Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

WARNING: POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

Director Christopher Nolan brings his Batman trilogy to a stunning, 10 out of 10 conclusion with this movie. Although the script is not entirely original, borrowing heavily from the DC Comics “Knightfall” and “No Man’s Land” story lines as well as Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”, it takes the themes and ideas in those stories in a slightly different direction, creating a story that is fresh, and very relevant to the modern world.

The story picks up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight with Batman still being blamed for the death of Harvey Dent. As per the deal made at the end of The Dark Knight, Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) has stuck to the deal made and has ensured that Dent is held up as the pinnacle of law enforcement and justice. A new act denying serious criminals parole has been drawn up and named the Dent Act and, as a result, crime has dropped to manageable levels in Gotham to the point that Batman has now retired and hasn’t been seen in almost the entirety of those eight years.

Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is now living as a recluse in Wayne Manor having lost half of his fortune in trying to develop fusion technology to solve the worlds’ energy crisis and is still grieving for the loss of Rachael Dawes who died at the hands of Two-Face in The Dark Knight. He is slowly drawn back into the world when Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), breaks into a safe in Wayne Manor simply so she can take Bruce Wayne’s finger prints which, we later discover, are used to fraudulently make bad deals on the stock exchange during an attack on the stock exchange building by Bane (Tom Hardy).

The result of all of this is that Wayne ends up broke, Wayne Enterprises gets bought out by a competitor and the weapons and technologies that Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) had developed for use by Batman and had been keeping off the books in the Wayne Enterprises Applied Sciences Division are now in danger of falling into the hands of Wayne Enterprises’ competitors. The theme of trust, or in this case Bruce Wayne’s lack of it, is explored quite heavily in this movie as we discover that the fusion technology does in fact work and that Wayne kept in hidden for fear it would be turned into a weapon.

In addition, the events surrounding Harvey Dent’s death come back to haunt Wayne in the form of rookie Gotham cop, John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who has figured out that Wayne is Batman and doesn’t believe that he killed Dent. Commissioner Gordon is also having a crisis of conscience as he believes the time has come to tell everyone the truth about Harvey Dent and his death.

Fearing that Gotham has been lulled into a false sense of security by the relative peace they’ve enjoyed, Batman comes out of retirement to take on Bane and ends up being soundly beaten as it turns out that Bane is a former member of the League of Shadows, the organisation founded by Ra’s al-Ghul (Liam Neeson) that trained Bruce Wayne in the first place. As a result, Bane has always known Batman’s identity and, in revenge for the death of Ra’s al-Ghul, breaks Batman’s back and sends him to the sinkhole prison in Mexico that Bane himself was born in.

With Batman out of the way, Bane seizes all of Wayne Enterprises weapons and the fusion reactor and then cuts Gotham off from the rest of the U.S. by blowing up all but one of the bridges to Gotham island. Under the guise of a people’s revolution, Bane frees the prisoners in Blackgate prison and turns the city over to the people of Gotham encouraging them to take revenge on the wealthy and seize their share of the wealth of the city. This ties the movie in brilliantly with the current world-wide economic crisis and the general ill feeling the public has toward the banking/business community.

Throughout all of this, Alfred (Michael Caine) finds himself unable to continue working for Bruce Wayne as he fears that Wayne is pushing himself on a deliberate path of self-destruction and is troubled by his inability to keep his promise to Thomas and Martha Wayne to keep Bruce safe. In acting terms, this is Caine’s movie as his performance is easily the best out of the whole cast and he demonstrates his range to good effect during some very emotional scenes.

In order to get the best out of this movie, you really should re-watch the  first two parts of the trilogy before going to the cinema as The Dark Knight Rises references both quite heavily and really links in with Batman Begins to tie off this trilogy in an exciting and emotional way. The ending gives Bruce Wayne the satisfaction of seeing his goal of inspiring the police and people of Gotham to stand up on their own against crime and injustice finally fulfilled as well as giving the audience a sense of both closure and a new beginning as a Wayne passes his secrets to John Blake who, by this time, has quit the police force.

This movie, and the trilogy itself, is what Hollywood should be producing on a regular basis. It is intelligent, complex, it requires the audience to pay attention, remember the stories of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight to some degree and has been written, produced, filmed and acted all with an assumption of audience intelligence, as opposed to what we usually get these days, which is lowest common denominator movie making which leaves me feeling really insulted and disappointed at the lack of scope and vision.

No-one will ever be able to say that about The Dark Knight Rises.

If you see only one movie this year, do yourself a huge favour and make it this one.

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4 Responses to “Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)”

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