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The Dark Knight Rises
Genre Action
 
Review:

Christopher Nolan is a perfectionist, a conductor who insists that every instrument at his disposal is finely calibrated and double-checked. This means his films are always beautiful and reinforced by strong writing, powerful music and breathtaking visuals. His clinical precision could be accused of siphoning the warmth, imperfection and joy out of film, but he does tend to work on the colder, darker more serious side of the spectrum.

In The Dark Knight Rises, Batman is still despised by Gotham City, after taking the fall for the "martyr" and bastion of justice, Harvey Dent. Eight years on, Bruce Wayne is forced out of early retirement to don the Batman mask again when a terrorist known as Bane wreaks havoc across the city.

The Dark Knight Rises is another beautiful film, but as with most sequels, seems to be bloated and trying to do too much. The scatter-shot genre selection certainly makes The Dark Knight Rises an intricate affair with far-reaching influences, but this all-embracing approach loses focus. Having a star-studded cast enhances the level of performance, but also insists that each character has enough depth and time to bask in the limelight, adding to the words and overall duration.

In this review, you will find that The Dark Knight Rises isn't so much a superhero film as it is an every-film, trying to embrace every classic movie genre to the point that you can't decide whether this underdog story is more like Coriolanus, Kickboxer, Megamind, Rocky, Spider-Man 2 or The Day After Tomorrow.

Christopher Nolan's action set pieces are electric, ranging from one-on-one fist fight encounters to motorbike chases involving armies of police squad cars. The Dark Knight Rises is punctuated by these exhilarating moments, whether Anne Hathaway is trying to one-up Scarlett Johansson or Christian Bale is slamming bad guys as the dark hero.

There's even gritty prisoner-of-war adventure as Bruce Wayne reaches an all-time low point and is forced to dig deep to rekindle his will to live. He's spurred on to transcend his body and do the near-impossible, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in an attempt to save the world from Bane and his henchmen.

The film catapults us into state-of-the-art CG sequences to enhance the experience from new weapons technology to explosive football arena mayhem. The Batman legacy is founded on comic books and entrenched in animation and there's a good balance of real versus unreal. The visuals have been refined to the point that The Dark Knight Rises rarely loosens its firm grip on the fragile world of Gotham City.

Tom Hardy based his accent on Bartley Gorman, known as the "King of the Gypsies", an undefeated champion of bare-knuckle fighting in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Tom Hardy's Romani gypsy accent is as distinct as Yoda's, actually making the one-man army's words sound much more intelligent. While it's not a direct biography of Bartley Gorman, the way that Bane and Batman interact makes The Dark Knight Rises seem like the swaggering plot for a fight movie like Rocky, or even Kickboxer.

The Joker isn't mentioned once in the film out of respect for the late Heath Ledger, but there are some funny moments from new villain on the block, Bane. His unique voice and philosophical slant make him serious, but this just adds to the occasion and delivery of the dark comedy and oddball one-liners. Then there's Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle's cat-and-bat relationship, which adds to the comedy with a few moments of brief levity.

Nolan said that each film in the trilogy dealt with a central theme: pain in Batman Begins, fear in The Dark Knight and chaos in The Dark Knight RisesBatman has always been about organised crime and maniacal villains on the cusp of overrunning Gotham. The Dark Knight Rises continues this trajectory, escalating the severity of criminal activity from bank robberies to acts of terrorism to create a sense of urban chaos.

As with most sequels, there are more characters. Anne Hathaway dons the Catwoman suit as Selina Kyle and a whole host of Inception actors have been cast in key supporting roles, with Tom Hardy as Bane, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Blake and Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate. The bloated ensemble adds up to more dialogue, more subplots and as a result more talky drama - ratcheting the run time up to 165 minutes, Nolan's longest film yet.

Batman is one of the few self-made superheroes, giving James Bond an incognito alter-ego with a limitless amount of technology and money at his disposal. This Bruce Wayne playboy by day, masked Batman vigilante by night may not be every guy's fantasy, but certainly adds another dimension to the dream lifestyle with cocktail parties, jet-setting, sports cars and a league of beautiful women.

Nolan's film-making is characterised by a sense of timelessness, establishing an era that is free from trends, using classic wardrobe choices that could span a century, and setting the story in spaces that have old world class and futuristic ambitions. Building these stylistic constructs on top of themes like pain, fear and chaos keep the heart of the film rooted in humanity's unerring past, present and future... making his film content difficult to place in history.

The horror of humanity is the crux of the Dark Knight saga, showing the dark side of the human heart and reveling in the complexities of good, evil and the grey area in-between. Some of the characters could have been picked from nightmares and have been designed to intimidate. Bane's imposing frame and his Hannibal Lecter style headgear make him a juggernaut and a worthy adversary for Batman.

The Dark Knight Rises is accompanied by an epic and foreboding soundtrack that continues where The Dark Knight left off. Hans Zimmer and Christopher Nolan's impressive work on Inception showed just how powerful a soundtrack can be and have transplanted the same idea in their latest collaboration, adding gravity and significance to every scene.

Mystery propels the story. Gotham City doesn't know who the Batman is, or what drives him, and after taking the fall in The Dark Knight, his existence and intentions are shrouded in even more darkness as Bruce Wayne retreats from society. The lighting casts a shadow on each character's face and we're distanced from their true motives, creating complexity and an air of mystery, in which any character could snap.

While the arc for romance has been discordant with Maggie Gyllenhaal replacing Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, it remains prevalent in The Dark Knight Rises as Bruce Wayne becomes involved once again. He may be mourning the loss of Rachel, but develops one or two budding romantic interests in the process, adding to the cast's collective chemistry.

Science-fiction isn't a traditional staple for Batman, but couple this with the arsenal of Iron Man type weapons technology, futuristic production design and an apocalyptic Children of Men style vision of the future, and suddenly The Dark Knight Rises has a hard sci-fi edge. Nolan downplays the science-fiction by grounding the munitions and vehicles by putting it at the cutting edge of top secret military, but it's a digitised voice and a hi-tech cockpit away from the realm of Transformers.

You wouldn't imagine a superhero movie could revolve around sport, but call downtown Gotham City a boxing ring and you've got an underdog fighting movie. This is made very clear from the brute force of Bane, whose movements are like a heavyweight boxer, packing powerful punches and absorbing attacks like a tank. Jean-Claude Van Damme and Sylvester Stallone would be proud of Batman's reliance on good old-fashioned hand-to-hand combat to settle who is the undisputed champion.

The Dark Knight Rises is also a thriller, adding a classic time constraint after presenting a number of obstacles for Batman to overcome. This taut atmosphere of unrest is perpetuated by the driving soundtrack from Zimmer, which adds magnitude to even the smallest detail. Suspense drives the dopamine levels up as our hero moves from one precarious situation to the next.

Then, The Dark Knight Rises could have been called Battle: Gotham City. Ralph Fiennes recently acted in and directed Coriolanus, essentially adapting Shakespeare's play into modern warfare. Here, Christopher Nolan has done something similar, by blowing a superhero film into a war movie, turning Gotham City into a war zone and pitting the police against the people in a quarantined city ruled by terrorists.

It's also a Western in the same way a lone gunman and his posse help a small town rise up, fight for themselves and protect their way of life from the threat of bandits. Stand-offs, showdowns, sidekicks and protecting the law in the Wild West... the only thing that's missing is Stetsons and spurs.

All in all, The Dark Knight Rises is a dark, intense, first-class production that manages to tie-in with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight without tarnishing the trilogy. As a big budget sequel, it's typically bloated and long, adding a new wave of Inception characters to spice things up with a scene-stealing Darth Vader meets Yoda villain in Tom Hardy as Bane and an elegant cat burglar in Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. What Nolan's slick direction lacks in heart, he makes up for in cold clinical class. While The Dark Knight Rises is entertaining and thought-provoking, its meandering soul and sheer scale make it relentless and difficult to digest.

The bottom line: Monstrous

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