The Dark Knight Rises

The dark knight rises

In Christopher Nolan’s 2006 film The Prestige, the narrator called the last act of any trick (dubbed ‘Prestige’) the hardest but also the most rewarding. If his cinematic revival of the Batman mythology is akin to a magic trick, and it is to some, then the closing film in the series is the Prestige of this series.

This third film is a rousing blend of topical themes, comic book lore and the usual realism that we’ve come to expect from Nolan. Set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, the opening scenes showcase a frail Bruce Wayne living life as a social hermit. Since hanging up the cape following his decision to take the blame for Harvey Dent’s death, we learn that Gotham City has been largely free of organized crime with few sightings of Batman. Bursting into this momentary calm is the maniacal, calculated villain Bane (Tom Hardy). Introduced in a gravity defying, aerial set opening scene, we learn a few things about him immediately – he likes to punish his foes, has a seemingly insatiable appetite for pain and his followers are fiercely loyal to him. This makes him not only dangerous but seemingly undefeatable.

Once Batman eventually does come back out of premature retirement (in a scene that will likely have audiences applauding because it happens with such vigour and close to the one hour mark), he enlists the help of cat-burglar turned ally Selina Kyle (a delightful Anne Hathaway) to help him find Bane and put an end to his violent and destructive rampage across the city but Bane proves to be more than equal as a foe. Nolan weaves the tapestry of this film with a dense narrative that is full of his signature attributes including deceiving us with a back story that isn’t what it seems and a third act full of surprises that keeps unfolding even in the thick of battle. At nearly three hours in length, the films pacing is relentless. When the entire city fall’s victim to Bane’s master plan, as spectators we feel equally trapped. Those wondering how it compares to the fan favourite sequel will probably judge quality in terms of the primary antagonists, and while Hardy’s Bane is not comparable to Heath Ledger’s scathing performance of the Joker, with his muffled, sometimes murky voice and Hannibal Lecter inspired face mask, Bane’s execution of his master plan has an eerie similarity to the headline grabbing Occupy Wall street movement gone berserk. If the first film was about confronting fear and the second about the anarchy of random terrorism, the third is about the damages of calculated chaos and in many ways this films payoff for viewers is superior to both its predecessors, not just in terms of what it achieves (permanent, lasting closure in a daring, spectacular end) but also the scale and scope of its all encompassing storyline, spanning many, many months.

It is surprising how watchable Rises is despite its hero being off-screen for most of the running time – first due to self imposed exile and later due to injury. This is in large part due to the airtight script which builds on prior relationships established between the principal characters (and even some foes), over the previous two films, especially Alfred’s paternal concern for Bruce Wayne’s wellbeing, and as a result, many scenes resonate emotionally. But equally important is the director’s insistence of using so little CGI, constructing nearly every major set piece and employing crowds of hundreds for the electrifying, spectacularly crafted action scenes (which demand an IMAX viewing to do it real justice).

Rises is also the first Batman film in the trilogy that feels a bit more superhero-ish, despite all the somber gloom, thanks to a flying Bat vehicle and Hathaway’s zippy Selina Kyle. Nolan’s treatment of her character specifically is perhaps the most fascinating out of all the new faces we see. She oozes cool sexiness yes, but like the feline species she is named after, is independent (or disloyal) to the point that it becomes both her trademark and a character flaw.  As a trilogy, and purely in terms of consistency of output the entire saga ranks up there with Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings as perhaps the only other modern film series that has been able to keep delivering without dipping in quality and like that trilogy, it’s the last films in both these series that really cement the reputation of the whole.

Rating: ★★★★½

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and