Eight years after his disappearance and accusation of murder, Batman remains gone, with Bruce Wayne a recluse. But the emergence of a masked terror – and an intriguing cat burglar – lead to Batman making a return.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard
Run Time: 165 Minutes
Release Date: 20 July 2012 (US)
Like The Dark Knight, anticipation rises when a Batman film is due. The need for it to be better than the last one, for it to tell the story that others haven’t. In this case, it had to be the perfect end to what was going to be the final part of Christopher Nolan’s epic trilogy. The success – financial and critical – of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight added more weight and pressure on the third and final instalment to be even better than the previous two and the suitable conclusion to a series that had totally revitalised the franchise following the disastrous Schumacher outings.
However, pressure seems to have no effect on Nolan. He knows what is expected, but more importantly he knows what he can do. Unquestionably this is Nolan at his best; strong character development, suitable amounts of action and plenty of talking points. One of which is the surprisingly low amount of screen time Batman himself actually gets. Aside from a long overdue return – inevitably in a high-speed car chase with technological escape – and a literally crippling battle with Hardy’s Bane, the only time we really see Bats is the final act redemption battle. Of course, Nolan has equipped himself with a host of intriguing and strong characters, all of which can be – and are – mined for advancement and emotion.
That’s not to say Batman, and Wayne for that matter, doesn’t get his share of character development. The whole trilogy has been a development for Bruce Wayne; from a man still hanging on to his parents’ death and seeking justice, to a man looking for an escape from this life he has found himself in, to now a man who found the way out and yet is bound by a moral code to do good and help the city which gave him everything.
Eight years after disappearing following the death of Harvey Dent, Bruce Wayne is now a recluse, holed up inside his mansion with only faithful Alfred – played again with a calm magnificence by Michael Caine. This is the movie that finally allows his Alfred to showcase his full affection, love, and even frustration, with his longtime friend. One of the more moving scenes in the entire trilogy is Alfred making the heartbreaking decision to leave, in opposition to Wayne’s desire to battle Bane. This film finally gives Caine a chance to extend his acting skills beyond what we have seen so far, dropping much of the light comic relief seen in the first two films. Of course, this movie is much more serious. Bane presents a very different threat than Sandman, Ra’s Al Ghul or even Joker, and this necessitates a shift in tone that works, ensuring that minimal comparison can be made to The Dark Knight.
And on the subject of Bane; much was made ahead of the movie’s release of the supposed difficulty in understanding some of Tom Hardy’s vocals, however Bane is really never about the words he says but instead the actions he takes. Such as the trailer-friendly football stadium scene, still a spectacle despite its presence in the teasers. For possibly the first time in the Batman series, you fear that Bats has come up against an enemy that he can’t defeat. Some have criticised the first Batman-Bane battle for it’s overly choreographed action, but it’s almost-natural presentation,including having no backing music, add a certain gravitas to the proceedings.
Considering the meticulous amount of time Nolan clearly puts into his characters and their stories, it is disappointing that Bane’s particular story ends on such a weak note. It feels as though his end suffered in a busy final act that had several other stories to tell, though considering the amount of time put in throughout the rest of the movie, Bane deserved a better end.
And then there’s Selina Kyle. Nolan is wise to have Kyle never called by her more famous alter-ego, nor does she need to be. This is a very different Catwoman to Michelle Pfeiffer’s take on the character, and of course a very different film to exist in. Hathaway is superb, with her Kyle dangerous, intriguing and, let’s face it, very easy on the eye. Her chemistry with Bale is electric, and goes a long way to carrying the movie. She plays Kyle/Catwoman expertly on the line between friend or foe, and given the deviations from comic book sources in the past, you can never be truly sure what side of that line she will fall on.
The other major female character in the film comes in the form of Cotillard’s Miranda Tate. She plays her role well enough, and though she shares good chemistry on-screen with Bale her relationship with Wayne is never really believable, and feels almost shoehorned in just to keep her relevant for her role in the final act. Speaking of which, her story twist in that final act story twist is largely predictable the longer the movie goes. Predictability doesn’t have to be a bad thing, of course, but the moment in question is presented as a shocker, a game-changer, and yet it never fully packs the emotional punch that Nolan probably envisioned.
The film is not perfect, however it is still full of action, drama and intrigue. When all is said and done it acts as a good bookend to what we have to say is the best superhero series of all-time.
[tabgroup][tab title=”The Good“]
Hathaway is superb as Catwoman
[/tab][tab title=”The Bad“]
Strangely short on Batman sightings for a Batman film
Bane’s story has a disappointing conclusion