August 4, 2012

The one film that everyone has been waiting for since Batman Begins released in 2005, no, even before that, with Batman & Robin failing disastrously in 1997 — well, that film has finally arrived. With Batman Begins, director Christopher Nolan proved that it’s possible to make the Batman story watchable again, grounding it in reality and going back to the origins of this legendary character. With the second film, The Dark Knight, Nolan outdid himself and delivered movie history in the making and, arguably, the best superhero film ever. He was of course greatly aided by Heath Ledger’s unforgettable, blistering performance as Joker.

Now, with The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan ends this trilogy with the pitch that the third part may just be the best one. Does it work? Does this film meet all one’s expectations to surpass the previous two films? Well, not entirely.

It’s peace time in Gotham City, eight years after Harvey Dent’s death and the night that Batman disappeared. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse (obviously), and his business is faltering. His trusted valet and father figure, Alfred (Michael Cane) is the only person who is in contact with him and constantly urges him to go back out in the world. He also can’t bear to see Bruce Wayne’s pain and he certainly can’t stand the thought of having to bury another member of the Wayne family.

Soon a mysterious figure called Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) enters Bruce’s life. She is a master thief and seductress and proceeds to become the bridge between the billionaire and terrorist Bane, who has reached Gotham City with one purpose alone, wanting to reduce it to ashes. (Tom Hardy as Bane is no Heath Ledger, but it’s hard to act with one’s eyes only and he does it exceptionally well). After eight years, Bruce Wayne is now forced to become the Batman once more and fight Bane and his army of mercenaries. Like always, he is aided by Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and this time they are joined by young police officer, John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).

Without giving away any plot-spoilers, nothing seems to go as planned for Batman/Bruce Wayne. He has an interesting love-hate relationship with Selina Kyle, he must bring down a physically superior Bane, and he is constantly confronted by his past. He also has to consider a potentially prosperous future, business-wise and personally, in the form of Wayne Enterprises board member, Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard).

Nonetheless, the film never matches expectations. The first half is very weak; Bruce Wayne is supposed to be in pain, but this never comes across convincingly — even though he’s got a slump and a beard, he’s still too smug to be considered broken. The Batman vs. Bane fight is a highpoint and the portions after that, cleverly linking intoBatman Beginss storyline, are easily the film’s best. Wayne’s fall and his eventual rise are cleverly structured, however, what eventually happens to the Bane character, courtesy the film’s writers, is disappointing.

In this third episode of the Batman franchise the trilogy comes to a fitting, adrenaline-filled finale. Chris Corbould deserves special mention for special effects and the Bat, the flying Batmobile, is memorable. Every role is filled by a marvellous actor or actress, so surely The Dark Knight Rises is the ensemble cast film of the year, notThe Avengers. But, seen as an individual film, The Dark Knight Rises is incomplete without the first, BatmanBegins, which is actually still the best of the trilogy — yes, even better than The Dark Knight. The ending of The Dark Knight Rises shares some DNA with Inception, Nolan’s last film, and the viewer can decide for himself what to make of it. The film is fun in parts and exciting in others, but because it has a weak first half and an uninteresting character arc for Bruce Wayne, it is ultimately flawed.

Schayan Riaz is a film critic based in Germany