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REVIEW: The Dark Knight Rises (12A)
HAVING upped the bar to an almost impossible standard with the genre-defining Dark Knight and its predecessor Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan returns to complete his personal Bat trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises.
Set eight years later, it opens with an impeccable action sequence akin to the middle film’s bank heist, an amazing plane assault which fans will have seen in the trailer. And once again it introduces a key villain, Tom Hardy’s ‘masked man’ Bane, who’s so obviously awesome that a man is quite happy to die for him right there. The ‘fire rises’ for the first time and we’re off.
Our hero (Christian Bale) is holed up in Wayne Mansions during a time of peace for Gotham, a recluse with a cane (and very thin - Bale’s hunger for method acting kicking in again), until a key set of interventions from Alfred (Michael Caine) and others, plus a first meeting with one Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), get him motivated again.
Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), aided by idealistic young policeman (another Nolan regular Joseph Gordon-Levitt) John Blake, a fellow orphan and kindred spirit for Batman, are onto Bane’s potential as a serious problem. Little do they know, but he’s after a reactor for green energy which can be converted into a nuclear weapon.
Thankfully Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) is able to come up with some new Bat-tech in support of the fight back, an impressive plane entitled simply ‘the Bat’. But it won’t be that simple, and Bruce doesn’t have to pull himself together just once in this instalment…
Obviously, at 163 minutes this takes its time to build a story, but the near three hours fly. As with the other films, Nolan – who scripted with his brother Jonathan – has crafted a contemporary tale, this time focusing on rich men being made poor and maniacal devotees who'll kill / die for their leader.
Aside from the serious contemporary parallels, there’s the usual quotient of dry humour, and things for eyes to boggle at, especially the Bat bike’s insanely neat spinning wheels and ability to change direction.
Again typically of Nolan, a sense of dread permeates from the off, aided by Hanz Zimmer’s urgent, building score and there’s a fantastic sense of anyone running the risk of death, which makes for a thrilling watch. It’s also as grounded in the real as ever, with actual building and bridges blowing up, and murk aplenty adding to the general air of verisimilitude.
Speaking of things to boggle at, men may adore Hathaway’s foxy feline, but my initial concerns that she wasn’t right for the role haven’t quite been dispelled. Fair dues, she’s a very different, more elegant, take on the character, but I still prefer Michelle Pfeiffer’s complex dark minx for all Anne’s high kicking and deadpanning.
As Bane, not one thing more could have asked of the tank-like Tom Hardy, but sadly, quite a bit of his dialogue through the mask is indecipherable and it’s a darned shame that we cannot see his face.
The cast is added to by familiar faces including Tom Conti, and characters from other instalments may or may not make an appearance, I couldn’t possibly say.
What I can assure you is that Michael Caine will tug at your heartstrings something awful as the wonderful Alfred in what’s, all in all, a superlative film full of pretty special high octane thrills and spills, sleights of hand, plus brains too.
The few implausibilities and little niggles will be forgotten once the end credits roll, and we accept that Nolan’s work within this universe is done.
Or is it…