Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Dark Knight has Risen

Batman, The Dark Knight of Gotham is here for this third and final outing under the direction of Christopher Nolan. The wait was long, punctuated by the usually glossy hype that surrounds a movie of this calibre. With the first two instalments of Nolan’s Batman trilogy being heralded as being among the greatest movies of all time, the pressure was certainly on the British director to deliver a fitting end to such an amazing saga, a trifecta of intellectual depth, superb action and astounding technical achievement. Thankfully Nolan delivered all, in spades.

Uniquely, The Dark Knight Rises is as much a sequel to Batman Begins as it is to The Dark Knight before it with a multitude of threads in this intricate celluloid tapestry being woven together in one spectacular whole. Here Bruce Wayne must now face his mortality in a way that he hadn’t faced it before and must regain the physical and spiritual connection with Gotham City he possessed before his fall from grace. This fall of course itself a lie borne by his greatest ally Jim Gordon, but not for much longer. Now a haggard and limping social recluse, Wayne has all but forgotten the Batman as Gotham has achieved an almost Utopian level of lawfulness. However a new threat seeks to raise an army to wrest control of the city to a truly nefarious end. The Dark Knight Rises explores many themes but chief among them is that “anyone can be Batman” something that has been cemented throughout the trilogy.

Christian Bale’s performance is as good as he’s been giving throughout the series which sadly means he hasn’t evolved a great deal himself. This is a pity as The Fighter proved what an incredible actor he can be. Bale was outdone once again by Gary Oldman who portrayed a much older Gordon now wrestling with his conscience at the terrible burden of lies he bore. Joseph Gordon Levitt shone as Blake, a streetwise cop whom Gordon makes a detective and to whom he transfers much of the footwork he’s unable to do himself. Anne Hathaway, initially regarded as a strange choice for Catwoman, without even so much as a purr made us all but forget Michelle Pfeiffer’s shiny PVC catsuit from Batman Returns. In fact she nailed it so delectably perfectly that there have been numerous calls for her to take her character into her own movie [undoubtedly to fare better than Halle Berry’s misguided crime against film]. Tom Hardy bulked up for his role as the imposing Bane, the menacing anarchist. Despite sometimes being somewhat difficult to understand he lent a powerful performance to the legendary “Knightfall” saga Batman villain, “the man who broke the bat”.

Supporting them, another Inception alumni, Marion Collitard whom I genuinely dislike as an actress, yet wasn’t too put off from her admittedly ‘above standard’ performance here. Matthew Modine, another actor I care quite little for portrays Foley, Gotham’s chief of Detectives and while his character is not one we should be impressed with, I have to say kudos for Modine for a great interpretation. Returning for his final time, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Batman’s answer to “Q” from James Bond, lending credence to the oft asked “Where does he get those wonderful toys?” and provides The Dark Knight with his most impressive vehicle yet, The Bat. However it was Michael Caine who really stepped it up this time around as Alfred and delivered something no less than Oscar-worthy proving that unlike some of the latest efforts from peers Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley it is Caine that truly deserves to be called a “Sir”.

While sadly due to the London Olympics, I was denied a comfortable chance at witnessing Rises in Imax, but it was easy to spot at which points Nolan chose to switch to the extraordinary format adding to the immersion of the world he created as he did with Inception before it. There was some extraordinary CGI work done for a movie that while fantastical, is fused with the modern reality. The camera glided over Gotham and the scale of the troubled city was clearly established, albeit with some reality bending CGI [those exploded bridges aren’t really that long according to Constance]. 

To aid in the crafting of Gotham and to aid in a cohesion of design quality, Nathan Crowley returned from the previous two movies to lend his production design talents transforming Pittsburgh into a modern and realistic Gotham City. While he had collaborated with the excellent James Newton Howard for the previous instalments, Hans Zimmer was left to his own devices for the final instalment and it shows. Unleashed and solo, Zimmer has a tendency to go off the musical rails and while an excellent score in its own right, it lacks a cohesion that Newton Howard obviously brought to the fore.

It’s often the case in Hollywood where the third movie of a franchise isn’t as good as the others but this movie series has had the benefit of the same production value and creative team for all of them and it shows that there was no creative expense spared for the grand finale of this spectacular saga. If I was to level any criticism at it, I would have to say that it did indeed run a little too long at 165 mins, The Dark Knight had it right at about 150 mins, still epic but that quarter of an hour can make all the difference and there's a few bits that could have been shaved from the middle. It may hold true that when compared with the others in other ways, that Rises is not the best of the three but when you’re talking about movies that are as close in quality as these three Batman movies then it is still a sublime manifestation of an extraordinary creative effort made whole and produced a true genre-defining movie that transcends everything one hoped.

Final Verdict: Stay away from this if you don’t like epic movies over 2.5 hours long and want your super-heroes to ever seem real, because this is what this movie actually does.

Colonel Creedon Rating: *****

1 comment:

Civilian Overseer said...

I would have to say that it did indeed run a little too long at 165 min

Basically cut any scene with Matthew Modine in it and you got a leaner movie right there without any impact on the storyline. ;)