This is the most hyped, anticipated, expected, awaited and pushed film of the year, bar none. The only film that comes close to this is the Avengers, in terms of sheer hype.
Fans were speculating on plot details and characters for months before it was released (remember the furore when Liam Neeson was spotted on set?). And yet, all one needs to do is turn their eye back four years when the Dark Knight was released, and it was much the same then.
After it was released, of course, the general consensus was that it was a good film. A masterpiece, in fact. Easily into the IMDB top 10, the only detractors to this film were the very loud ‘haters’, acting in proxy to those that loved it. For me, the Dark Knight is a tad overrated; long, at times indecipherable, and I’m not sure that Ledger’s performance was as good as it is hailed to be (shoot me).
So, I went into Rises with a certain amount of trepidation; the trailers were good but not spectacular, I couldn’t understand Bane (Tom Hardy)’s voice in them, and I had serious worries about Catwoman. I could tell early on that it was not going to be a ‘bad’ film, but maybe disappointing, which is perhaps worse.
I came out of Rises amazed. All my fears were assuaged within ten minutes of it starting, and by the end I felt genuinely thrilled, exhilarated. It had flaws, of course, but this is a true epic, in the old school David Lean sense of the word. Big, bold, exciting, symbolic, and gorgeous, emotional, heart-breaking, pulse-thumping. This takes you under its wing (ha) and shows you things you couldn’t imagine.
The story is set eight years after the last one. Batman is disgraced, his alter ego Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is a Nosferatu-esque recluse, stalking the halls of his mansion at night with a cane and no cartilage in his knees, as his doctor bluntly puts it, and there is something very dark going on in Gotham involving that thug with a mask, Bane (who, thankfully, I could understand perfectly in the actual film). Bane has big plans for Gotham, part of which involves unmasking Harvey Dent, the man who Batman took the fall for and who, despite being hailed a hero, was a murderous psychopath spawned from the Joker.
Bane is, for me, the best thing about this film. He has with the scary unpredictability of the Joker, coupled with a genuine physical presence (his punch-ups with Batman will have you wincing). He is intelligent, scheming, and like all the best villains, oddly vulnerable (when asked what would happen if he was unmasked, he curtly replies ‘it would be extremely painful’). He is also joined by Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) as the other big new character of the film. She perhaps has the trickier job in this film; conveying the cat-burglar trying to suppress her own conscience, and where she could have been annoying and throwaway, she manages to hold her own with sincerity and vigour.
The action packed-climax is a true treat. Wonderfully shot, it sets the heart racing like few other films could do, building on what’s been threatened in prior. It is a wonderful climax, and feels natural given the dark and sombre tone of what has gone before.
As expected, the supporting cast do their bits perfectly (Michael Caine in particular bought the waterworks on more than one occasion). Morgan Freeman is given more to do this time around, and is never unnecessary. Joseph Gordon Levitt and Marion Cotillard also turn up as a cop with a heart of gold and trustworthy businessman respectively, and seem to round off the film’s rough edges, with Levitt in particular bringing a sense of heart.
It is also massively flawed; don’t let anyone tell you this is perfect, because it’s not, by any means. The relentlessly dark tone can be off-putting. There were one too many twists as well, I felt, including one that seemed to come from nowhere. And if you find one scene almost too reminiscent of Inception You’re not alone.
But these flaws all serve to make this film, and what a film it is. See it, be thrilled, and see it again, because no matter what the haters say this time around, this is proper spectacle, good old-fashioned fun, in the dark universe we love. A proper five-star blockbuster and one of my favourite films so far this year. I loved it.