First thing’s first: This review is spoiler-free. Which means it may be a little short, but that’s okay. In fact, the very best thing I can say is that you should go see The Dark Knight Rises for yourself. It’s equally as good a film as the previous The Dark Knight and in some ways, it may be even better.
As we all know, at the end of The Dark Knight and beginning of The Dark Knight Rises, Batman is now a wanted man, being sought for as the murderer of Harvey Dent. Of course, there are those who know this is a lie, something that Batman insisted upon to protect the city. The Dark Knight Rises is a study on how the truth can set one free, even Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale).
In the new movie, Batman’s nemesis comes in the form of Bane (Tom Hardy). Bane is a brute of a man, a thing with a mask and a Darth Vader-like voice. He is one scary mofo and I wouldn’t want to come across him in a dark alley. He could break me into pieces with just two fingers.
As Bane, Tom Hardy really doesn’t have much to do. It’s hard to act from behind a mask (unless, of course, you’re Christian Bale) and we only really get to see some real emotion from him towards the end of the film. He’s a nice and creepy villain, but the voice – that’s my one criticism. As I understand it, the voice was overdubbed and at the beginning of the movie, it’s evident and a little off-putting. Eventually, I sort of got used to it and started seeing the character as a sort of Darth Vader, which I suppose he is. But I still found the voice unrealistic and occasionally distracting. I know that Bane speaks in the comics, but I think he would have worked better on film if he’d never said a word. He’s also still a little muffled and difficult to understand.
However, this issue is a small one. Because I liked the movie a lot. I do prefer the previous The Dark Knight (as I think most people will) but it’s not really fair to compare the two. This new movie is less about Batman and Bruce Wayne as it is about the characters around him. It’s about Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and newbie detective John Blake (Joseph Gordon Levitt). It’s about Selena Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and Alfred (Michael Caine).
This time around, there is an ensemble cast and everyone is important. In fact, one particular character gets more screen time than Bruce Wayne, but there is a reason for this. This take works beautifully, though, and paints the picture of a world with and without Batman and eventually leads Bruce Wayne to understanding that he cannot live his life on revenge and sadness alone.
The acting, as would be expected from this cast, is top-notch. Hathaway as Selena Kyle is sexy and smart and exactly the way I envisioned her. She is not actually referred to in the film as Catwoman, but the reference is more subtle in the way she moves and the way her goggles move up onto her head to form cat ear-like shapes. Hathaway has great chemistry with Bale and I quite enjoyed the scenes between them.
Oldman is as brilliant as ever, but let’s face it – there’s not a role he doesn’t excel at. His Commissioner Gordon is beaten, but not out, and even in the most dire of times, never loses faith in Batman. He keeps us, the audience, believing in our favorite caped crusader, too. Oldman plays it to perfection and you feel the strain of his belief eating away at him at times.
Levitt is fantastic as the mysterious police-turned-detective John Blake. He’s also a believer and pegs Bruce Wayne for Batman early on. It seems the two have an awful lot in common. There’s a toughness about him that’s so similar to Bale’s that I sort of wished they’d had more scenes together.
Finally, though, it is Michael Caine who stole the movie for me. In the few scenes we see him in, he manages to tug at the heartstrings and brought the audience to tears on more than one occasion. Give that man a Best Supporting Man Oscar already! Here, Caine takes a what could have been a very simple character and creates a man who is trying his hardest to do right by the Wayne family. His dedication and eventual heartbreak are palpable.
As this is a Batman movie, there is a lot of action. And it will literally keep you clinging to the edge of your seat. It’s non-stop and in your face and the danger the characters face feels very real. In the first fight between Bane and Batman, I literally cringed watching Bruce Wayne getting his butt kicked. It was terrifying and a great lead-in to the inevitable (fans of the comic book series will know what I’m referring to here). And the toys? Well, they’re even bigger and better. I’m quite a fan of the BAT, Batman’s latest flying vehicle. That thing is COOL.
There are a lot of great nods to the comics in the movie, too. And those who are familiar with the comics are going to enjoy seeing certain characters and scenes come to life.
Without going into any more detail, I’ll just say that getting to the end of this three-hour ride is well worth it. Christopher Nolan may have not originally given us the Batman we wanted, but he has given us the Batman we need. And I applaud the effort 110%.