Watched Jul 20, 2012
Ian Woolstencroft’s review:
Christopher Nolan brings his Batman trilogy to a close with a suitably epic (though doubtless some will say bloated) finale. Bale gives his best performance of the series as does Gary Oldman while Morgan Freeman is on hand mainly for exposition. Michael Caine gives an emotional performance, one that worked for me, although he’s still an odd fit as Alfred. Of the newcomers Joseph Gordon-Levitt acquits himself well, although he’s not really essential to the plot and excising him could have reduced the running time a bit. Marion Cotillard does okay with an underwritten role and Anne Hathaway, despite my misgivings, nails it as Catwoman from her very first scene.
As a purist I was against using Bane as the film’s villain, there were more than enough classic villains in Batman’s rogue’s gallery without the need to use any flash-in-the-pan newcomer (yes I know the Bane character is almost twenty years old but that’s relatively new for Batman). I felt it could lead to a train wreck of Spider-Man 3 proportions, after all that was another film that used a ‘new’ instead of a ‘classic’ villain. Still I had faith in Nolan, I’d had doubts about Heath Ledger as Joker and he’d delivered the goods. That faith has been rewarded as Tom Hardy is excellent as Bane. There have been changes to the character’s origin to allow him to fit in the more realistic world Nolan has created which may put some off but for me those changes work and the essence of Bane as Batman’s equal both physically and mentally is still there.
Nolan, for the most part, manages to make the films characters work, giving them enough screen time while still delivering the large scale action scenes required of a big summer movie. The isolation of Gotham is handled well, there’s a real sense of time passing and of impending disaster. There are hints that there may have been a longer cut of the film, Juno Temple’s character is paper thin and one wonders if most of her part ended up on the cutting room floor, likewise the Wayne/Miranda relationship. The film also suffers from a flaw that has hampered all three films but is far more evident here than in the previous two – the tale Nolan wants to tell is too violent for the mainstream audience he’s required to aim for. This results in compromises and they are most evident during the films climax when people are shot and simply fall over. No bullet wounds, no blood, it’s like a ‘50s western where characters clutched there chest and fell over when shot.
Nolan isn’t alone in this dilemma, The Hunger Games is another film that tried to tell an inherently violent story without being overtly violent and The Woman in Black was cut for UK cinemas in order to get the all important family audience. Hollywood is scared to aim a big budget movie at an adult audience but in aiming for mass appeal they are constraining the creative talents who make the films and reducing the quality of the end product. Which is not to say that The Dark Knight Rises is a bad film, it handles the compromises it has to make well but had Nolan had a completely free hand perhaps we’d had got a darker and richer experience.