Whereas The Avengers (and all of the other men/women in tights movies) looks and feels like a superhero film, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy looks and feels like a police-drama-noir that happens to have a rich guy with some expensive armor as well as some spectacular action scenes along the way. This is especially true of the final entry, The Dark Knight Rises which focuses a great deal of time on the characters (and there are quite a few to keep track of) and situations of Gotham city; so much so that, at times, Batman himself almost seems relegated to a supporting role. However, it all feels right and fans of the series will not be disappointed with this epic, closing chapter. Nolan’s new Batman film also works surprisingly well as social/political commentary, embracing our current fears of terrorism, financial crisis and political-system-distrust. These fears are tweaked and played out to a fever pitch in a way that is reminiscent of the disaster films of the 70’s (minus the cheese).
The most welcome new element in the TDKR is Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle (Cat Woman) who dominates every scene she’s in with irresistible grace. Like Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale -excellent as always), she has dark secrets and a destructive drive that act as an albatross. Gotham’s worst fears are ignited by Bane (Tom Hardy) who’s masked face, menacing physic and synthesized voice vividly embody the internal fears of terrorist violence, financial collapse and social chaos. His jihad-like plans for Gotham create a situation that eclipses Batman’s or even the military’s abilities to overcome. Bane’s cloaked appearance does not render him a one dimensional villain as I had suspected. We are given a compelling back-story that injects humanity and gives credibility to his motivations.
TDKR is long (almost 3 hours) and though the film occasionally shows signs of giving way to it’s own mass, Nolan drives the narrative foreword with supreme confidence. Small imperfections (Mathew Modine’s Deputy Commissioner feels a tad cliche as written and performed) barely linger in the viewer’s mind due to the film’s breadth and momentum. The action scenes are reminiscent of The Dark Knight, one-upping certain elements with silly grin-inducing results (I saw this film with 4 or 5 other people and there were several “ooos” and “aaaahs” belted out in unison followed by that nervous laughter you get when something is just too cool). The opening scene is a genuine stunner; eyes will be popped and pulses will be quickened.
On the other end of things, the script finds well-timed pockets for credible and often emotional character interaction (Michael Cain gets a special nod). There is a whole lot going on and a whole lot of characters coming and going and yet the clarity in the storytelling is impressive. It all unfolds nicely. As with all final chapters, there are situations to tie up, questions to be answered and so on and so forth. In many ways, this proves to be the most difficult part of doing films like this; making all of those elements dovetail. Does the DKR pull it off? Yes and no. I left with a nagging sense of having been rushed a little at the end. One could argue that Nolan spends too much time in the first and second acts and in turn robs the third act of a more satisfying conclusion. This was a minor complaint for me. I still found it satisfying enough. It’s my opinion that with each film in this series Nolan got it a little more right. TDKR is terrific film-making with all of the money and hard work visible on screen. And how about that epilogue?
Christopher Nolan went the extra mile of shooting key scenes (almost a third) of this film in true IMAX so hunt it down in that format -especially if you are fortunate enough to have access to a true IMAX presentation (read this article to explain what that means and where to go to see it).