The Dark Knight Rises.
Review with major spoilers.
I saw TDR surprisingly late in its release, seeing it for the first time on Saturday. So, the first question is, does it live up the its own, self generated hype? The marketing campaign surrounding TDR was one of the most blatant and forceful in recent years, to the point where there seemed to be a new trailer every week and the constant barrage of fresh footage dramatically reduced some of the surprises the film had to offer and meant that the film had given itself a lot to live up to.
So in my opinion, no, I do not think it lived up the the hype. However, to say that is not to say it was a bad film, rather it was an brilliant film that fell under the weight of its own expectations.
The next question is, was the film any good? The answer to that is a yes, it really was. It was an action film with such scope and scale and such an immersive experience that at times you forget it was just a film. As an audience you find yourselves fully involved in the story, aided in no small way, by the performances of Bale and Hardy. Bales performance is scaled back in this film allowing Hardy’s hulking, mentally focused Bane to take over. Given that Tom Hardy spends most of the time with his face covered, its a testament to his acting ability that he is able to portray so much rage using only his eyes.His was the performance of the film (honourable mention to Michael Caine for a fantastic turn as Alfred). For me, the best thing about this film was the mental and physical back and forth between Batman and Bane. It’s the first time in the trilogy that you really doubt the strength of Batman. Add to that some fantastic set pieces, great supporting characters, a few genuinely spine tingling moments and a sense of spectacle and emotional depth that hasn’t been seen before in a superhero film, you have one of the best action films in recent years and a fitting end to Nolan’s trilogy.
So why, given all the positives, could I not give this a 5/5? For me, despite all the positives the film had, there were a few aspects of the plot that didn’t work. I really wanted this to be the great Batman film, the one that stood head and shoulders above the rest, but it just wasn’t there (that honour going to The Dark Knight), and in my opinion, these are the reasons why:
1. The whole Fission reactor/ Daggett plot device seemed to be set up in no more than a few sentences, leaving me at one point to wonder if the reactor thing had actually been carried over from the Dark Knight. It needed more depth to it especially when given how important the whole thing was to become to the overall plot.
2. Bruce’s relationship with Miranda Tate seemed to be built on nothing more than a few brief meetings and some sex and yet this seemed enough for him to hand over control of his entire company to her.
3. The main thing that really bugged me with TDR was that the focus of the whole film was on the relationship between Batman and Bane. It was Bane’s actions which drove TDR forward and yet there was no agreeable ending to the relationship between them. Where there should have been an epic final confrontation, there was simply the disappointing intervening of Catwomen. It annoyed me as there was no conclusion to their fight. It was just, ‘oh yeah Bane’s dead now and the real bad guy has actually been Tate all along.’
4. The ending. The fake death was cheesy but understandable as while Batman needed to die, Bruce needed another chance at happiness. And yet, by setting up Blake as a potential Robin figure, the strength of Nolan’s trilogy was diminished. It was supposed to be about Batman and by giving the final few frames over to a supporting character and the possibility of a separate story (which Nolan is unlikely to direct) it meant that this supposed final epic ending to the legend was slightly less epic than it could have been. There is not finality in Hollywood anymore.
5. The bomb. Surely there should have been some sort of shockwave or some other form of damage to the city right? Even if it was set off outside of the city. It just seemed to jar with the realism that had pervaded Nolan’s trilogy up to this point.
While as a film TDR is perhaps not the masterpiece we were all expecting, as a trilogy Nolan has created the Batman universe. An visionary, brooding, emotionally charged set of superhero films, he has changed the way we view superhero film making and it is unlikely we will ever see it done as well as this again.