The Dark Knight Rises (13+, 164 mins) Directed by Christopher Nolan ****
At the majestic rebuilt Wayne Manor, all is not well.
Still haunted by the death eight years ago of his beloved Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), billionaire socialite Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a virtual recluse.
And with his alter-ego Batman blamed for the demise of Gotham’s White Knight Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), he was also unable to unleash his anger by donning the cape and cowl.
His only consolation is that by preserving Dent’s holy reputation, Gotham is no longer under the shadow of organized crime.
Christopher Nolan has directed some of cinema’s biggest blockbusters over the past 20 years.
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A thousand cogs essential to Mafia operations have been locked away under harsh legislation known affectionately as the Dent Act. “Soon we’ll be tackling the late library books,” jokes rookie cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).
Change is in the air though. There’s talk of repealing the law, and the mayor plans to get rid of bat-friendly police commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman).
Like Wayne, Gordon has become a lost soul – his wife and family have left for Cleveland and the weight of hiding the truth about Dent’s “two-faced” behavior becomes too heavy.
However, things are about to get worse for Gordon and Gotham.
After hearing rumors of an underground gang, Gordon’s detectives uncover an army led by the monstrous Bane (Tom Hardy). Shot and left for dead, Gordon can only watch from the hospital as this band of disenfranchised misfits “occupy” the Fellowship by force.
Sensing that his town is in danger, Wayne senses that the time may be right to bring the bat back, much to the dismay of his butler and protector Alfred (Michael Caine). “The city needs your resources and your intelligence, not your body,” he pleads.
“You’re afraid that if I go back there, I’ll fail,” Wayne argues.
“No, I’m afraid I think you do.”
Released to expectations of Phantom Menace proportions, 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises was always going to struggle to live up to the hype, especially in the wake of its truly jaw-dropping predecessor, The Dark Knight.
With word that this was the final chapter in the Bat Trilogy, fans hoped it would be writer-director Christopher Nolan’s magnum opus.
Sadly, despite the epic 160 minute runtime, it’s not (Dark Knight was) – but it’s very, very good.
The action is relentless (there’s a Star Spangled stadium showtopper to rival Heath’s hospital pass in Dark Knight), the effects are top-notch, and, as in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, it all builds to an almost unbearably tense climax.
What he lacks, however, is a villain with the charisma and chaotic nature of the Joker that Heath Ledger so memorably brought to life in Dark Knight.
Bane is certainly a towering physical presence and an uncompromising enemy, but there’s a touch of (Darth) Vaders about him and his belief that “what matters is the plan” means Rises ends up being more stereotypical than we would have liked (despite a nifty Nolan-style trademark twist).
Better the criminal feline Selina Kyle. Anne Hathaway, all slink and jink, vamps superbly, creating a kitty with claws, chutzpah and cleavage, while avoiding the supernatural and s-and-m tropes that plagued Michelle Pfeiffer’s v–ersion of the character in Batman Returns (let’s not even talk about Halle Berry in this movie which is only suitable for the cat litter liner – Catwoman).
This has been one of the keys to Nolan’s success. After the gruesome and sinister excesses of Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, his trilogy brought balance and brutal reality back to the bat (the same way Casino Royale gave Bond his balls back – and you could say that). it’s basically Bond movies with Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox as Q and Caine’s Alfred J Pennyworth as Miss Moneypenny).
If you strip away the masks and the toys, there’s a very real human drama at the heart of these movies, with the terrorist threats and fear gripping these Gothamites, echoing the concerns and conundrums faced by the residents of its namesake new -yorkers.
Here’s the Occupy Wall St movement, the push for change – although in the world created by Nolan and his brother Jonathan – it comes with a warning – be careful what you wish for .
While newcomers to the franchise may struggle with some of the Bat-lore story, sorry, Nolan has certainly rewarded fans who are familiar with the other films, as well as students of Bat-lore (well that some will be restricted to the final gain).
Watching it now, a decade later, it still might not quite be the conclusion we all wanted, but let’s be fair, it’s the thrilling and exhilarating epic finale that moviegoers deserved.
The Dark Knight Rises is now available to stream on Netflix.