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The Dark Knight Rises - Film Review

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by Adam Ray Palmer (subscribe)
A film reviewer, a poem dabbler and an admirer of words. They are funny things aren't they? Words, where would we be without them? On TV probably.
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The Dark Knight Rises to become one of the best trilogies of all time.

As the summer hits us, so does the final instalment in one of the biggest blockbusting trilogies ever; The Dark Knight Rises.

Good vs Evil
The 'Goody' and The 'Baddie'

Warner Bros. Pictures are back this summer with an amazing finale to a franchise; and this time it isn't Harry Potter. Christopher Nolan's Batman finale is sure to be a box-office smash, but is it deserving for the credit it will potentially receive or is the Black Crusader still living off the highs of The Dark Knight? Let's indulge ourselves into this epic climax.

Many reviews I have seen thus far have been comparing this movie to The Dark Knight (2008). I do not believe this is fair, especially after seeing the film; it stands well and truly on its own two feet. The script for this film was affectionately written, oozing emotion throughout the narrative. Whether it is from Bruce, Alfred or even at times Bane, the finishing product is certainly moving for a 'superhero' film. I say 'superhero' in quotations because I feel there is so much more to this franchise than just action and a masked hero, but I will get onto that later.

Christopher, Jonathon (Chris's brother) and David S. Goyer (the man behind the Blade trilogy and soon to be the remake of Godzilla) have devised another beautifully, constructed masterpiece. It has the right amount of action, tension and emotion creating a cinematic gem to end a fantastic three-part story.

I think a small paragraph for Christopher Nolan is more than deserved here as he is set to break 2 billion box office sales with this franchise. This little 'nod' for Nolan is just to recognise the great lengths he has surpassed with the Batman franchise, as let us not forget, Nolan picked up the legend of Batman knowing the shocking films that have came before these three delights have been disasters. The previous to Batman Begins (2005) was Batman & Robin (1997), the critics giving this failure a generous 3.5/10 across the board. It took a brave man like Nolan to pick up the near-defeated reins of Batman.

All the familiar faces returned for TDKR in this illustrious line up of cast members with a few added bonuses. The usual suspects of Christian Bale, Sir Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman reprised their roles along with newcomers Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt rounding off an impeccable cast. In addition, Cillian Murphy and Liam Neeson pop up to say "hello" in a couple of scenes too. The cast looked like they had never been away from each other; the chemistry was fizzing and the new faces perfectly fitted in too.

So of course, with all this talent on show; who came out on top I hear you ask? For me, the stars of the show were Sir Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anne Hathaway; in addition a little mention for Tom Hardy. Sir Michael had the littlest amount of screen time compared to the other three but still managed to get his experience and acting calibre onto the screen. He was emotional, courageous and a supreme father figure to Bruce, a delight to watch.

Joseph and Anne did their supporting roles justice as they nailed every scene they were in. Hathaway as the sexy, although not stated but we can guess, Catwoman showing off her moves and that women are just as feisty as the Batman. Gordon-Levitt plays the brave copper who fears nothing as he believes 'good' will prevail over 'evil'. This role suited him to the ground. Bale, Oldman, and Freeman were their usual selves, solid acting but nothing out of the ordinary.

Finally, Tom Hardy, he had a tough feat ahead of him before a camera was even turned on. Hardy's predecessor villain The Joker (the late Heath Ledger) portrayed a chilling and mind-blowing performance in The Dark Knight. This led to Hardy's performance being scrutinised and compared to that of Heath's. But let me tell you, Tom did not disappointed. His performance was gripping and dark, although it did miss the genius and spark that Heath gave in The Dark Knight, he definitely gave a great display. On a side note, to the Special Effect crew, the voice was shambles; he sounded like his mouth was numb speaking through a low battery vocoder whilst underwater.

The action in the film didn't lack compared to the other two instalments but there was certainly less of it, but I do not feel robbed by this. This movie was about tying up loose ends and an emotional farewell, which I feel was portrayed and delivered. Throughout the film, the emotion and tension was building for a brilliant climax half an hour before the credits. As the football stadium was destroyed (see the trailer), it sparked a war between 'good' and 'evil'. From this moment, the action came alive.

The final battle scenes were intriguing and brutal as Tom Hardy shown Batman what he had learnt whilst training for his previous film Warrior (2011). Hardy's combat was ferocious and quick; making me think you wouldn't want to meet Tom on a bad day. Let me state this, this big battle was not the only fight in the film; there was a previous meeting between Batman and Bane, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) teaching criminals a lesson and of course Batman showing off his new deadly toys in a police and gang chase. The thrills were most certainly present in this movie.

The Verdict:

As I come to this conclusion, I find myself now comparing this film to The Dark Knight. Unlike most like I said above, critics compared every stage of TDKR to The Dark Knight which I stated to be unfair. It is only the verdict I believe where you should consider anything else. So, with much deliberation, I truly believe this latest and final instalment in the series is better than The Dark Knight, let me explain my reasoning.

Nolan has shown in the previous two, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, that action is a must in these types of films. However, in the previous double I think Christopher missed the emotional feel of being a superhero and of those loved-ones around the hero. For instance, when Rachel died, we never really saw Batman's true heartbroken feelings as he was more worried about the Harvey Dent cover-up story with Commissioner Gordon, Batman then fled into to the night.

In this new film, we see a whole new vulnerable, timid and broken side to Bruce/Batman. I do not wish to belittle The Dark Knight but if you take Heath Ledger's performance of The Joker out, you have standard plot that is overdrawn and could have ended sooner. If we reminisce back to the 2009 Academy Awards where The Dark Knight received eight nominations, the film only won two; these being for Sound Editing and of course, Heath's performance in a Supporting Role. This tells us that The Dark Knight was lead by the strength of one actor's portrayal.

The Dark Knight Rises however, is this time plot-driven. A film can either be plot-driven or character-driven, I believe plot-driven is better and more difficult to achieve. Plot-driven means a narrative is the strongest component of a film and the characters ignite the superb writing, whereas a character-driven movie relies on the sole ability of individuals to carry the narrative. This is where TDKR and The Dark Knight differ. To be fair, it is a matter of opinion whether you prefer character or plot-driven movies but the latter I feel is most difficult, thus giving TDKR the edge.

The film delivers a great spectacle of visual effects, amazing performances by a stellar cast, a few twists and turns along the way. Nolan gives his audience a movie that is so much more than just a superhero action thriller, he gives them a message. The message of courage, love and if you fail at something you can always try again. There is so much to take from TDKR that it is a pleasure to watch as Christopher Nolan, a true visionary genius creates a thematic and historic piece of cinema that could be remembered as one of the greatest trilogies of all time.

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Star Rating: 5/5
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Why? It's the end to a fantastic trilogy
When: Opened July 20th
Where: The cinema
Cost: Varies
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