There’s so few times these days when you can go to the cinema and actually get a satisfying experience, whether it’s down to the endless adverts, the price of everything or relentless battery of dumb 3D epics. And then there’s The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX, an entirely satisfying finale to a remarkable Batman trilogy from Christopher Nolan.
Firstly, a few things. There won’t be any spoilers in this review, because I was lucky enough to see it without knowing for certain where any of the plot twists would take it, so I’m not going to take that thrill away from anyone who reads this. Another, seeing it in IMAX ~(at the Manchester Printworks Odeon – the only one in the North-West – for me) is a must, which isn’t possible for everyone, but with so much more of it filmed in that way, you’d be missing out seeing it on a regular-sized screen.
Finally, The Dark Knight Rises is the conclusion of a trilogy, so if your knowledge or memory of Batman Begins or The Dark Knight is hazy, then you need to rewatch them before you go to see this, otherwise, at best, you won’t be able to appreciate it, or, at worst, you won’t be able to understand it. But if you go armed with the knowledge of what happened to Bruce Wayne in those first two films, then Nolan has crafted a wonderful finale for you that will leave your jaw well and truly dropped.
Some of the action sequences are just incredible, even by the standards set by those in The Dark Knight, and we get introduced to new villain Bane in the first one. If you only know of him from his ridiculous appearance in the even-more-ridiculous Batman And Robin, then you’ll be rather surprised by Tom Hardy’s portrayal of him as a hulking anarchist with a brutal kind of charisma and a plan to bring Gotham City to its knees. Following Heath Ledger‘s Joker was always going to be tough, but he’s a different kind of villain and that’s no bad thing.
The Joker was no physical match for Batman, he weaved his terror in different ways, but Bane is built like a human version of the Batmobile and probably weighs more, so when the two go head to head, it’s a bruising and uncomfortable encounter. And that’s just for the audience, never mind poor Batman. Of course, this is a hero who we saw running from the police at the end of the last film, framing himself for murdering Harvey Dent to hide Gotham from the truth about his transformation into the murderous Two-Face. Eight years on and Wayne is hiding out in the rebuilt Wayne Manor, retired and falling apart physically and mentally from the strain of what he’s been through.
If Ledger’s show-stealing performance as Joker was a distraction in The Dark Knight, then this third film reminds us that Nolan’s trilogy is about Bruce Wayne and Batman first and foremost, the bad guys and other good guys and girls are all interesting characters, but this has been Wayne’s story throughout. What drove him to become Batman in the first film remains at the heart of The Dark Knight Rises, along with the choice he faces (Nolan’s films have been big on choices, after all) between life and death. It’s always been there, along with sage warning from Michael Caine’s Alfred, but because this is the last film – and because of those rumours – it looms large over this one.
Death and destruction in general are in full effect here, it’s more of an apocalyptic nightmare than a comic book film, ramping up the carnage inflicted on Gotham by Ra’s Al Ghul and Joker and doing it all with very believable visual effects, as well as a suitably epic and majestic soundtrack. It’s bleak, brutal and unrelenting, as well as being very long, but compared to Batman And Robin (never have I spent so much time at a cinema looking at my watch), it flies past like a cool breeze. It’s not perfect though, with Bane’s mask obscuring some of Tom Hardy’s dialogue at times, while Christian Bale’s ‘Batman voice’ is still a bit of an acquired taste.
There’s also lots of characters, with Anne Hathaway introduced as Selina Kyle (Catwoman, though I don’t recall her ever being called that) and Joseph Gordon Levitt and Marion Cotillard also joining the fray as a promising young cop and Wayne’s financial partner/love interest, while Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman return. Keeping a track on them all (plus all the various other key characters) is tricky amidst the noise and destruction, but Nolan just about pulls it off. Another criticism could be that, as well as owing a lot plotwise to its predecessors, a lot of the setpieces here seem a bit familiar. That could be intentional, but it does slightly diminish their effect.
But these are minor quibbles. I’ve seen good reviews, great reviews and bad reviews for The Dark Knight Rises, and they all have valid points, but it’s hard to imagine how Nolan could have finished his trilogy any better than this. It’s true to the spirit of Batman throughout and will thrill and entertain people whether that matters to them or not. I’m not going to say how it ends, of course, but I was very satisfied with it as a conclusion to this story. Somewhere in Hollywood, someone will be planning the next reboot for the Caped Crusader, but they will have very big shoes to fill, because this trilogy will loom large. Like a giant bat, you could say…