The Dark Knight Rises [2012]

Note: Sorry for being so late to publish this. I wanted to see the movie a second time before I wrote my review. Oh, and spoilers ahead (for the three people in the world who haven’t seen it yet)!

Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by:  Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan. Story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer
Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson

Topping The Dark Knight, one of the finest films of the new millennium and also one of the most glaring omissions in the ‘Best Picture’ category at the Oscars, if you ask me, was a herculean task that the brothers Nolan chose to undertake. Did they manage to reach the heights of that 2008 sequel? No. But, if it’s any consolation, they fell just short of doing so.

Both stylistically and thematically, Rises mirrors the first installment in the notoriously dark, edgier interpretation of the “Caped Crusader” by Christopher Nolan: Batman Begins. However, this latest entry more than makes up for what the first film lacked in scope. Everything in Rises is bigger, louder and on a grander scale, whether we’re talking about the fantastic villains (a staple of the Batman by Nolan films), the damage caused to both our hero and Gotham and, of course, the tremendous action set-pieces.

The director, a respected figure in the filmverse, despite having only 8 features to his name and bursting onto the scene a mere 14 years ago, has a reputation for perfectly casting his projects; this wasn’t the exception. Recent Academy-Award winner Christian Bale is one of the finest actors of his generation, and he’s pretty decent here, but I think, by now (and after sharing the screen with the late Heath Ledger’s legendary Joker), he’s used to being overshadowed by his costars. Tom Hardy is commendable as the main antagonist, Bane (kudos to the writers for making this an interesting character again after an embarrassing incarnation in Joel Schumacher’s laughably bad Batman & Robin). Hardy gives a fantastic performance despite the physical limitations. His villain is scary, powerful and spouts the Nolans’ best lines. It’s a shame, then, that his character ultimately got a sloppy resolution. The biggest surprise was Anne Hathaway. She isn’t as good a Catwoman as Michelle Pfeiffer was in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, but she does great things with the small role (I couldn’t help but feel she was underused) and ultimately proved me wrong: she can do a sexy villain! Who knew?

On the other hand, the biggest disappointment came courtesy of French actress Marion Cotillard. This actrice is usually dependable but her performance fell apart at the last minute, literally. Her death scene was incredibly fake-looking; I actually thought it was a joke. Michael Caine is simply stellar in the most moving portrayal of loyal Wayne butler Alfred; he’s the best he’s ever been in the franchise and even, I dare say, award-worthy. The surprise cameos by Cillian Murphy and Liam Neeson made this fan smile and, last but not least, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a pretty important standout. If someone had told me that the funny looking kid in 3rd Rock from the Sun was going to be a badass action star, I would’ve thought that person was crazy!

Another achievement is the rousing, spine-tingling score by frequent collaborator Hans Zimmer, a work that echoes James Newton Howard’s compositions from the second film, but adds Moroccan Arabic chants (deshi, deshi, basara, basara, meaning ‘rise, rise, up, up’), something that makes the music much more powerful and mesmerizing. The biggest handicap for Rises, all things considered, is its bloated, over-160-minute running time; a tighter edit would’ve helped considerably. But all negative thoughts dissipate by the time TDKR reaches its absolutely perfect ending. Despite failing to meet the standards of its predecessor and a couple of negligible plot holes and inconsistencies, The Dark Knight Rises is certainly a fitting conclusion to the series.