A Fire Will Rise – The Dark Knight Rises Review

Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy comes to a spectacular end, bringing us a movie some of us (including me) have waited for since the very first trailer was released back in July 2011. After the phenomenal success of The Dark Knight, achieving rave reviews and breaking box office records, fans and critics waited patiently for the follow up. After a heavy marketing campaign with around 6 different trailers overall, the wait for finally over on July 20th (my 21st birthday no less) and I can honestly say I was not disappointed.

PLEASE NOTE there WILL BE SPOILERS!!! If you have NOT seen the film PLEASE DO NOT READ FURTHER! (But come back after you’ve seen it and post your comments)

The film has everything you expect from a Nolan Batman film: fantastic huge action set sequences including car chases and fight scenes; Hans Zimmer’s fantastic atmospheric score; the gritty, modern Gotham City and the gadgets and gizmos that have become familiar with this incarnation of Batman. Add to that Batman’s psychological anguish and trauma, played superbly by Christian Bale again and supported by an amazing collaboration of actors – both returning to the franchise and some new faces. A few thoughts on some of the main players

Christian Bale – Bale steps up his performance in this instalment showing a Bruce Wayne who still feels the emotional effects of the event of 8 years previously having lost his childhood friend and love Rachel, and the strain of Batman becoming a hated figure in Gotham. Wayne has lost his purpose and hung up his cape but has shunned public life in favour of solitude. When he re-emerges as Batman he is re-energised and Bale plays a character that is visibly happy at becoming his alter ego, even though it hurts those around him (specifically his butler come father figure Alfred). However, he meets his match in the form of Bane and Bale really comes into his stride in the latter half of the movie, playing a Bruce Wayne who is heartbroken to see Bane destroy the city he loves and everything he worked to accomplish with one fell swoop. Batman ultimately returns reinvigorated and ready to save Gotham one last time.

Michael Caine – Michael Caine showed his acting capabilities in this movie, playing an Alfred that was ultimately heartbroken at what the young boy he had become a surrogate father for had become.  Caine didn’t feature as heavily in this movie, as Alfred made the difficult decision to walk away from Bruce just under half way through the movie (a scene that is almost painful to watch).  But every scene the movie legend was in he stole, from comedic, dry one liner’s, to emotional beautiful speeches.

Gary Oldman – Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon is still majorly struggling with the emotional and mental strain of the lie of what happened 8 years previously as he is forced to praise the man who tried to murder his son and condemn the figure of Batman, for the ‘greater good’. Oldman again does a terrific job and proves he really is an acting legend. Gordon is quite the mentor for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s John Blake and the two have a great chemistry on screen. As others criticise Blake’s enthusiasm, Gordon is somewhat revitalised by it and Oldman plays the transistion between the exhausted and defeated Jim Gordon to Gordon fighting back when Bane takes over Gotham perfectly.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Speaking of JGL , the newcomer to the Batman movies really is a fantastic new addition, playing the rookie cop John Blake, who really does have amazing detective skills as early on he proves he knows the true identity of the Batman and what really happened to Harvey Dent. His ability to carry a character that is left as one of Gotham’s primary protectors in the wake of Batman disappearing was brilliant – he handled the action side of things well as well as the emotional moments (the scene with Gary Oldman as Gordon’s confession was read out by Bane was beautifully acted by both). I couldn’t help but be enthralled by Gordon-Levitt’s Blake and the characters endearing qualities and I think I walked out with a newfound love for the man.

Anne Hathaway – I’d like to first point out that Anne Hathaway is one of my favourite actresses-she is insanely talented and beautiful to boot (one of only 2 of my girl crushes!) So when it was announced she would be joining the cast I was thrilled. Although many had their reservations, I was walking in excited to see how the entire film would play out. Hathaway did not disappoint me and thoroughly laid her critics to rest with her performance. It should be noted that she is never referred to as Catwoman and she play a Selina Kyle that is not only sexy but strong, sassy, witty and confident.  The character had so many layers: from her sly introduction as a cat thief disguised as a maid, to her resourcefulness to get her out of a difficult situation (the scene where she shoots her way out of the bar, and then screams and cries helplessly to escape being arrested was brilliant!) She also showed emotion, as Selina took Batman to face Bane for the first time – the shots of her stood helpless behind the bars were heart-rending. A great addition to the cast as Nolan’s first female ass-kicker in the series.

Tom Hardy – Hardy’s incarnation of Bane had a high task of following the late Heath Ledger’s Oscar winning performance as The Joker. However, the two villains are ultimately quite different and whereas Hardy does not have the same memorable effect as Ledger, he is still an excellent adversary. Although many critics have criticised not being able to understand Hardy’s accent, I heard every word very clearly, and enjoyed his choice – it was clear, succinct but also slightly reminded me of Darth Vader. He may not have the same psychotic approach as The Joker, but Hardy still scared the living crap out of me – I would not want to meet the man in a dark alley. The character’s voice, his stance and the way he walked exuberated confidence, and made me afraid for Batman even before those first blows.  Hardy was quite unrecognisable as the terrorist, mercenary who held Gotham hostage and did a fantastic job.

Marion Cotillard – Cotillard did a brilliant job as the deceptive Miranda Tate – charming and sophisticated on the outside but underneath  Ra’s Al Ghul’s child, born into the prison pit who climbed her way out and remained under the radar for most of the film (it wasn’t until just before that I began to think the trigger person was her, but on watching it the second time the little clues were there). The only criticism I can give is Cotillard’s slight awkwardness when performing the stunts and action sequences. Okay, granted she did only give birth two months before she started filming but I just wish she’s looked more comfortable doing the scenes.

It was also great to see a few other actors I recognised from various things –the delectable Burn Gorman (whom I recognise from Torchwood) playing the villainous Stryver and Josh Stewart (who is J.J.’s husband Will from Criminal Minds), as one of Bane’s main thugs Barsad. Additionally Morgan Freeman, Nestor Carbonell, Cillian Murphy and Liam Neeson return and reprise their roles respectively. This film’s assemblage of actors is a showcase of some of the best talent in today’s industry and is a stellar team effort.

(And as a side note – the boy who sings the national anthem before the destruction of Gotham begins gives a beautifully chilling performance that gave me goosebumps – a rather innocent image immediately contrasted by the chaos and fear that is felt as Bane takes control.)

Overall this film is on such an epic scale, with the last 45 minutes alone leaving me on the edge of my seat. It was action packed and full of explosions and chases and that giant fight scene on the steps was epic! The film kept a strong pace and was riveting, suspenseful, emotional and just an all-rounder, setting a standard as perhaps the film of the year.

The ending of the franchise was also extremely satisfying. I had a feeling that they had not killed Batman despite so many rumours that that was the case. I suppose in a way they did kill Batman, or at least Bruce Wayne’s version of Batman – as far as the people of Gotham are concerned Batman died saving the city and thus proved he really was a hero. However the ending saw that in fact (somehow) Bruce had escaped the Bat before the bomb went off and he now lived happily ever after with Selina. Alfred acknowledged him from afar and we saw Alfred’s dream of seeing Wayne happy and safe finally realised.  One debate that has emerged online regarding the ending is whether or not it is in fact an illusion of Alfred’s. Given Chris Nolan’s penchant for open-endings, the debate has started as to whether or not Bruce Wayne is actually alive. Even though this is an interesting idea, I think perhaps people are reading too much into it. For one thing, Alfred never really had any interaction with Selina, so why would he imagine she would be there? And also –you can see that she is wearing Wayne’s mother’s pearls in the final image and we do hear that they are missing from the itemised will. If you want to read more about the other side of the debate please read this or for a more balanced view read here 

We also had the major twist that John Blake’s real name was in fact Robin and the image of him swinging into the Batcave makes him the perfect candidate to take up the mantle when (and it is a case of when and not if) the reboot of Batman happens. Whether that happens or not (or whether in fact he becomes Robin or Nightwing) will be another story. Fans will certainly be interested to see what happens if the next person to take on Batman story will choose to build on Nolan’s ending or whether they start fresh.  For now though Christopher Nolan can bask in the knowledge that his Batman trilogy was successful, bringing a new take on the comic book character. The third film of the series was an epic conclusion to a series that will be remembered as perhaps one of the great comic book trilogies of all time.

Leave your comments – what did you think of the film and THAT ending?

Catwoman: My mother warned me about getting into cars with strange men

Batman: This isn’t a car!

The Dark Knight Rises

Rachel

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6 thoughts on “A Fire Will Rise – The Dark Knight Rises Review

  1. Itemising and writing character-by-character descriptions is a rather odd way to review a movie.

    Though I too enjoyed the film, I would have to disagree with you about the film’s ‘strong pace’ as the middle section sagged enormously – the whole ‘Tale of Two Cities’ motif did result in some of the film’s strongest scenes but also brought it grinding to a mid-act halt.

    Bane’s death is very, very weak – as is Wayne’s relationship with Miranda Tate. Also, there’s no clear reason for Wayne to be a recluse for 8 years – it makes sense for the story to be moved forward and Gotham to be in a time of peace, but no real explanation is given for Wayne’s disappearance from public life.

    Anyway, I did really enjoy the film – though I have come to the conclusion that The Dark Knight is the superior movie – and felt it was an excellent end to the trilogy.

    • A lot of the times when I see movies I do focus on acting, it’s what most excites me about films.
      I really enoyed the ‘Two Cities’ motif that your talking about although, I did find the Gotham City part far more entertaining. And I do agree with you about Bane’s death and Bruce’s relationship with Miranda Tate. With regards to Bane, for a character that had hugely dominated Batman earlier in the film, and who had been portrayed as a character to be afraid of his demise was quick and dismissive, and didn’t really do Hardy justice. As for Miranda Tate, I believed the relationship between Selina and Bruce/Batman more than I did Bruce/Miranda – Bale and Hathaway had more interaction time and more chemistry.
      But I’m glad you enjoyed the film and thanks for your comments. 🙂

      • I appreciate that you enjoy and focus on acting, I just feel that there are better way to incorporate your thoughts on the acting into the review. The piece would flow better were it written as one piece; as it is it reads more like a list.

        At the same time though, it’s your blog and your review – so you’re welcome to do whatever you please! Just trying to offer, what I hope is, constructive criticism.

        The Selina/Bruce relationship was much better developed, and the pair had real chemistry on-screen. Another thing that was a bit of a plot-hole/required a huge piece of suspension of disbelief was the scene in which Miranda and Bruce sleep together. Why would she not just kill Bruce/Batman then if that were her eventual aim?

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