The true sequel to Batman Begins.
It was always going to be an uphill battle to deliver a performance that was on par with Ledger’s Joker, but Hardy manages to do quite well for himself. I first took notice of Hardy during Inception and even though he was a supporting member, there was something about him that leaped off the screen. Hardy has an “Old Hollywood” look that’s feels both classy and edgy and he manages to bring those sensibilities to his performance as Bane who’s equally classy as he is ferocious. Hardy’s abilities as a physical actor are fully utilized in The Dark Knight Rises as he’s forced to use everything but his face to convey emotion. Even with most of his face covered, Hardy’s able to show so much through a simple look in his eyes as well as his posture. What makes Bane such a compelling villain isn’t just his musclebound figure; he’s intelligent, calculated, and charismatic, which makes him a great foil for Batman.
The sewer set piece between Batman and Bane is effective because of how well it establishes Bane’s menace and strength over Batman. After eight years away from the cape and cowl, Batman is in no shape to be squaring off against Bane. While Batman is physically deteriorating, Bane seems to be impervious to pain or weakness thus giving him an advantage over Batman. Every resource that Batman uses against Bane is ineffective against the towering behemoth who anticipates Batman’s every move and finds a way to counteract them. The lack of score was also a nice touch as it adds a bit of intimacy and dread to an already hopeless situation. The hand-to-hand combat in The Dark Knight Trilogy might be Nolan’s weak point , but the sewer set piece manages to be one of the most primal Batman fight sequences ever put onscreen.
Plot, plot, plot! Plot holes don’t bother me all that much, but if a film favors plot over mood or character, then the script better be tighter than a spandex suit in the middle of summer. What was the point of the fusion reactor other than to serve as a MacGuffin for the third act? Since there was never any mention of it during the prior films, Rises has to dedicate so much screen time to the fusion reactor that it takes time away from the themes and characters. Rises isn’t interested in character so much as it is in wrapping everything up and it’s evident when you consider the fact that most of the major characters are out of commission for most of the film.
John Blake and Selina Kyle fit quite nicely in Nolan’s Batverse and manage to hold the fort down, but major players like Jim Gordon and to an extent, Batman himself, are pushed to the sidelines for a good chunk of the film. Gordon and Batman spend a good portion of the film lying in bed unable to do much of anything that they’re inconsequential to the the film’s plot until the third act. If Rises was meant to be a conclusion for these characters, why are they pushed to the sidelines. There’s too much going on here and it all comes in precedence over our main heroes. Even with bigger set pieces, a longer runtime, and a massive ensemble, everything still feels clunky.
The Dark Knight Rises is half ambitious and half lazy, but both halves somehow manage to work together to deliver an ending that’s both gratifying and triumphant. Rises was never going to live up to The Dark Knight, but there is no reason for a film like this to feel so lazy especially when it’s being directed by Nolan. Rises was given a longer runtime, bigger ensemble, but surface level thrills mean nothing without compelling characters and a central theme to hold it together. Despite how clumsily it gets to the finish line, Rises does manage to effectively conclude the story of Bruce Wayne.
This is the first Batman film that focuses on Bruce Wayne as opposed to his alter ego. In Batman Begins, Bruce creates the Batman as a symbol to unite the people of Gotham to take back their city; Batman was never about enacting a never-ending vendetta against crime so much as it was to inspire Gotham to take action. However, somewhere along the way, Bruce lost that idea and instead of moving on, he lay in wait for Gotham’s cries for a savior. The Dark Knight Rises isn’t about the rise of Batman, but the rise and return of Bruce Wayne from the pit of fear and pain that he’d been living in since Batman Begins. Bruce Wayne’s rise allows him to finally leave behind Batman and Gotham with the knowledge that even if the city no longer needs a hero, there will always be a Batman there to start the fire should they ever need it.