RARELY does a film trilogy manage to maintain its quality and momentum throughout the entire series.
Many franchises start strongly and falter along the way as studios place pressure on creative forces to ensure that more money is raked in each time.
In recent years we’ve seen Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy begin with two brilliant entries but lose its way in the final chapter (Emo Peter Parker is best forgotten).
The (then) Wachowski Brothers The Matrix set up an intriguing world within a world but then threw it all away with two underbaked sequels (and a credibility’-erasing rave party scene). And let’s not mention The Godfather: Part III or Jurassic Park III.
There are exceptions to the rule, of course. The Indiana Jones trilogy (note that I said trilogy) and the original Star Wars flicks (Ewoks notwithstanding) are classics and practically critic proof. Same goes with the Back to the Future, Toy Story and The Lord of the Rings franchises.
So it was with excitement and some trepidation that I ventured in to see Christopher Nolan’s final chapter in his Batman series. After a strong opening and then a sequel that surpassed the original with a memorable performance from the late Health Ledger as The Joker, Nolan declared this would be his final visit to Gotham City and the good news is that he doesn’t disappoint.
Most importantly, try to catch The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX. Nolan shot over an hour of the film in IMAX and the format suits the grand scope of the cinematography well. As far as I’m concerned, IMAX is the future of cinema, not 3D.
The performances are all uniformly solid. Bale once again brings gravitas and vulnerability to the Bruce Wayne/ Batman role, although I still have no idea why he suddenly requires a cough drop as soon as he dons the Batsuit.
Michael Caine makes the most of Alfred Pennyworth with a couple of great scenes which essentially bookend the film.
I’ve never been a big fan of Anne Hathaway but I have to admit that she won me over as Selena Kyle (the name Catwoman is never uttered in the film). As a skilled cat burglar torn between Batman and the bad guys, Hathaway brings charisma and sassiness to a character that could easily have been played as a wisecracking sidekick (see Alicia Silverstone’s Batgirl).
Tom Hardy is virtually unrecognisable as the principal villain; the muscle-bound masked mercenary Bane.
Much had been made of his incomprehensible voice in the trailer, but I had no problems understanding Hardy who appears to be channelling Darth Vader and Colonel Sanders’ love child.
The story picks up eight years after the last film. Bruce Wayne is a broken man, both physically and mentally. Only Bane’s terrorist attacks on Gotham City can convince him to become The Dark Knight for potentially the last time.
Nolan’s screenplay, co-written with his brother Jonathan, gives everyone their moment to shine and neatly wraps up all of the storyline strands from the previous chapters. A few plot holes and lapses in logic may leave you scratching your head after the fact (see my website for the plot holes after you have seen the film) but at the time, it’s hard not to be captivated by Nolan’s superb ability as a storyteller.
I can’t recall a film in recent memory that makes its hero suffer for the audience as much as The Dark Knight Rises but, in my books, this magnificent final entry in Nolan’s Batman trilogy is one of this year’s best films.