Okay look, I’ll be honest. Unless director Christopher Nolan had a snifter of one of Scarecrow’s toxins and subsequently decided to put Val Kilmer back in as Batman, use anatomically correct bat suits complete with cod pieces and Bat nipples a la Batman & Robin and write dialogue circa 1997 (MR FREEZE: “Let’s kick some ice!” ) then I was always gonna love this movie.
Besides, you’ll watch this movie regardless of what this review or any other review says. Such is the power of Nolan’s creation. His franchise has truly become the greatest of all movie marketing adjectives: Unmissable.
Yes, I’m a Batman fan. Though even before this reboot, the caped crusader has been a presence in my life. I remember having a bendy rubber Joker figure when I was 4 even though I didn’t know who Batman was. I just liked chewing on his head. I burned through the comics as a teenager. And even as a young adult Batman kept affecting me. During the late 90’s when the first big Batman movies came out I was doing the interview rounds on film junkets. And it was the first and last time that A) I was ever “star struck” – interviewing George Clooney. Yes, there is something about him and B) Not so politely removed from an interview room by Alicia Silverstone & her people. Long story.
But of course, Nolan’s Batman is not even in the same ball park as any previous Bat films. In fact it’s not even the same game as any other superhero movie. And that’s why we like them. You may ask “Why so SERIOUS?!” of all the films (Especially this one!) But it’s a breath of fresh air. This ain’t the fun and games type superhero movie of late. It’s not the faux teens in puppy love chasing a giant lizard across the city or the out quipping super friends of The Avengers. This is heavy. This is The Hulk slamming Thor’s Hammer on an anvil made of Adamantium type of heavy. If The Avengers is High School Musical, The Dark Knight Rises is Don Giovanni.
The Dark Knight Rises picks up 8 years after the Dark Knight ended – Batman took the fall for Harvey Dent’s murders & death and is being hated & hunted by Gotham. Since then Bruce has hung up his cape and lives as a recluse. Gotham is as peaceful as its ever been. UNTIL! Yup. Things go south fast. Enter super villain BANE. A hopped up he-man of horror with a gas mask on his face and terrorism on the brain played by Tom Hardy. Meanwhile, Anne Hathaway’s ‘Selena Kyle/’ uses softer methods to draw out the Batman. Well, enough’s enough. RISE DARK KNIGHT!! And boy, does he rise well. So much so, he rises more than once. This is over simplifying the plot for sure but it would take ages to write out a Nolan plot. Umm… Inception?!
Again, I have to point out this is a serious movie. There are real world themes of terrorism and comments on the socio-economic equality of the world. BUT, all that is put to one side when you watch Batman flying through Gotham. “Go Batman!” Like all of Nolan’s films, TDKR is a visual feast. He looks like spent every penny of Warner Bros Bane sized budget and it’s beautiful – everything rom the super-wide aerial vistas to the down and dirty ground level shots. The action pieces are the frenetically paced heart thumpers you’ve come to expect from Nolan. But clocking in at almost 3 hours it can’t all be action can it? Well, no it’s not. Truth be told, this movie is high on drama and low on super hero. The emotional stakes are higher than Gotham’s skyscrapers. And with such a capable dramatic cast of Oscar touched actors it would be a shame not to use them. The Bruce Wayne/Alfred scenes in particular are immensely touching. I actually could have done with more of them. Where in previous films, the villains were the most interesting thing on the screen, this time it’s Bruce Wayne. This is his movie.
So what’s lacking? Well, let’s talk villains. Undoubtedly there’s a huge hole left by Heath Ledger’s dangerously charming psychopathic Joker. Bane doesn’t come close. But what he does bring is the real sense that the Batman has suddenly got someone he can go toe to toe with. And it’s truly a frightening feeling when that penny drops. I just wished Bane would stop ‘villain monologuing so much. Surely that’s bad guy rookie stuff?
TDKR is a colossal movie. What Nolan achieves on screen not just in terms of spectacle, but also in terms of emotion and story is incredible. Some seeds planted in the first two movies come to flower in the third and it seems Nolan has tied up all the strings. Well, most of them. Nolan left enough of a window open to keep most viewers and fanboys very happy.