Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Written by: Willard Foxton

Superb, but is it the best Batman film?

Last night, I went to see the press screening of The Dark Knight Rises. It’s not often in a British audience, let alone a British audience made up of critics & industry insiders will spontaneously applaud as the credits roll on a film, but last night, they did.

Yes, it’s that good.

Batman vs Bane in The Dark Knight Rises

It’s an all round brilliant film. It delivers on every level – writing, performances, direction, effects.

As you know it’s the last Batman film, there’s a genuine tension I’ve never really felt in a superhero movie before. You watch the villain’s plot sliding into place, piece by piece, and think “you know, actually, they might win”.

You never see Bane go one on one with Batman and feel that Batman will win. Hardy brings an incredible physicality to the role – I felt myself wincing with every punch. The fight choreography, ably assisted by Zimmer’s pounding score, is brutal, direct. You’re watching boxing, not ballet.

Every performer – from the leads like Hathaway and Cotilliard, to minor roles (a great turn by Matthew Modine as sleazy cop, for example) gives their all. Action and chase sequences are brilliantly filmed, the oomph of practical effects far superior to the bland CGI fests we’ve become used to.

In particular, in one scene where Modine unleashes the entire Gotham PD on Batman, I found myself thinking: “I haven’t seen that many police cars since the Blues Brothers”. There are lovely nods for comics fans; and best of all, it’s not in shitty, infantilising 3D.

So, it’s fantastic. You should go & see it.

Right, so you’ve gone and seen it? Isn’t it amazing? Best film of the year?

Ok, so here’s the million dollar question – is it the best of the Nolan Trilogy?

It’s bound to be one of those arguments that goes back and forth between both hardcore nerds and cinema fans for years. Personally, I think Dark Knight pips out DK Rises as the better of the two films (come on, there are only two films in contention for “best Nolan Batman”).

Both films do hard themes; both do them well. I just think the motif of Dark Knight – what price vigiliantism? – is more interesting than Rises’ class war riffs. I think Dark Knight’s playboy Bruce Wayne is more appealing than the haggard man we see in Rises.

In term of performances, both Hardy and Ledger turn in career bests; but while Hardy’s mask impedes his acting (although not his voice; only in one scene did I struggle to understand him), Ledger’s only added to his creepy ethereal performance as the Joker. In the course of Rises, we find out perhaps too much about Bane; Joker manages to preserve his mystery, while remaining interesting.

Rises lacks a stunt as breathtaking as Dark Knight’s truck flip; it also lacks an action sequence as compelling as the bait and switch chase scene which leads up to that jawdropping moment. While Hathaway sizzles on screen as Catwoman (sorry, “Selina” – Nolan subtly hints at the animal motif without dropping it in fully), you really liked Maggie Gyllenhal as Rachel.

Of course, none of this is to say that Rises isn’t a huge achievement, and thumpingly good, five star film. It’s a Godfather vs. Godfather 2 argument; both are brilliant, but which is better? Tell me in the comments if you disagree, but whatever you do, watch this film.

Author: Willard Foxton

Willard Foxton is a some-time journalist & full-time nerd. He makes documentaries for the BBC & Channel 4. In his time off, he likes to think of himself as a cinéaste, but occasionally finds that label hard to sustain while enjoying things like Piranha 2: Flying Killers. You can find him on Twitter at @willardfoxton

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Responses to Review: The Dark Knight Rises

  1. Terry JonesNo Gravatar

    Damn you Willard for making want to blow money I haven’t got right now to go see this! 😉

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