Bat’s All, Folks
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
It could have gone wrong.
            Threequels tend to suck (Spider-Man 3, X-Men: The Last Stand) and Christopher Nolan, having not made a bad film yet, is kind of due for a fall. Add to that the fact that The Dark Knight was one of those rare sequels that was better than its progenitor, eclipsing Batman Begins in almost every way, and a betting man might start to worry: could Nolan’s third and final jaunt into the world of Batman not be up to scratch?
            Happily for all concerned, such worries are groundless. While it doesn’t quite capture TDK‘s heady mix of comic book iconography, thematic depth, and psychological pathos, it’s a fine film, and a worthy endpoint to what has been a consistently excellent series.
            The film opens some eight years after the events of TDK, with Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) policing a quiet, almost crime-free city. The Batman has not been seen since the death of Harvey Dent, and his alter ego, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is now a tortured recluse. It isn’t long, though, before his old instincts are reignited by a burglary committed by master thief Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway – and the name Catwoman is never uttered), which may be linked to the shadowy plans of the masked mercenary, Bane (Tom Hardy). It isn’t long before all of Gotham is in peril, and Bruce has to strap on the black again to save the day, but at what cost?
            It’s a hugely ambitious film, epic in scale and length (it clocks in at almost three hours), and if it doesn’t always hit the high notes it’s reaching for, it’s not for want of trying. What impresses the most is how organic the whole thing feels. This isn’t a tacked-on cash-grab, but the final part of a long and wholly engaging narrative; a final chapter that ties up most, if not all, of the threads from the first two films and making them part of a seamless whole.
            And yet the film still has its own identity. For one thing, it’s the one out of the three that feels the most like a comic book, embracing the fun and occasionally silly thrills of the medium. Which isn’t to say it’s a laugh a minute, but it allows itself room to breathe and smile, which is something of a relief after the incredibly dour prior instalment. That it does so while still delivering an emotionally satisfying coda to the trilogy is truly impressive – indeed, it feels like Nolan is finally relaxing into the film’s genre, rather than fighting against it.
            The problems of the series have not been remedied – Nolan’s intricate plotting still doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny, and that voice is still an issue – but the film gets so much right that it’s trifling to complain about such things. It’s not as much fun as The Avengers, but it was never trying to be; The Dark Knight Rises is Nolan’s superhero curtain call, and anyone who loved the earlier films will be well pleased by this one. 
(First published in X-Press issue 1328, 25/07/2012)

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