I excitedly booked my ticket for opening night a week early. The poster proudly displayed a multitude of five star ratings etched across the distinctive mask of Bane, further confirming what we already suspected: the film would be fantastic. This view was not shared by Daily Mail critic Chris Tookey, who presumably awarded the film two stars in order to differentiate his opinion from the raft of positive reviews the film had already garnered. My own verdict, however, lies somewhere in between.
It is important to confirm that The Dark Knight Rises is everything you would expect from the conclusive entry into Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. The foreboding atmosphere is expertly handled and the tension cranked up incrementally as Gotham sleepwalks to disaster. The action set pieces are reassuringly spectacular; buildings crumble as Batman and his enemies lay waste to the city through tank warfare, motorbike chases and jet fighting. Particularly memorable is a snowy showdown between Gotham’s finest 3000 police officers and the deranged army controlled by Bane, while the thrilling stadium collapse seen in the trailer forms a memorable centrepiece of the action. Equally impressive is the supporting cast. Gary Oldman reprises the role of Commissioner Gordon with the appropriate level of world-weary gravitas, but it is with a slinky, seductive portrayal of Catwoman that Anne Hathaway steals the show. Her character oscillates between enemy and friend, her brash, sexy exterior frequently slipping to reveal the complex, damaged woman underneath.
Superhero films hinge on the effectiveness of their villains. Tom Hardy brings Bane to life behind the mask, a menacing psychopath eloquently inciting the masses to riot as he seeks a new world order. As the film moves on, however, his role becomes slightly muddled. The Shakespearian quality of his character and complex motives become lost in a silent descent into simple, brutal thuggery, his demise becoming an unsatisfactory footnote in the main narrative. Some disappointingly, it is often difficult to understand his speech, requiring careful concentration in order to decipher everything said.
The Dark Knight Rises is long. This is good news for those of us who would be quite happy to watch a Batman film lasting a week but the production often strays into narrative paths that are overplayed or simply unnecessary. Scenes built on the business politics between Wayne Enterprises and John Daggett seemed to mire the forward motion of the film, while Wayne’s imprisonment simply drags. The tangled story and slow, deliberate pace is generally handled well but a film 165 minutes long will always struggle to be constantly entertaining. The aforementioned incarceration also means we see a lot less of the actual Batman than expected, something that could have been achieved with tighter editing.
Overall, the final entry into the Batman trilogy is a superb addition to the franchise. The flaws show when making the inevitable comparison against the superior The Dark Knight, though it feels bitter to complain about such small aspects of such an excellent production. In short, go and see it. You won’t be disappointed.