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The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

Released 20 July 2012
Director Christopher Nolan

Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman

Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan

Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven
Origin United States, United Kingdom
Running Time 164 minutes
Genre Action, adventure, crime
Rating 12A

Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na.

Scene: Gotham, a city almost as un-sunkissed as our very own woebeggoten Dublin on a cold grey summer's day. Once home to the caped crusader, The Batman. Now eight years after taking the fall for the crimes of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), The Bat seems beaten and Bruce Wayne, a Howard Hughes like recluse, languishes in his mansion “holed up with eight-inch nails and peeing into jars.” The Dent Act passed on the assumed martyrdom of the aforementioned Eckhart keeps criminals off the street without repose to parole and the city sleeps safely, that is until Tom Hardy as the bemuscled Bane holds it to nuclear ransom forcing Christian Bale to don his batgear once more.

Never as amusingly psychological off kilter as Burton's Bat Franchise, Nolan's Wayne is still driven by the same need for strong arm civic duty resultant from early family dysfunction. Here the dead parents superhero rule still applies, it's Batman 101, if you will, and with great power and Morgan Freeman supplying you with assortments of high-tech weaponised vehicles comes great responsibility. Nolan's Batman movies are less likely to poke fun at their very premise itself, they're as po-faced and square jawed as the caped crusader himself, with only supporting players ever likely to raise a smirk. For this reason there's really too much handwringing going on in Rises, from the old gent Alfred's frail but impassioned oratory exercises to Bruce about hanging up his crime fighting cape in favour of family, to Joseph Gordon-Levitt's taciturn speech of orphan solidarity and understanding. The Dark Knight Rises makes it clear that this time around Angstman's truly got his plate full.

Of course, no one calls for too much subtlety in comic book movies, it's not really their forte, so if there's any stab at emotional interiority it's a big bonus. Here, speechifying aside, The Dark Knight Rises does just fine, and, with a new cast wedged in well, interplay abounds and various personal arcs give characters more than one dimension in this thankfully 2D film. Hathaway as Catwoman is a worthy feminine foil to Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, in an Audrey Hepburn meets Nikita manner, the light-fingered anti-heroine is a crafty, alluring libertine sans obvious scruples. Marion Cotillard makes all the right moves as potential love interest number two or Miranda Tate as she's known to her friends, a good natured philanthropist working with The Wayne Foundation on a sustainable energy project. While Gordon-Levitt has plenty of promise as inexperienced but clever police officer John Blake, battling Bane on Batman's ground team and adding further to the feel of The Dark Knight Rises as a work less concerned with a solely hero-centric Bale focused film and more one that opts for playing out a high stakes thriller with a large ensemble cast of fine actors.

Unfortunately, The Dark Knight Rises suffers from the same issue of entertainment that made Nolan's first bat box office effort largely forgettable and worked so well in his successful second outing. Namely, that a large part of the movie hangs on the villain of the piece and from all Gotham's rogues gallery neither Ra's al Ghul or Bane were ever the most interesting or terrifying nemeses and feel barely present when compared to Ledger, Pfieffer, Nicholsan's or even DeVito's previous tour-de-forces of villainy. Sounding somewhat like Doctor Who's Supreme Dalek Davros, Tom Hardy acts from behind a large mask which affixed as it is to his face has a character depleting effect and he remains about as menacing as a third act reveal in a Scooby-Doo Mystery throughout.

There's more good, however, and under Nolan's guiding hand The Dark Knight Rises crafts a cityscape which is the epitome of dystopic, the large cast and the action scenes leave resonances of recent uprising, regular people placed in danger by terrorist attack and precarious toppling political systems. Similarly, chase and fight scenes have impact, shoot outs and punch ups thrill and, in short, you'll wince, whoop, cheer and cringe appropriately at all the hyperviolent, bone battering, high octane hoopla.

Having set the bar so high in 2008, The Dark Knight Rises (metaphorically) probably wouldn't be a strong enough movie to make the necessary leap out of the prison pit where Bane was supposedly raised, but has enough good amidst the bad and the ugly to make it an agreeable ending to this movie cycle's worth of one of cinema's most enduring heroes.

- Cormac O’Brien