterpiece.
Set eight years after the events of “The Dark Knight,” the city of Gotham is as clean and tenuous as it’s ever been, due to Harvey Dent’s legacy and a new bill called the Dent Act (a pseudo Patriot Act). But the dark secret of Dent’s transformation is the murderous Two-Face, which ultimately eats away at Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman).
Since that time, however, Batman hasn’t been seen since he took the fall for Dent’s death, and Bruce Wayne has exiled himself in his mansion due in part from his guilt for Rachel’s death.
But things aren’t smooth sailing in Gotham for long, as the criminal mastermind Bane – a terrifyingly hulked out mercenary in a menacing gas mask – quickly sets his sights on the city, hell bent on total destruction. Once again, the caped crusader is lured out of hiding and is faced with his greatest foe yet.
It’s no secret that “The Dark Knight Rises” is a masterful visual spectacle.
With over an hour of footage shot on special IMAX 65mm film, the action set pieces are exciting, massive, and (quite literally) explosive.
But where “The Dark Knight” hints at a city in chaos, with Heath Ledger’s iconic take on The Joker’s unleashing a nihilistic crusade to disrupt Gotham’s infrastructure, Nolan pushes the urgency of the plot to cataclysmic proportions. Combined with Hans Zimmer’s epic and sweeping score, Nolan builds a terrifying sense of dread and hopelessness as he magnificently depicts a city completely under siege.
Indeed, the fact that “The Dark Knight Rises” delivers on the promise of being a massively well-constructed spectacle almost covers up the cracks in Nolan’s screenplay.
Born out of the post-9/11 paranoia, Nolan’s Batman films are no stranger to overt socio-political allegory, but where “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” coyly handle those tones with precision, “The Dark Knight Rises” tends to turn it up to high. Bane’s villainy is pure fascism, and once he takes control of Gotham – turning it into a warzone of which “the people are in control” – the echoes of the Occupy Movement quickly become ear-shattering screams. Furthermore, the sheer magnitude and scope of Nolan’s (along with brother Jonathan Nolan) screenplay nearly buckles under the weight of its own pressure.
Even at a whopping 2 hours-and-45 minutes, the story is so jam-packed with new characters and individual agendas that Nolan often relies on silly, expository dialogue, and when the finale finally hits, it feels like a rushed attempt to pull together the many strings he’s weaved.
Still, “The Dark Knight Rises” twist ending is certainly a fitting finale for the series, and one that will appease the masses of wide-eyed fans.
Though, what’s always been the strongest element of Nolan’s Batman series are his characters, and “The Dark Knight Rises” is no exception.
Anne Hathaway is as intoxicating and seductive as ever as the conflicted cat burglar Selina Kyle, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the earnest rookie cop John Blake briskly helps move the story along as Bruce Wayne’s newest confidant.
But it’s Tom Hardy who really steals the show.
It’s no easy task following in the footsteps of Heath Ledger as the lead villain, but Hardy as Bane is downright terrifying.
As the director of such mind-benders as “Memento,” “The Prestige,” and “Inception,” it’s no surprise that he tacks on twist after twist. But the best part of Nolan’s story is how seamlessly it ties back to “Batman Begins”. It’s a fitting choice to bring it all back to where it began, and the result becomes wholly satisfying – albeit flawed – conclusion to Nolan’s epic Batman trilogy.
Overall Grade: B+
“The Dark Knight Rises” opens today in theaters everywhere. Click here for theaters and showtimes.