I have been waiting for this moment. We have prepped ourselves for this. The night before the first day of screening of the Dark Knight Rises, we had a Movie Marathon of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, as if we haven’t seen these multiple times. Christopher Nolan has clearly put a stamp on his works. From his past works such as what critics say as a mesmerizing neo-noir drama debut Following, to his breakthrough classic Memento, to the mind bending and intriguing The Prestige, to the mindgasmic and thought-provoking Inception, I think Nolan has never done anything that is not critically-acclaimed. Since Nolan’s reboot of the popular superhero in Batman Begins back in 2005, many fans of the Caped Crusader (me included) were extremely delighted of how heroic Nolan did to the character, not just as Batman, but more so as a real man Bruce Wayne.
It has been eight years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act, which sent all the crooks behind bars. Batman was never seen again, neither has Bruce Wayne. He stayed away from the limelight and is now carrying a cane and with no cartilages among other health conditions. He showed no signs of going back to crime-fighting, but everything changed with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane.
But before anything else, DO NOT COMPARE THE DARK KNIGHT RISES TO THE DARK KNIGHT. For me The Dark Knight is INCOMPARABLE, it’s on a different league, above any Superhero movie ever made, EVER. Let’s continue.
Best watched on IMAX, The Dark Knight Rises kicked off with a jaw-dropping hijack scene that is so original, I haven’t seen anything like it. Christopher Nolan has indeed perfected the art of opening a movie with a loud and resonating bang. Remember how he introduced The Dark Knight, with a Bank Robbery scene orchestrated by the Joker, also shot in IMAX? Master Class. Not just in the opening credits that Nolan entices us, but he also has a way of introducing the characters, specifically Batman’s villains. The introduction of Bane (Tom Hardy) was gut-wrenching and haunting, giving you a taste of what havoc he would wreak through the course of the movie. And I must say that the unveiling of Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) was one of THE best introductions I have ever seen. It was cute, sophisticated, dazzling, and smoking hot. They did not use Selina’s mainstream alias Catwoman through the whole movie (they did use Cat Burglar in one of the scenes) which was remarkable in Nolan’s trilogy, making it more grounded and pragmatic.
As the final instalment simmers through the first half we get to encounter some familiar faces, as well as some new ones. Though considered Gotham’s hero, Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) had some secrets up his sleeve (literally) that he wanted to expose about Harvey Dent. Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) has the deteriorating Wayne Enterprises, but still managed to create a couple of new gadgets and gizmos for Bruce Wayne. And Batman will never be complete without the charismatic and ever-loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine), who knows Bruce Wayne too well, that Alfred was desperately pleading to Bruce Wayne of the consequences of fighting against a bulldozer named Bane. There is also a new hard-headed cop named John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who has a deep soul that understands the essence and heroism of the Batman, and Wayne. Rounding up is multi-millionaire philanthropist Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard).
The cast was staggering. I may be biased because every single one of the ensemble is my personal favourite actor. Anne Hathaway is definitely a shoe-in for the MVP award. She almost stole the show! The way she changes from being an innocent and meek server to a cynical and exceptional burglar in split-second, uttering “Oops” was so astounding I almost cursed at the scene. She did the most accurate portrayal Catwoman thus far. (Side Note: I think Selina’s jumpsuit looked great, even the goggles that flip-up on top of her head, looking like cat ears!)
I’m glad writers Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, and David Goyer stuck to the ambiguous good versus evil characteristic of Selina Kyle; you will never know where her loyalties lie.
“There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne,” whispers Selina Kyle. “You and your friends better batten down the hatches, ’cause when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large, and leave so little for the rest of us.”
I think this is Christian Bale’s best Bruce Wayne portrayal of the franchise. You absolutely feel his struggle that before a hero can Rise, he must suffer and tumble. Morgan Freeman is at his natural best, while Marion Cotillard shines. Gary Oldman was remarkable and did a solid performance of the Commissioner, a role he depicted amazingly since Begins.
I also love Joseph Gordon Levitt’s story arc. Some may see his story absurd in the beginning, but John Blake is optimistic and principled, like a young Gordon and Wayne rolled into one. Suddenly you’re engaged in his character that you will root for him in the end. It’s not a surprise, because I believe in Gordon-Levitt’s talent.
And speaking of believing in ones talent, Tom Hardy, for me, is still an underrated actor since his earlier works. Even though he is masked like a wild bulldog in this movie and with almost-impossible-to-understand muffled dialogues, Hardy commands every scene he is in. He is SCARY. You know that he is up to no good, just with a simple touch. The difference between the menace brought by Bane and Joker (The Dark Knight) is that, Joker was freaky and unpredictable though all of his agenda still worked and still remained crazy. On the other hand, all of Bane’s plans were cleverly thought-out and menacing, creating destruction from the inside-out. Joker may be a match for Batman mentally, but Bane can also be a physical pain for the Bruce Wayne. Congratulations to the writers again for creating Bane as purely evil as possible, and for breaking Bruce Wayne’s spirits as well as his back (That part of the story is pulled accurately from the Comic Book). I’m not saying that I am comparing Heath Ledger’s perfect portrayal as the Joker to Tom Hardy (because Tom is no-match to Heath, just saying). They both gave justice to the roles given to them, and added a notch higher to their acting.
But the star and heart of the movie belongs to no other than Michael Caine. He, for me, is the clear standout. He plays his character flawlessly. I shed a tear when he did. From all the tour de force, explosions, and bedlam, Michael Caine pulls everyone back in reality. I hope he gets nominated for an Oscar. I really do.
Over-all the movie is a masterpiece. From Hans Zimmer’s marvellous and mind-boggling musical score (Selina Kyle’s signature background music can be her Darth Vader March Anthem), to Nolan’s incredible visuals, everything is staggering. The fight scenes were perfectly choreographed and authentic. In some sci-fi movies, when a character punches someone, the victim literally flies from one corner to another. In this movie, Batman gets punched and he gets hurt. When he falls, he falls hard. And as a true hero, he learns to pick himself up after a fall.
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises has some surprises both in the story and how the whole franchise evolved to this epic conclusion. But the major surprise, aside from the last few moments of the movie, may just be how Nolan made his farewell to The Dark Knight Saga as gratifying as possible for the fans of the Batman.
5 out of 5 stars