Saturday, 21 July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (spoiler free!)

It would be a bit disrespectful not to acknowledge the events of last night in Denver, but that's all I'll do: acknowledge it. My best wishes and condolences of course go out to all those effected, but to draw too much attention to the tragedy only gives the scum that perpetrated the act the attention he so obviously wanted. Anyway...

The Dark Knight Rises brings an end to Christopher Nolan's take on Gotham's caped crusader, and it most certainly doesn't end with a whimper. Batman (Christian Bale), Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and, a new villian to the big screen, Bane come together to produce a swan song epic in scale and powerful in message but still comic book-y in nature.

TDKR builds on the foundations laid down by the first two films in the series (Batman Begins and The Dark Knight) both in narrative and over arching themes. The final moments of TDK play a heavy role in Bane's plans to bring chaos to Gotham and an end to the Bat, and the motivations of Begins' most senior villain once again. Thematically, things that have been explored or alluded to in the previous two are either resolved or at least given a little more flesh in the final instalment. Nolan is known for his penchant for making films that deal with an obsession of the main character, and whether Bruce Wayne's obsession with his mask is beaten or resolved or not is pretty much a matter of opinion, but it's definitely addressed.The whole "1%" or "elite vs the masses" ideas that are pretty blatant in all the trailers (Trailer 3 - "There's a storm coming Mr Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you'll wonder how you thought you could live so large and leave nothing for the rest of us") are well and truly a founding issue for pretty much the entire film. Does his money really give Batman/Wayne the power to become the secret police of Gotham? Did it give him the right to cover up Harvey Dent's crimes? Answers come in the form of Bane, the masked mercenary, and Selina Kyle, a skilled and elegant cat burglar looking for a way out of the life she's trapped in.

Bale, Hardy and Hathaway are the big players here, and all three provide great performances. Christian Bale continues his role as Batman/Bruce Wayne with such command that it really drives home the idea that it might be the tailed suit that's the mask rather than the body armour and hood. Hardy is, in some senses, very reminiscent of his role as the well mannered, violent psychopath titular role in Bronson. Hardy has the physical presence and charisma that inspires fear into those around him at every turn; as is true in the characters appearance in the comic books, you can really believe that he is a match physically for the hero. To watch him is to believe that this is the one who's capable of "breaking the Bat". There were a number of doubters on Hathaway's casting as Selina Kyle (Catwoman essentially, despite never actually being called that in the film): "She's too nice", "She doesn't look like a fighter" and the ever-misogynistic and just plain wrong "She's not sexy enough". Well, pretty much wrong on all counts there. Hathaway's Kyle is an ambiguous and entertaining thrill ride who provides the most realistic world-view of the three main characters. Not to mention the arse she kicks and how she looks doing it.

Of course, you can't go far wrong with the supporting cast either, especially considering half of them were in Nolan's Inception as well. Marion Cotillard as love interest and business associate Miranda Tate, Gary Oldman returning as Police Commissioner Jim Gordon and Jospeh Gordon-Levitt as idealistic police detective John Blake; they all flesh out the cast and take it from "pretty damn good" to "woah" on the scale.

Nolan's last entry in the Dark Knight Trilogy ramps up the scale of everything: the political messages that may or may not be intentionally hidden in the subtext, the level of danger posed to the citizens that Batman has sworn to protect, the lengths the villains will go to to pose said danger, the action-packed setpieces and the power behind the relationships between the characters. In the past films the only real emotional attachment was between Bruce and his childhood infatuation Rachel, and with her out of the picture screen time opens up for a more intricate web to take its place. And if all those things were ramping up, atop that ramp sits an amazing final 10-20 minutes. Nolan gives us closure where it matters, and leaves just enough things hanging to let your imagination run wild with how his vision of Gotham would continue after the end of this trilogy. Thankfully, I think Christopher Nolan and his talented cast can be trusted not to revisit this universe with any more, unnecessary, sequels. It ends well, and it ends here.

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