The Dark Knight Rises is one of the most depressing and haunting films I've ever seen. It shows us a city on the verge of total destruction without any hope. As the minutes tick toward the finale we, the audience, can only assume the worst is yet to come. The film is coated with layer upon layer of despair that weighs down everyone, pulling them into a black abyss. It's also a fitting end to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. Despite the plot’s almost unpalatable darkness Nolan creates a film that is intensely gripping and tragically moving.
The film takes place 8 years following the death of Harvey Dent at the end of The Dark Knight. The Batman is no more and Bruce Wayne has become a Howard Hughes-like recluse. Gotham’s crime is at an all-time low and the city appears to be on the mend. Then terrorist leader Bane shows up and soon the Batman forced out of retirement. Nolan’s previous Batman films have been dark and brooding, but TDKR is excessively so. Bane’s physical and psychological battle against Batman is painful to watch and his terrorist attacks are equally unnerving. TDKR is nearly relentless in its assault on the audience making the final showdown between Bane and Batman surprisingly anticlimactic. Thankfully Nolan makes up for this with his devotion to the previous films.
While most film series simply place the existing characters in new narratives, Nolan uses TDKR to bring the story full circle. There are numerous references and flashbacks to the previous films and a continuing expansion of the trilogy’s socio-political themes. The end result is a trilogy that feels more like one cohesive film rather than three separate ones.
Although TDKR is a great film and a strong conclusion to Nolan’s trilogy it is not perfect, nor is it as strong as The Dark Knight. The main issue is the overabundance of new characters that bog the first half of the film down; the pacing of the film is tight, but the plot is a little too complex. There are also a few shortcuts in the script that prove to be a little too convenient (how did Bruce Wayne get back to Gotham city?). Nolan also tries to throw us a red herring that long-time comic fans probably won’t fall for.
Critiques aside TDKR is an excellent film. It perfectly concludes Nolan’s Batman trilogy even if it does not live up to the superb The Dark Knight. As difficult as it might be for young viewers and the squeamish, fans of the previous films will no doubt enjoy it. Even if it is an exercise in brooding pain and suffering.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars