I’ve been a Batman devotee for as long as I can remember, and it’s the rare film that can live up to the colossal hype that’s intensified with years of pent-up anticipation. And really there’s nothing more unfortunate than an anticlimactic ending that tarnishes a well-told story’s legacy. Fortunately, I’m thrilled to report that The Dark Knight Rises exceeded my expectations by an immense margin. The film is an epic blend of poignant emotions and mindblowing thrills. Simply put, it’s a masterpiece. (And I’d advise anyone who has yet to watch the movie to refrain from reading the rest of my review because I do intend to spoil the film thoroughly).
Over the past few years, I’ve realized that I’ve strayed quite a bit from film and slowly but surely found myself more invested in television. Great TV affords writers the luxury to shape multidimensional and layered characters over the course of several seasons. Luckily, Christopher Nolan has managed to procure the same investment from the viewing public as his Batman trilogy was unveiled gradually over many years. But it’s The Dark Knight Rises that singlehandedly managed to remind me just how powerful a motion picture could be. Christopher Nolan has done a phenomenal job of restoring the Dark Knight’s reputation after the utter disaster that was Batman & Robin and thankfully, the final chapter of his era is a tremendously satisfying production on every level.
Although I felt Christian Bale was partly sidelined in The Dark Knight in favor of Heath Ledger’s infamous performance, Bruce Wayne’s journey rightfully took center-stage in Batman’s final installment. Mr. Wayne got some magnificent moments, and I have to say my personal favorite was his rising out of the prison in a most heroic sequence that got my blood pumping like no other. Furthermore, I loved that he got his happy ending with Selina in Florence; Nolan can be such a sadist sometimes and I was sure the trilogy would end with Batman’s demise. Color me majorly impressed.
Now a truly great superhero movie can’t properly flourish without a legitimately sinister antagonist, and Bane proved to be a fantastic choice as the trilogy’s final villain. Ruthless, brutal, and just plain horrifying, Tom Hardy managed to overcome a slightly muddled voice by conveying so much with just his eyes and body language. While The Joker was an intimidating villain to be sure, he couldn’t really stand toe-to-toe with Batman physically, which is what made Bane’s confrontations with Batman so powerful and haunting. The brute strength, the unsettling demeanor, the unpredictability, all of these elements combined to make Bane a bona fide supervillain to remember (and fear). Brilliant.
The film’s most exceptional revelation is undeniably Anne Hathaway. Ever since news broke that she had been cast as Selena Kyle, I was sure Christopher Nolan had made a mistake. After all, Michelle Pfeiffer had cemented herself as the Catwoman of the century and the promotional material leading up to this film didn’t do Hathaway any favors (particularly in that generic costume.) So imagine my surprise when Hathaway turned out to be one of the film’s highlights. Sexy, dangerously charming, and frequently hilarious, Anne epitomized everything that the iconic cat burglar represents. In addition, Anne was outstanding in the film’s numerous action scenes. I really didn’t know she had it in her and she more than proved herself as a kickass action heroine. Moreover, her dynamic with Bruce was marvelous, perfectly conveying their legendary relationship. The playfulness, the witty banter, it was all top-notch. If the rumors of a potential spinoff are true, consider me there on opening day as I’m completely intrigued by the endless possibilities that could arise with Hathaway’s Catwoman.
If Batman Begins and The Dark Knight had any glaring flaw, it was Nolan’s lack of proficiency in handling the film’s female characters. And as any true Bat-fan knows, Wayne’s women are a lethal and intriguing bunch. Thankfully Nolan more than redeemed himself with the trilogy’s finale as he brought to life not one but two complex Bat-women. I’ve praised Hathaway quite a bit but it would be foolish of me to overlook Marion Cottilard’s compelling turn as Miranda Tate. Cotillard is both gorgeous and immensely talented to boot. Although I had already been spoiled over the Talia Al Ghul reveal, I was nonetheless ecstatic that Nolan decided to include one of Batman’s lesser known rogues in the film. Talia is a fascinating villain and I definitely would have enjoyed spending a bit more time with her post-reveal. Nevertheless, her involvement was undeniably cool and effectively brought the trilogy full circle with Ra’s Al Ghul’s legacy. It’s too bad we didn’t get a confrontation between Talia and Catwoman as that definitely would have been the cherry on top of one scrumptious cake.
The film’s action set pieces are especially breathtaking. From the numerous Batpod chases, to the football field detonation, and of course anything involving “The Bat”, the film just doesn’t let up. Moreover, since we’re so invested in Bale’s Bruce Wayne, the action has a purpose and is thus rendered especially epic. I’m most thankful that Nolan decided to forgo relying on pure CGI for his set pieces. More often than not, computer generated effects completely remove you from a director’s world but here, with a distinct emphasis on practical effects, the results are astounding. Bravo indeed.
Finally, I can not possibly discuss the film without praising the utterly majestic musical score composed by Hans Zimmer. Every single piece is a work of art; rousing, inspirational and consistently spine-tingling. The score truly makes the film and will undoubtedly remain a staple in my iTunes library for many years to come.
The fact that I wrote so much about the film and didn’t even discuss the nuclear bomb, Joseph Gordon Levitt (who was an awesome surprise particularly with the Robin nod), and of course Michael Cain and the incredible supporting cast, speaks volumes over how much of a sprawling achievement this production is. Ultimately, The Dark Knight Rises capably lived up to the lofty expectations I’d set for it.
With spectacular performances, riveting action, and real heart, you’d be hard pressed to find a more impressive motion picture this year. Without question, my favorite film in a long time.