When it comes to discussing Christopher Nolan’s Batman universe, one almost doesn’t even need to bother recapping. Batman (Christian Bale, The Fighter) has been shunned from Gotham City for a crime he didn’t commit and his alter ego Bruce Wayne has become a reclusive cripple. It’s best to enter the trilogy-ending The Dark Knight Rises knowing as little about the substantial plot (at 160 minutes there is A LOT of plot, you guys!) as possible so we’ll leave it at that. The Dark Knight Rises is indeed long, but Nolan never fails to fill the screen with exciting flights of fancy. As somebody who has major issues over his previous two Batman film – not to mention knowing next to nothing about comic book lore –I was surprised at just how much of a great, thrilling time I had. It’s a film that genuinely earns its stripes as a grand, epic work of cinema.
The idea behind the films of Nolan and co-screenwriter Jonathan Nolan has always been the interlacing of modern politics over the top of this rather fanciful tale of a billionaire who takes crime-fighting into his own hands. The Dark Knight Rises certainly goes there with very obvious nods to the “occupy” movement, post 9/11 powerlessness (the partly-constructed “Freedom Tower” looms in the background of many shots), as well some disturbing Holocaust imagery that implies American government is just one misfired synapse away from full scale war. It could have been hopelessly highbrow and could easily have turned into dreary smugness, but Nolan is gifted at configuring his issues into something entertaining.
It’s fitting that a film that aims to be bigger and bolder than those before it should do so on a visual scale too. Nolan and cinematographer Wally Pfister have utilised the IMAX 70mm film scale perfectly, extending the views of this harshly beautiful Gotham City (er, it’s New York City) sky high. Genuinely awe-inspiring stuff and Nolan proves that his affection of classical filmmaking (using film stock, no 3D) doesn’t necessarily imply he is unable to innovative. The grey and blue tones of the movie never overwhelm into a oppressive, soggy mess, but instead reflect a cold, yet unshakeably beautiful and detailed, vision of Manhattan that I’ve never seen done before in a film such as this. Echoed by costume designs heavy on black, as well as actors – like Anne Hathaway (Love and Other Drugs) as jewel thief Selina Kyle, Marion Cotillard (Nine) as a business ally, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50) as a rookie detective, and Tom Hardy (Warrior) as machine-faced Bane – that give performances with bruised edges and scars.
Hans Zimmer’s big, rousing score is arguably too big and rousing, what with small character-driven sequences occasionally drowned out with wildly bombastic music. Still, there’s a thrill to be had in sitting in a cinema seat and being quite literally shaken by the rumble of the bass. That’s what IMAX does and if I can make one plea it’s that you see it in this large screen format. If you can afford it, of course. The Dark Knight Rises is Nolan’s best film to date, finally sidestepping the third act disintegration that have plagued his recent films (The Dark Knight and Inception) and providing all the brutish gravitas that makes for a satisfying conclusion to this phase of the Batman cycle.
The Dark Knight Rises is released in Australia on July 19th
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Juno Temple, Matthew Modine and Liam Neeson