The Dark Knight Rises

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, and Morgan Freeman. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Rated M (Violence). 164 min.

This American superhero film is the latest in the series based on the DC Comics character, Batman, that has been directed by Christopher Nolan.'"Batman Begins" (2005) began the series, and was followed by "The Dark Knight" (2008). "The Dark Knight", world-wide, took over one billion dollars at the Box Office.

Batman has a long history on film, and this movie is intended to be the conclusion of Nolan's trilogy. Most of the same characters appear again, but there are some new arrivals. Bane (Tom Hardy) is a new arch-villain, and Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) enters into the fray as Bane's associate, and the eventual love interest of Batman.

Batman has taken the fall for the crimes of deranged District Attorney, Harvey Dent. He has lost his true love, and he has been chased into exile by Gotham City's Police, who want him for the terrible things they believe he has done. A frightening new psychopathic villain, Bane, emerges to terrorise Gotham City and destroy it, and a mysterious cat burglar, Selina, presages his arrival.

As in the previous two films, Bruce Wayne - alias Batman (Christian Bale) - is the rich socialite, who has dedicated his life to the protection of Gotham City. He first appears in the film as a recluse from his role as the guardian of Gotham City. It is eight years since he fled the city, and he walks bearded and with the aid of a cane. Michael Caine still plays Alfred Pennyworth, his father-figure and trusted butler, whose loyalty to Batman is tested in the film, and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) continues to supply Batman with high-tech pieces of equipment, including a car that flies, and does other unbelievable things.

Batman is the victim of his own angst. Like most comic-book super-heroes, he is noble in spirit, but humanly flawed. He is torn between the stresses he has endured from fighting crime in disguise and unbelieved, and the fear he has that he may actually fail, and become the kind of person everyone thinks he is. Bane plays on Batman's fear of failing to take Batman to the limits of his psychological endurance. He tests him both physically and mentally, and is a terrorist in thought as well as action. In this film, Batman is close to a crisis of personal identity, and Bane serves the dual purpose of confronting Batman with his demons, and jolting him out of his sullenness to help save Gotham City from itself.

This movie is much more psychologically complex than its two predecessors. It is visually spectacular, but combines engrossing, dramatic character development, with state-of-the-art special effects, without the emotional drama being compromised. Bane may not be the mad eccentric that The Joker was in "The Dark Knight", but his scheming and evil plans are haunting, and the film is scripted brilliantly to show him insidiously at work. His pathological cruelty lends a chilling touch to the whole movie, and the film plays intelligently with the modern-day perils of terrorism, and economic collapse.

The film's use of high resolution cameras is well suited to the IMAX screen, and they give the film special impact. On a large screen, the highly original, opening aerial sequence, and the scenes of the destruction of Gotham City look tremendous. But reflecting the spirit of the movie, and Nolan's fascination with architecture (which he showed to such great effect in "Inception", 2010), the film guides you to the inevitable inference that it is human greed, hypocrisy, and social injustice which really bring down the city's buildings, and its bridges. And Batman is the hero that such a city deserves - its conflicted, Dark Knight.

There are moments of lightness in the movie, mainly coming from Anne Hathaway's finely nuanced performance, but mostly the film is brooding, dark, and grim. In its complexity, however, lies the strength of a genuine psychological thriller, that also moves in overwrought emotional directions. In the final part of the film, the plot undergoes startling turns, and keeps the dramatic tension alive through the ambiguity of a surprise ending.

Despite its length and complexity, this is the best film in the Batman series to date. It will soar at the Box Office. Nolan and his production team will no doubt be tempted to find some reason to contemplate, "The Dark Knight Rises Again".

Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

 

Warner Bros. Pictures.

 

Out July 19, 2012.


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