The Dark Knight Rises Movie Review 2 28

The Dark Knight Rises movie review

Few blockbusters since, well, The Dark Knight have had as much fan anticipation going into them as the third instalment in director Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise. Not only is it the last Batman film the director will ever make but it brings to a conclusion a telling of the Batman legacy so successfully accomplished first with Batman Begins and then with The Dark Knight. The eyes of the film world have been on this project from the get-go and it’s finally here.

Interestingly it takes place some eight years on from where The Dark Knight’s story ended, with Harvey Dent still a memory of the hope and goodness that’s possible for Gotham and the Batman nowhere to be seen, Bruce Wayne now a recluse hidden away in the confines and comfort of Wayne Manor. But when a formidable terrorist-like foe in the form of the mighty Bane arrives to wreak havoc and carry out his plan to destroy the city forever, it’s up to Batman to rise up and save it.

Quite astonishingly Nolan and Co. have managed to deliver on the huge promises of this denouement. The Dark Knight Rises is grand and epic, at once more grounded in reality like Batman Begins but yet feels huge like The Dark Knight. What we have here is a successful blend of Nolan’s previous installments which works on multiple, separate levels while still gelling together as a cohesive whole that feels thoroughly satisfying.

Key to what made The Dark Knight so successful, both as a film itself and at the box office (let’s face it), was The Joker being the villain. How on earth to accomplish the mammoth task of following in the late Heath Ledger’s all-time great villainous footsteps? The Dark Knight Rises has done exactly that with Bane. Though The Joker may be more interesting and dynamic to watch Bane is nonetheless a fantastic villain, brought to life with brilliant ferociousness by Tom Hardy. His peculiar muffled, almost mad scientist-like voice and intimidating appearance make him compelling but Hardy’s performance, driven by the looks in his eyes, make him truly memorable.

The Dark Knight Rises movie review1

Bane represents the first time Batman has had to deal with a physically dominant enemy, one whose brawn outmatches his own and who he feels powerless to stop. Hand-to-hand combat scenes between the two act like centre-pieces to the film, a different kind of fight than what we’ve seen from the franchise thus far and they are supremely effective. Their first such encounter, for example, feeds off of the sense of dread and anticipation, punctuated by an eerie silent break from Hans Zimmer’s otherwise epic score. But what also makes Bane such a great villain is that he’s not just a mindless thug who can fight and nothing more. He is also very intelligent to boot and that combination makes him extremely dangerous indeed. Where The Joker represented pure anarchy, Bane represents total control and brute force. This lends the film a unique atmosphere all its own, setting itself apart from the previous two as much as it draws from them.

Brother screenwriting duo Christopher and Jonathan Nolan do an amazing job of handling a lot of different major characters. Not only do we have Batman and Bane to deal with, as well as the usual suspects like Alfred (Michael Caine), Lucius (Morgan Freeman) and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), we also have newcomers like Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the heroic police officer Blake, Marion Cotillard as the woman helping Bruce out with the company and, of course, Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle AKA Catwoman. Nolan manages to include the latter rather impressively, grounding that most comic book-ish of characters in the reality he has so meticulously crafted for his iteration of Batman. None of the characters feel superfluous in any way. Quite an achievement when you think about it.

At 164 minutes The Dark Knight Rises is a mammoth blockbuster even by today’s standards where, for some reason, every major Hollywood movie needs to stretch on for days. But it never feels too long or drawn out or like it outstays its welcome. Whatever shortcomings it may have, particularly in its ending and how it resolves the Bane storyline, are nit-picks in the grand scheme of things. Nolan has a set-piece mentality that keeps the pace quick while still allowing for a lot of heady material to chew on with a comic book story that is as compellingly grounded as it is prescient.

The trilogy deserved this sort of conclusion.

So did we.

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I'm a freelance film reviewer and blogger with over 10 years of experience writing for various different reputable online and print publications. In addition to my running, editing and writing for Thoughts On Film, I am also the film critic for The National, the newspaper that supports an independent Scotland, covering the weekly film releases, film festivals and film-related features. I have a passion for all types of cinema, and have a particular love for foreign language film, especially South Korean and Japanese cinema. Favourite films include The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

2 Comments

    1. I don’t think there’s any beating Ledger’s Joker for the fun/fascinating/weird factor but Hardy’s Bane is also fantastic in my eyes. How about you?

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Movie Review: Home Again 0 346

This review was previously published at The National.

Despite an obviously talented leading lady in Reese Witherspoon and a family pedigree behind the camera in making this sort of rom-com flutter sweetly off the screen, Home Again struggles to finds its way out of cloying cliché and narrative contrivance.

This is the directorial debut of Hallie Myers-Shyer, daughter of genre stalwart Nancy Meyers (The Holiday, What Women Want). It focuses on the life of Alice Kinney (Witherspoon), a single mum who has just turned 40 and tries her best to raise her two daughters Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield) in Los Angeles with her job as an interior decorator.

Freshly separated from her British music mogul husband Austen (Michael Sheen), she embarks on a drunken birthday night celebration that leads to her meeting a trio of 20-something lads – Harry (Pico Alexander), George (Jon Rudnitsky) and Teddy (Nat Wolff) – who are trying their best to break into the Hollywood movie business.

The young men improbably end up staying in Alice’s guest house while they work on finishing the script for their first film. Before long they become an integral part of her life, from Alice embarking on a romantic relationship with Harry to George helping out Isabel with her school play. To quote the title of the director’s mother’s 2009 film – it’s complicated.

Except the film mistakes the kind of enjoyably frothy complexity exemplified by the best of the genre for skin-clawing convolution that renders much of the romantic and comedically-tinged drama of Alice’s life lacking in authenticity. Not that it needs the ring of truth that comes with, say, a Ken Loach picture but you need to be able to invest and believe in these characters’ lives as presented.

The approach to gender and generational relationships is simplistic which, of course, is nothing new to a genre that, at least in its Hollywoodized state, so often throws up films meant to be taken as easy-going fluff. But it’s particularly frustrating here when it squanders the potential thrown up with the initial concept of a woman trying to find herself again once she’s out of a stale relationship by entering into one with a much younger man.

It strangely seems far more interested in the plight of the three young men working as three cogs of one creative machine – director/producer, writer and actor – to get ahead in the movie business.  But even then it smacks of implausibility, like a cheap rom-com version of the bromance found in Entourage but without any of the snarky wit or Hollywood satire. Despite decent chemistry between a likeable assembled cast, Home Again is a tough pill to swallow as it rings false through and through.

3.5 out of 10

Movie Review: Goodbye Christopher Robin 0 370

This review was previously published at The National.

The world of celebrated children’s author A. A. Milne and the creation of his beloved Winnie the Pooh stories are chronicled in this frightfully polite biopic from director Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) that flirts with dipping its toes into darker waters but steadfastly clings to safe tropes and always with its top button firmly fastened.

We start off in 1941 where we find an ageing Milne (Domhnall Gleeson in questionable make-up and greyed hair) and his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) living on their secluded East Sussex farm. They receive a telegram informing them that their son, C.R. Milne, is missing presumed dead after heading off to fight in World War Two.

We then jump back in time to Milne on the front lines of the First World War. He returns from the fighting a changed man; suffering from PTSD (popped balloons evoking sudden gunfire et al.), becoming increasingly sick of just making people laugh with his West End plays and the general hustle-bustle that comes with big city life.

He convinces his reluctant wife to move to the country for some peace and quiet and where his infant son, Christopher Robin (played by Will Tilston at the younger age, Alex Lawther as he gets older), can go on the childhood adventures he deserves with the support of loving nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald).

Settling into the kind of serene life he craves, he is inspired to create Winnie the Pooh and the rest of his soon-to-be-beloved friends inspired by the stuffed animals with which his young son has become so enamoured. Unfortunately for Christopher – referred to by everyone as “Billy Moon” – his father uses his real name in the stories, turning him into one of the most famous boys in the nation.

Despite the obvious attraction of it exploring the world famous Pooh stories, it’s a film much more interested in the effect it has on a fractured family clinging on to peacefulness, not least the unwanted attention thrust upon a young boy who simply isn’t equipped to handle it and how his parents carry on oblivious.

If anything it takes a curiously bleak outlook on what these stories mean to the world once they’ve been put out there, conveying a somewhat confusing message for a film that ultimately wants us to celebrate these stories as immortally cherished tales; that the Winnie the Pooh embraced immediately by the public and has now stood the test of time for almost a century is in some way missing the point of what it truly means to the author and a son who, inadvertently or not, was used as a tool of innocence to sell the idea of an idyllic childhood in Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood.

It’s bolstered by almost uniformly moving performances; Gleeson plays Milne with a kind of damaged empathy that makes you feel like you get to know the author beyond the public persona. Macdonald is oftentimes heart-breaking as Christopher’s devoted caregiver and Tilston walks away with the film as the adorably sweet-natured young Christopher. It’s only with Robbie that the film makes a misstep; she’s miscast as Milne’s wife and never stepping out of the shadow of cold motherly cliché.

In spite of its darker leanings, the film remains too buttoned up to properly wrestle with those themes in any sort of lasting way, far too polite to ever dive head first into the murky waters into which the drama intermittently peers.

Wrapped in Ben Smithard’s handsomely old-fashioned cinematography and soaked in Carter Burwell’s perpetually swelling score, it’s an aesthetically and emotionally appealing but nevertheless fairly vanilla period biopic best suited to being enjoyed on a rainy Sunday afternoon with tea and biscuits.

6.5 out of 10