Note: I said I wouldn’t be able to see this in a few weeks but fortunately managed to find a showtime. Oh yes, this is a spoiler-free review, so you don’t have to worry.
Before The Dark Knight Rises came out, I considered its predecessor, The Dark Knight, the best superhero film ever. It stunned me because how dark and believable it was and how it went where no other superhero movie had gone before. The Joker was an insane villain that echoed Alex from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, and earned Heath Ledger an Oscar for his performance. The Dark Knight was the first blockbuster in years that critics took seriously.
The Dark Knight Rises goes even further and I think it’s even better. There will certainly be debates among Batman fans on which film is superior, and I’m sure this will go on for decades. The movie is so stunning and sharp that it feels so real, something I find very uncommon among most films these days.
It’s been eight years since Harvey Dent died. Batman aka Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) was accused of his murder and has taken the role in order to prevent the thousands of criminals Dent jailed from being released.
Now, Gotham is no longer faced with mass crime. Wayne has become a recluse, and has avoided all contact with society. Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) has to make sure people don’t discover Batman is actually innocent. Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) still works at Wayne Enterprises, inventing new machines. And Alfred the butler (Michael Caine) tries to get Wayne to reenter the outside world again with no avail.
But Gotham isn’t at peace for very long. A new villain has come named Bane (Tom Hardy), who was also a member of the League of Shadows, which Batman was part of in the first movie. Bane has come to bring revolution to Gotham, and he believes he will be helping the people of the city by destroying Western civilization. Also new is Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), a cat burglar who’s trying to erase her records so she can leave a clean, new life.
Wayne realizes Batman has to return in order to save Gotham from Bane, and once again dons the cape. Batman also works with Detective Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who discovers Wayne’s identity and wants to help him take down Bane.
The Dark Knight Rises is a very gritty movie and is even darker than the second film. The intensity level is far higher and the pace is much quicker. Not a second in the film feels the slightest bit dull, and I had my interest at the screen for the entire time. That’s saying something because the movie is over two and a half hours long.
What makes The Dark Knight Rises better than The Dark Knight is that it doesn’t try to top it. That’s the problem many sequels make, which The Dark Knight avoided from doing to the original Batman Begins. The Dark Knight Rises feels completely original and is one of the most innovative movies in recent years.
Bane is a captivating villain that brings light to the movie and is brilliantly played by Tom Hardy. I’m not sure whether I’d say he’s as great as Heath Ledger’s Joker, but he comes pretty close. Hardy does a fantastic job, and even though some people complained that his voice was too hard to understand, I thought it was pretty audible.
Of course, I can’t forget Christian Bale. In the previous series, the villains were far more interesting and complex than Batman. Jack Nicholson as the Joker was more memorable than Michael Keaton as Batman. But Bale makes Batman a deep character and makes him the center of the movie. Wayne is questioned by his actions as Batman. Is it worth his life to save the people of a city who accused him of murder? What have they done for him?
The character of Batman has always been more philosophical than other superheroes. Christopher Nolan sees this and brings it alive in his trilogy. Batman has always been faced with moral issues. He’s put to the test in this film, and goes further than imaginable.
The cast is amazing as well. Gary Oldman, one of my favorite actors working, is great as Commissioner Gordon. Morgan Freeman, Joseph Levitt-Gordon, or Anne Hathaway are incredible as well. All the films in the series have a strong cast, and it isn’t more evident than here.
But the real star of the movie is director Christopher Nolan. In the past few years, Nolan has risen up to be one of the biggest filmmakers in Hollywood. He gives the movie its visual flare and gritty overtone. His use of lighting and shots in the film help us understand the moods or emotions of the characters. Without the light he adds to the movie, The Dark Knight Rises would probably not have worked.
Many current superhero films these days, such as The Green Lantern and The Avengers, feel like live action cartoons (though I did like The Avengers). The Dark Knight Rises, however, is a dark thriller. It’s one of the most absorbing films to come out in recent years. Nolan has put himself on the top tier of filmmakers with The Dark Knight Rises, and it’s easily the strongest movie of the year thus far.