The Dark Knight Rises (cert. 12A) is Christopher Nolan’s latest take on the Batman franchise, and it’s a long essay on the danger of allowing evil to prosper. Not that the citizens of Gotham City have much choice, as baddie Bane (as opposed to goodie Wayne) seems to hold all the cards.
There’s no sign of The Joker, Heath Ledger playing that role having died before the release of The Dark Knight (2008). Instead we get Bane (Tom Hardy), face partially covered by a mask, whose physical strength is more than a match for enfeebled Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), who hasn’t been seen as the Batman for years.
Wayne has become a bit of a recluse since taking the blame for murders committed by Harvey Dent (in the last movie), but that’s about to change. His faithful servant Alfred (Michael Caine) has kept things ticking over at Wayne Manor, and at Wayne Enterprises Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) has developed not just a new Batmobile, but a new flying machine, called the Bat.
Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a young policeman who has more than a suspicion about the identity of the Batman, gets involved, annoying his boss Foley (Matthew Modine) but getting the ear of police commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman). Anne Hathaway gets the glamour role as a cat burglar, Selina Kyle, who has a link to Bane. Throughout the movie, threads ar
e laid and they all eventually come together in a web of intrigue – it’s quite clever, but a bit forced, and the “happy ending” might be real or illusion. Director Nolan has indicated that he will not be turning the trilogy into a tetralogy.
Until the final reel, the reasons for things happening are not always that clear, and what with Wayne’s Batman growl and Bane’s mask muffling his words (like a croaky Darth Vader) subtitles would have helped at times. Thankfully, the best lines of dialogue seem to come through, though Bane’s quip that “there’s no true despair without hope” doesn’t acknowledge its origin in John Cleese’s famous quote from Clockwise, “I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.”
Action movie staples abound – chases, wondering why bullets always miss targets, and I must admit that while Bane was beating Wayne to a pulp I wasn’t too worried. I thought that in the end it would work out all right.
What seems a bit of a sub-plot has Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) investing in Wayne’s clean energy project, but even this financial (and romantic) interest has more to it than first appears. The who-can-trust-whom scenarios start getting out of hand, but Bane remains the one to defeat.
Bane turns Wayne’s experimental nuclear fusion machine into a bomb, and has Gotham City at his mercy, while Wayne languishes in a hell-hole prison from which escape seems impossible. Thankfully another prisoner (Tom Conti) can tell him differently.
Bane’s mission of “giving Gotham back to the people” becomes a full-blown reference to the French Revolution. A hotel doorkeeper attacks aristo clients, a tribunal presided over by Cillian Murphy at the top of a barricade sentences people to “death or exile” and, if that wasn’t explicit enough, Commissioner Gordon gets to recite the imagined last words of Sydney Carton over a bodyless grave.
A bit of real social comment is in there though. When Bane and his crew invade the Gotham Stock Exchange, a trader protests that there’s nothing there to steal. “Then why are you people here?” is his rather topical response.
The whole thing is indeed a dark fable, greatly assisted by Hans Zimmer’s pulsating score. Nolan’s insistence that he’d only do another in the series if there was a decent script is vindicated – he wrote it himself with younger brother Jonathan.