Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway

MAJOR SPOILERS THROUGHOUT

Typical of director Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises has the initial hit of satisfaction followed by the faintest of doubts that something was missing. Exciting, audacious, thematically rich, and yet somehow lacking that extra layer of greatness. Of course with further consideration, even a re-watch (Nolan is a studio’s dream), such concerns prove unfounded. Nolan is a master magician; look closer, it is all there. The Dark Knight may rise but for his alter-ego redemption must come at the ultimate price. His faithful butler and surrogate parent Alfred knew it, his lost love Rachel Dawes knew it, even The Joker saw it in his eyes; Bruce Wayne has been on a suicide mission since day one.

The Dark Knight Rises refuses to play safe; incorporating a cat burglar wearing a skin-tight cat-suit with pop up goggles to resemble cat’s ears, into a story arc that aims to take the character and world of Batman as seriously as possible, is dicey. Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) may never be referred to as Catwoman yet even those with a passing knowledge of comics and pop culture know exactly who she is. Bane (Tom Hardy) is a similar risk. A freedom fighter with almost superhuman strength and an absurd upper-crust accent, kept alive by a mask pumping anaesthetic into his pain addled body. Nolan makes us believe, however, because these characters do more than just power narrative, they power Bruce Wayne. Their inclusion in the trilogy is essential to complete his tale.

Tom Hardy as Bane. Like Batman, Bane is defined by his mask. Paradoxically it both protects his identity and defines it.

Costume designer Lindy Hemming helped ensure the Dark Knight series remained grounded by building each persona from the inside out. Bane of the comics is a wrestler but here he is a solider. His costume, comprised mainly of Swedish army styled shearling coat, military vest, combat pants and boots reflects a life lived in numerous coups throughout the world. His mask is function over form, though intrinsically menacing with tiny pipes forming the teeth of a Rottweiler. Batman’s suit remains unchanged because there is no reason why it would be. Bruce Wayne has hung up his cape, the very same cape he took off eight years ago. Selina Kyle might wear heels and a cat-suit but this nod to the comics is not without justification; serrated heels are not practical for running, but can act as a foothold for climbing and as lethal weapons when fighting.

While the film may edge close to three hours it does not outstay its welcome. If anything the running time could be longer to further expand the backstory of new characters, not least Miranda Tate (Marion Cottillard) whose motives are hastily explained during the final minutes. Physical action is everything expected; set pieces feel outlandish enough to push boundaries of believability without breaking them, even if the Bat plane is perhaps a space age indulgence too far. Despite frequent use of Hans Zimmer’s emotive score, The Dark Knight Rises is most effective during quieter moments of character reflection. Michael Caine’s dignified performance as Alfred brings out the very best in Christian Bale. It is sometimes easy to overlook just how well acted this trilogy is.

As Selina Kyle, Anne Hathaway wears dark colours and chic attire, allowing her character to easily swap identities. Her Catwoman night vision goggles with pop up ‘ears’ were Christopher Nolan’s idea, realised by Lindy Hemming and her team.

The deliberately uncertain ending is quite beautiful and reminiscent of Nolan’s Inception, again because costume reveals a poignant truth. Selina Kyle always wears black (prison jumpsuit not withstanding), it helps to flit between identities as a master of disguise, but in her last scene with Bruce Wayne at the Florence cafe she is in a blue linen dress. This could be how Alfred sees her; she might only be a figment of his imagination. If this scene is a daydream, Christopher Nolan has taken the ultimate step; he has killed Bruce Wayne. Perhaps in his universe it was the only conclusion that made sense; it was the only way the character could find peace*. Batman though is a symbol, even if he is gone what he stands for could never be eradicated. Gotham city will always need a hero…

The Dark Knight Rises was released on 20th July.

* Please see author’s comment dated 22nd July for qualification of this statement. Further discussion of the film’s ending with costume designer Lindy Hemming HERE.

You can watch Christian Bale in Batman Begins at LOVEFiLM.com.

© 2012 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.