Bane and Batman grapple for the fate of Gotham City in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises.
courtesy Warner Brothers

Film review: The Dark Knight Rises, but not too high

Christopher Nolan's epic conclusion doesn't quite live up to the hype

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The Dark Knight Rises serves as the grandiose finale for Christopher Nolan’s extremely popular Batman trilogy. It is one of the most anticipated movies of the year, and while it doesn’t quite live up to the hype — although there was no way it realistically could — it is still an enjoyable movie for the vast majority of its running time. It is in no way better than The Dark Knight, but it does reach the height of Batman Begins.

The film begins eight years after The Dark Knight concluded, and presents us with a retired and reclusive Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale). He has hung up his cape and mask, opting for a life of solitude with his butler Alfred (Michael Caine). Nursing a knee injury, presumably because of all the torture it went through in the many years he was Batman, Wayne barely goes out in public.

Of course, Wayne sitting alone at home would make for a boring movie, so a threat in the form of a masked mercenary named Bane (Tom Hardy) appears, threatening to wreak havoc on 
Gotham City. Wayne has to rise up and once again don the mantle of Batman in order to save the city he has called home his whole life.

Despite this fairly basic premise, Batman does not have as prominent a role as one might expect. The uncostumed Wayne gets far more of Bale’s screen time, with Batman only shows up for a select few sequences. Those moments are fantastic, as you might expect, but if you’re hoping to see a Batman-focused film, you may be disappointed.

The supporting cast gets a significant chunk of time as well, allowing for more of an ensemble film than previous installments of the series. For instance, Wayne has two love interests, both of whom play important roles in the narrative. The first is a master thief named Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), who meets Wayne while stealing both his pearl necklace and his fingerprints, while the second is an environmentalist named Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). Two other major characters are members of the police, although the veteran Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) spends a significant portion of the film away from the action. Taking over the force is the hotheaded John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a new addition to the cast with a surprisingly prominent role. The only character who felt unimportant was Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), as he and Alfred get far less time to shine than the rest of the cast. Alfred does, however, get one or two very touching scenes.

Hardy’s Bane is not Heath Ledger’s Joker, but he still manages to become an imposing force — almost effortlessly vicious and threatening. He is enjoyable to watch, and there is even an attempt to make him slightly sympathetic. However, Bane’s voice was obviously re-recorded in post-production, and it sounds like it’s coming from everywhere, not the character specifically. It takes you out of the film every time he talks, which can lessen the impact of some of the film’s more dramatic scenes. It’s still better than Bale’s Batman voice, which sounds like it’ll do significant damage to the actor’s throat.

The Dark Knight Rises struggles most in its story structure. The first hour or so is setup, with little accomplished and some of it becoming meaningless later on. This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if the film wasn’t so long, but at 164 minutes it’s a major issue. This is far from the tightest cut of the film that could have been made, and while fans will probably want an even longer version, cutting down certain portions would have benefited the film as a whole. There aren’t too many times when it starts to drag, but when it 
does it’s very noticeable.

Despite issues with pacing, The Dark Knight Rises is still a wholly enjoyable film, even if it might not be the masterpiece everyone hoped for. If nothing else, it’s just as good, if not better than Batman Begins, and it logically concludes Christopher Nolan’s trilogy — even if it might play things a tad too safe.