The third installment in the Batman film and the film to end the legend or so the billboards say. For Christopher Nolan's last piece-de-resistance in the caped crusader's saga, Nolan could have pulled out all the stops resulting in a full throttle type of film that is usually what summer blockbusters are made of.
Does he do that?
So far, the Dark Knight Rise has attracted a hailstorm of hype, drama, speculation and tragedy. Ironically, mass shooting of Colorado moviegoers at the midnight showing of the film's opening night sadly costed lives and shattered the innocence of being able to attend a film to escape from the violence of the real world. And while, the tragedy will definitely overshadow most of the publicity surrounding the Dark Knight, how does the film stand up on its own, independent of its external circus.
Undoubtedly, Nolan is one of the greatest directors of this generation, he shows adroitness in creating film as well as reaching into the audience to create lasting impressions. What the Dark Knight Rises suffers from is in deed Nolan's greatness and the large shadow of the near-perfect cultural milestone that was the Dark Knight. And that film was the second centerpiece in the trilogy, leaving Nolan only so far where he can go.
The Dark Knight Rises clocks in around at 164 minutes and the film definitely feels long as it explores past the point of sufficient expository information, Bruce Wayne and the implications of Batman. Christian Bale, reprises his role and does one great job showing the vast layers of Wayne. What can be taken away from this film though is how much masochism Wayne/Batman endures at the hands of protecting Gotham, that's always been a crucial point in the Batman narrative but this film really dishes out the pain to our beloved hero and Nolan does not flinch, the violence is hard and real. With Bale's performance of Wayne/Batman fans may be asking themselves the greatest Batman question of them all: Which is the mask?
In the Dark Knight Rises, this is somewhat of the subtext as the film explores the aftermath of Batman's fall from grace in Gotham. The Dark Knight Rises takes place 8 years after the Joker. Nolan treats TDKR very sober, shying away and completely avoiding the presence of the Joker and making the film a standalone from the prior film only related by liner points in time.
TDKR is ambitious and visually formidable, Nolan knows how to create awe-inspiring sequences of horror and ultra violence but for this film, the ultra violence and spasms of horror are stretched too thin across a movie that drags itself around by the third act. In some places the film, goes on necessarily long. Yet, Nolan keeps the audience at the seat of their edge with pop up shocks here and there to keep the plot moving.
For Batman fans, there is plenty to love, plenty to fall in love with. Yet again, for Batman fans the ghost of the second film manages to appear again and again in comparison. It's not that TDKR is a bad film, that is not the case at all. It is definitely enjoyable, definitely engrossing and worth the price of admission. However, when greatness is a bar set so high and almost unattainable, it's hard to stay consistent at such a high level.
There is so much to say about a film that has so much to say about the world we live in. The film tackles present day societal issues as they arise but it is how they are dealt with that might be more of a shock. Gotham is not isolated from the near class-warfare of the Occupy movement and this is reflected in the villain this time around, Bane.
Bane, as played by Tom Hardy is the villain after the Joker, a feat that is large and daunting. How does an actor inhabit a role that aims to surpass or to match a role that basically came to immortalize a performer? That's not an easy task. Hardy does his damnedest with his chiseled physique and British accent but Bane is hardly the villain that Gotham is asking for, rather Bane is just simply not that interesting to watch. There are no fireworks between Bane and Batman other than what has been hinted at in trailers.
Nolan manages without fail, to bring out the best in his actors, drawing out stellar performances. Lot has been said about Anne Hathaway as Catwoman / Selina Kyle. Hathaway did not blow me away. I went in expecting her to radiate a certain unhinged sexiness, a certain allure but Hathaway played Catwoman very safely and oh-so-very matter-of-factly. It was good but it was not enough to detract me away from seeing Hatthaway.
This review has gone on almost as long as the film itself, I don't want to throw in spoilers but rather want to leave with the lasting quip that this is not the best Batman film but it's not terrible or bad by any stretch of the imagination. Coming up short to perfect is nothing wrong.