Monday, 23 July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan is my favourite film Director. As far as I’m concerned, he is yet to make a bad movie. He’s gone for more simple approaches, such as “Following” and “The Prestige”, yet he’s also attempted the more mind bending and complex “Memento” and “Inception”. However, I think he will always be remembered as the Director of the Batman trilogy. “Batman Begins” brought a whole new dark, moody atmosphere to the Batman story, and created a whole new generation of fans for the caped crusader. Not only were the classic comic book fans hyped for the film, but it drew it newcomers, people of all ages, and it paid off. The first instalment is the story of the origin of Batman, but it delves deeper into the life and character of Bruce Wayne himself. Following from that, “The Dark Knight” is a film that you don’t forget easily. Featuring possibly one of the greatest performances of all time, Heath Ledger portrays the Joker in a way we’ve never seen a villain shown before. Likeable, yet we resent him and all he does. This Crime epic brought a darker tone to the series, but still allowed intense, brilliantly choreographed and thought out action sequences and special effects. Who could forget the truck flipping scene?

Now, here we have the conclusion to Nolan’s trilogy; “The Dark Knight Rises”. Because I’m an avid, obsessive film fan and need every ounce of knowledge I can possibly obtain before viewing a film, I read as many reviews as possible for this. I can safely say I was disappointed. I expected floods of “OMFG BEST BATMAN EVAR!!1!!!” with 5/5 being listed at the end of every review. What I got, however, was a more mixed response, with some critics noting the bloated 164 minute runtime, and criticising Nolan’s plot. This surprised me, as I always found Nolan to be one of few directors that puts more time and effort into plot than visual. But I always allow myself to an open mind before viewing the film myself, so I went into my local IMAX screen, blank minded, ready to witness what I waited for 4 years to see, and to experience a sensational ending to Nolan’s Batman Trilogy.

“The Dark Knight Rises” is set eight years after the events of “The Dark Knight”. Gotham is in peace time, and Batman/Bruce Wayne(Christian Bale) has disappeared after the events of Harvey Dent and the Joker. But the peace cannot last, for a new mercenary, Bane (Tom Hardy) has decided to wreck havoc upon Gotham City. Wayne knows he has to return as Batman to put an end to the merciless carnage Bane is bringing upon Gotham; but with close friends leaving him, new allies betraying his trust, and an enemy more powerful than he originally thought, has Batman finally met his match?

“Wow. Oh my…God. Oh my God!” This is a quote from when I left my local cinema approximately nine hours ago. To be quite honest, I’m still in awe now. This finale is exactly what I hoped for, and more. To each and every angle, I am still yet to find a major flaw with this film. 2012 for me has been an exceedingly disappointing year for films; with “Prometheus”, “Snow White & the Huntsman” and “Dark Shadows” all failing to live up to their expectations. Only recently with “The Amazing Spiderman” has my hope in film been replenished. Well, all I can say now is “FUCK YOU PETER FUCKING PARKER!” This film has the capacity to be the best film of the year, and some. Let me break it down.

Character-wise, the film wins. Christian Bale is stronger than ever, really allowing us as an audience to connect with him emotionally, as well as willingly sticking on his side throughout the drama and torment he is subjected to during this film. He’s also finally learnt how to do the Batman voice without pissing me off. Yay! Anne Hathaway was THE perfect casting for Selina Kyle/Catwoman. She plays the role with elegance, and also remains the most light hearted and fun element of the film. Every time she appeared on screen, I couldn’t help but smile. And not just because she’s in a skin tight leather cat-suit for 80% of her screen time. Tom Hardy plays Bane. Well, I say he plays Bane; he uses his eyes, hands and a severely distorted voice that sounded a bit like Sean Connery with a throat infection. But don’t get me wrong, what he does with these 3 remaining bodily features, is pretty darned impressive. He plays the role with such confidence, never once do you feel like Bane is not in control he runs Gotham from start to finish, and at no point did I doubt his authority. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a reckless city cop John Blake, who befriends Bruce early on and works as a trusty reliable companion to him, and Marion Cotillard is extremely convincing and likeable as Bruce’s new love interest. There are a lot of new characters here, and all of them work in their own way. I think my favourite has to be Bane. Whilst he’s never quite as watchable as Ledger’s Joker, Bane remains a frightening villain from beginning to end, and the chaos he brings to Gotham is so spectacular, it just made me want to know every tiny intricate little detail ticking away behind his mask.

Another highlight of the film for me is the complex plot that Nolan has shaped.  I won’t give anything away, but there are numerous twists layered evenly throughout the film, that allow the story to never get the tiniest bit dull. Certain elements, such as a trick Bane plays on the Police force for the majority of the film, are so genius, yet so simple. Various people have criticised the film’s lengthy run time. I disagree. 164 minutes flew by. Not once did I feel the need to check my phone for the time, and I never found myself waiting for another scene to come up due to boredom of the current one. The plot justifies the run time. So many narrative and plot tricks are used to prevent the film becoming boring; it’s seriously impressive.

The special effects and action sequences are probably the weakest aspect of the film, despite still being near fault less. The effects as the bridges are dropped into Gotham’s surrounding seas, and as Bane detonates the ground of a football stadium are so realistic and jaw-dropping, you’ll just lose yourself amidst the action. A vast majority of the action sequences here and done with fists. In a world now where we watch giant metal robots shoot each other, and most action blockbusters are riddles with weaponry, fist fights tend to get boring. Not here.  Here, this is always something going on. Even in Bane and Batman’s showdown in the sewers earlier on in the film, Bane’s non-stop dialogue keeps us interested in the seemingly lame fist fighting. So simple; yet so effective.

Once again, Hans Zimmer has created the score for this film. Once again, Hans Zimmer has made me want to hug him. His score is sometimes so subtle in the background of one of the dialogue based scenes, but it still enables us to feel a bigger part of the story. But once the action kicks in, so does the volume. Trust me. In an IMAX screening room with the advances speakers, there were times when I thought the child in front of me was going to take off and be hurtled violently to the back of the room, but it works. It blends brilliantly with the carnage brought to Gotham. It brings the film to dramatic new heights, and brings us as an audience into a more alert state during some of the more intense moments. 

The script is the final aspect I want to praise. Lines such as “When Gotham is ashes, then you have my permission to die” not only sound pretty fucking epic, but that reassert the point the character stands for. Bane giving Batman “permission” to die just forces his authority of Gotham to us, and plays with our minds to believe Bane really is in power. Even though there are moments when Bane is a bit difficult to understand, and when Bruce uses language we don’t believe he even understands himself, the script shines through as one of the films many strengths.

So now I have the difficult task of creating a closing paragraph worthy of ending the review of such a spectacular film. Not only did “The Dark Knight Rises” live up to my expectations, it went beyond them. The film reaches levels of seriousness the likes of which I didn’t know where possible in a superhero film. Do not expect this film to be easy watching, because it isn’t. It is the darkest summer blockbuster I have experienced, and it is not always easy watching. There are times when the plot gets complicated, there are times when characters we care about are in serious threat, and there are times when we just want to throw ourselves into the film and shout advice at the characters, because watching and waiting, knowing they cannot end well is not always easy. This 164 film is more of a journey than a movie. But it is a journey that I am glad to say I have been through from the beginning until the end, and it is a journey that will live on in history as the greatest trilogy of all time.

To Summarise: Not only does “The Dark Knight Rises” live up to its near-perfect predecessor, it takes the Batman story to new lengths. With an intricate script, an intellectual story, an engaging soundtrack and characters we grow to genuinely care about, this finale is an experience you will never forget. 

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