The Dark Knight Rises
One of the truly remarkable aspects of Christopher Nolan’s batman trilogy is how sensible he makes it all seem given the absurd premise of the film, that of being a grown man dressed up as a giant bat flying around Gotham City at night with a huge pair of wings attached to his back. It is a bit like when you are having one of those weird dreams where everyone is behaving completely bonkers and you find nothing odd about it while you are asleep. It is only upon awakening that you realize just how crazy it all was. Similarly with Christopher Nolan’s films, it is only when reflecting on the movie afterwards that it fully dawns on you that in concept at least, his movies are just plain potty. In a sense however Batman has always been the more grounded of superheroes, who rather than possessing genuine superpowers is basically a trained Ninja who happens to be loaded, and is consequently able to acquire loads of cool gadgets and weaponry via his vast wealth and resources. But Christopher Nolan takes the realism aspect to a whole different level.
Prior to seeing this movie I fervently went through all the critic reviews I could find with the intent of discovering just how well this latest movie matches up to Mr. Nolan’s previous forays into the batman universe, given that he has raised the bar so very high with both Batman Begins and particularly Dark Knight, the prequel to this latest film. The opinions on this issue seemed somewhat mixed, which in retrospect after having watched the movie myself I find a bit baffling. I would have to go along with the general consensus however that the villain in the Dark Knight Rises could not be equated with the astonishing and mesmerizing performance of the late Heath Ledger, who portrayed the Joker character with such incredible panache and disturbing skin crawling menace. However Bane is still a very effective villain, and is so different in nature to the Joker villain it is hard to meaningfully make direct comparisons. But certainly Tom Hardy’s performance could not be criticized in any way, nor could the rendition of the underlying villainous character he was playing. It was superbly devised and superbly executed. This one observation notwithstanding, I would categorically rate Dark Knight Rises as being the most absorbing, visually stunning, suspenseful and epic of the Batman franchise to date. In fact I cannot think of another movie that I have seen recently that had such a profound effect on me.
There are a number of different elements working together which make the film what it is, but it is clear that Christopher Nolan’s zealously grounded approach to film-making has really paid off in this latest movie. It is no secret that Mr. Nolan is not a particularly huge fan of CGI, and will only use computer generated imagery when forced to do so in order to visually portray an element of the film that would be impossible to do otherwise. This movie is without doubt visually groundbreaking in its realism, which given the remarkably photo-realistic computer effects of contemporary big budget CGI driven movies is a very strong statement to make, but one that is completely justified however. Your eyes will be popping out of your head through much of the movie and at some points in the film your jaw will drop so low it might actually come off.
One aspect of the visuals is the stunning cinematography, including sweeping panoramic aerial shots of Gotham City at night. The other is Christopher Nolan’s incredible utilization of physically custom built apparatus and machines, combined no doubt at times with some computer wizardry, but in a fully seamless way. Nothing, and I mean nothing in this film looks like anything slightly resembling computer generated graphics, and it is only your common sense that tells you that CGI must have been incorporated in certain parts of the film in order for you to be seeing what you are seeing.
Compared to its predecessor the narrative is more tightly focused on the central storyline without multiple themes and subplots to distract the viewer’s attention away from the main plot of the film, which is unfortunately something which made the previous Dark Knight movie feel slightly fragmented and disjointed at times. And this film is better for it, promoting a more gripping, suspenseful and absorbing narrative. Gone too (almost) are the pretentious overly melodramatic lines of dialogue which were present in the previous film, which unfortunately didn’t always work too well. There are as usual certain political and economic undertones incorporated within the movie, providing the striking dichotomy between serious contemporary issues and a universe where a man flies around the city at night calling himself Batman. Nonetheless it still works. And works extremely well.
Although the movie’s running time comes in at a whopping 165 minutes, the nearly three hours spent sitting in a cinema seat just whipped by, the profound and mysterious time dilation effect no doubt resulting from the total immersion in the film’s gripping narrative and stunning action sequences. The movie certainly has an emotional wallop to it and it is hard for the film not to impact on this level due to the convincing realism of the movie and the fact you are gradually getting drawn further and further into the Batman universe and correspondingly developing an increasing emotional investment in the fates and misfortunes of the main characters of the film. And there is the mother of all twists at the end to boot. All this combines to produce what is undoubtedly one of the most stunning films to come out of Hollywood in recent years. Rest assured I will be seeing this movie on the big screen as many times as my wallet will allow me to.
I never dreamt in a million years that at 41 years of age I would be proclaiming a Batman movie to be one of the greatest films ever made. But today I make such a proclamation.