Top 10 films of 2012: The Dark Knight Rises

Feature Luke Savage 28 Dec 2012 - 07:39

Our clamber through the 10 finest films of the year continues with The Dark Knight Rises. Luke explains why it's one of our favourites...

Over the past few weeks, Den Of Geek writers have been voting for the films of the year. In fourth place is Christopher Nolan's conclusion to his Dark Knight trilogy. It might have divided audiences a little, but it's the kind of film that a second viewing does the world of good for...

4th place:

The Dark Knight Rises

There was a lot riding on The Dark Knight Rises. Just ask yourself this: when was the last time a film carried so many expectations on its broad, caped shoulders?

Even in a year that brought us a Joss Whedon superhero mash-up, Peter Jackson’s Tolkien reunion party and Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien franchise, nothing could come close to the fervent anticipation whipped up by Christopher Nolan’s franchise closer.

And, in a cruel, Hitchcock-style tease, he’d made us wait four long years for it. Four years populated by rabid, feverish debate. Could it do for the superhero trilogy what Spider-Man 3 couldn’t? Would Tom Hardy’s Bane rival Heath Ledger’s Joker? Was this really Nolan’s and Bale’s swansong to the Bat franchise? What the hell was Tom Conti doing in this? It was enough to make mere billionaire masked vigilantes quiver in their boots.

But performance anxiety? Nolan has obviously never heard of it. Or, if he has, he must have suffered from a Memento-style bout of anterograde amnesia. Pretenders to the superhero crown had reared their head since 2008’s The Dark Knight. Avatar staked its claim as the modern blockbuster writ largest. But TDKR soars high above the chasing pack, an airborne Bat to the grounded civilians below.

It’s a film made with a swaggering confidence. Faint praise, perhaps, when you consider that in an age where Transformers 3 can earn over a billion dollars, Nolan could have released a shot-by-shot remake of Adam West’s Batman movie (Tom Hardy is rubber shark!) and still raked it in.

But Nolan, along with brother Jonathan and David S Goyer, seem undeterred by the conventions that hold so many films prisoner. Set up, conflict, resolution. Rather than in throe to them, TDKR is enriched by them, telling an almost Christ-like parable of resurrection and empowerment.  It reaches its climax halfway through the film in the Bane-Batman face off, starts all over again, then ends with an emotional coda to rule them all. And then … well, it just gets better.

True, there are moments where it seems less steady on its feet than its predecessors. This is the first Nolan Batman film where you start to question the internal logic. How does Bruce Wayne get back to Gotham in time for the finale without any of his wonderful toys? Let’s leave that one for another time.

It’s only because Nolan has created so believable a Gotham over the course of the franchise that this really tells. And, in a way, frailty is what makes TDKR what it is. Bale’s aged, vulnerable crusader is the equivalent of that two-days-from-retirement movie cop , the fear that he might not make it out alive hanging like a dagger above him. Hathaway’s damaged Selina, Oldman’s Gordon worn down by guilt, or, best-of-all, Caine’s aged Alfred, a father tearing himself away from his son to save him.

And what of its action credentials? Following in the footsteps of The Avengers, Nolan had his work cut out. For all those wonderful Whedon touches sprinkled throughout, Marvel’s epic get together can’t shake the feeling that it’s one long build-up to a climactic battle.

TDKR may not have a set piece as grand as this. Or its predecessor’s middle eight tanker chase. But think about this – TDKR is a film that doesn’t need set pieces, things to punctuate the exposition. We’ve been lulled into thinking that a film lives or dies on these fleeting moments of spectacle because so many blockbusters, for so many years, have been too lazy to put anything of substance between them.

Nolan doesn’t fall into such traps. Those Michael Mann comparisons always focus on the cityscape vistas, the sweeping grandeur, but what they rarely mention is how Nolan shares Mann’s love of drama as the real action. Take out Heat’s bank shootout and it’s still a five star experience.

Likewise, TDKR’s greatest triumph is how little it has to rely on the stock-in-trade of the modern blockbuster. Nolan’s action scenes may leave you gawping and your ears ringing (name a better score to an action film this century and I’ll tip my hat to you. Or whatever people with hats do to convey respect), but they aren’t the most exciting thing here. They’re just part of a much bigger picture.

And what a picture it is. All the talk of 3D and 48fps has overshadowed what we should really embrace as the future of cinema – IMAX. And IMAX treated as lovingly as it is by Nolan. If you missed it on a big big screen, you missed a trick. Nolan’s film can stretch its wings, and here you feel its real crowning achievement – this is a world that feels achingly real. Hard, cold, brutal, unforgiving. The kind of world where a man dressed up like a bat seems kind of believable.

Nolan may have dropped a cheeky wink with that set-up ending, but it’s best not to think of it as a set-up. It’s just another reminder of how good he is at creating a mythology, at making you feel that these characters may actually live outside of what we see on screen, and making us want them to. That’s cinema at a level few filmmakers are capable of. The Dark Knight Rises is just the latest reminder that Nolan is one of them.

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Cant believe people are still asking how Bruce got back to Gotham without any money, it was clearly set up in Batman Begins he spent 7 years traveling the world with no money why does everyone find that so confusing?! Still dont how he recovered from the broken back and dodgy knee but Ill get over it.

Sod the haters, this was an awesome end to an awesome series. My only regret is that I didnt see it twice at the cinema, saw it at the IMAX and while its easily the best way to see the film I wish Id seen it on a smaller screen first so I could concentrate on taking in the incredible visuals on that beautiful screen at Waterloo.

As a hater with plenty of criticisms of this flick, i don't really get the "How does Bruce Wayne get back to Gotham in time for the finale" question. He's the godamn batman. Remember begins? He managed to get to asia without a passport or any money, before he had any training. The last shot showed him walking to a village. He hitched to to the nearest local airport, stowed away to an international airport, stowed away to the states. Not difficult.

Hmm should have read the other comments before posting.

Unfairly maligned. Batman himself didn't make an appearance until a bit later than usual but they certainly got lots of things right. Catwoman, Bane, the sheer desperation, the ending. I loved it. Not as good as The Dark Knight but were Heath Ledger still alive I have a feeling it would have been as they'd have included the Joker in it.

They made the broken back more a case of disolcated vertabrae that were put back into place as opposed to an outright fracture I think. I think the knee brace was meant to expalin that one away, not sayng it stands up medically but hey, have to roll with these things abit.

Still. Best trilogy ever.

I just re-watched this last night and it was as good as I remember. It's fantastic and a great ending to one of the best and most consistent trilogies in film history.

This was not the fourth best film of the year. After cleverly building a nuanced realistic/fantasy in the first two films Nolan loses it with the Dark Knight Rises, the gizmo that fixes his knee. The laughable quick fix for a broken back complete with a sit up montage? Silly. To be able to beat Bane in the rematch? Even sillier.

However, this could have been overlooked if the plot had been better. Swamped by support characters that no one cared about and liberally ripping off weak Batman comic like Knightfall and No Mans Land was the real mistake. Bane's eventual defeat was anti climatic. Cat woman and Batman had zero chemistry. No a patch on The Dark Knight.

There were unintentional highlights. Caine's hysterical hamming: "what if Master Wayne someone had got a letter." and Nolan giving up the ending with Alfred's dream was funny too. I laughed out loud at both.

Den of geek is usually very reliable. So is Nolan.

He actually commented first...

I know. I meant *I* should have read the comments first.... :)

Better than Looper... -_-

Avengers at #1 then ? A little obvious.

Seriously, this load of crap beat Cabin in the Woods for fourth place?

I can’t believe that in a film that features a superhero that flies around in a weird sort of ufo, rides a bike with sideways driving, and a man’s face is kept on with a mask, people are still complaining about the broken back recovery thing, BECAUSE that really is
the most unrealistic thing about the batman HAHA.

This film was great considering there was no mention of the joker (Heath Ledger). I find that whenever something comes to an end there are always over opinionated people who have to state how much they hated it and how they could have done a better job.

Now let’s wait to see how superman can be brought into this realistic world of DC superheroes, But I do hope he doesn’t recive a broken back in which he somehow recovers because that would be, just too stupid.

People keeping going on about Batman's back was broken. It wasn't. If you listen to the scene where the man in the prison is helping him, he says he has a vertebra sticking out. This is a slipped disc in the spinal column, NOT a broken back. Nolan never intended for Batman to have his back broken and be back in time for the finale, so a little creative intention there by Nolan. (also This has been said in a below comment)

People are also moaning about how he got back to Gotham, The "Gizmo that fixes his knee" just enjoy the film and stop being so damn girly about it.

The Lord of The Rings, Toy Story, Original Star Wars Trilogy and Back To The Future are all better and more consistent trilogies than Nolan's Batman series (to name a few.)

Yes this was the one film of the year that did not let me down, it was as good as I was hoping. It was not as good as Dark Knight, BUT it was as good in its OWN way if that makes any sense? And as a final pay off it was superb. It absolutley flattened the crap dull borefest of Skyfall, and was not as disappointing as Prometheus and at least it had a happy ending. All three Nolan Batman films are superb, and I am not ashamed to sit and watch them with any friends or family, because they are all great films in a superb series.

Yes it was...looper just made me want to kill myself...it was so depressing....mind you some people on here probably wish I had....

how about some links to the previous entries?

Personally I thought the 'bionic knee-brace' (along with the laundry list of physical ailments the doctor reads off to him at the hospital) was a nod to 'Kingdom Come' Batman (who's essentially a cripple after his long career of crime fighting that uses an exoskeleton to get around).

So I think it's entirely 'realistic' in the sense that after years of getting his ass kicked and jumping off roof-tops Wayne's body would be completely shot. That was actually one of the few parts of the movie that really struck a chord with me - Bat's is over the hill and needs a bit of help 'getting it up'.

Overall I thought the movie was good, but not great and definitely seemed a bit overrated. It's overly developed sense of gravitas just didn't always hold up under the story or some of the lead performances.

Good point Batman with all his years of specialist training manages to overcome Bane the one foe who physically overpowered him by punching him in the face until his mask breaks! Genius! At least Catwoman had the good sense to blow him away with the biggest guns she could get her hands on.

Very good film. Best of the trilogy. But not even close to the fourth best film of the year.

Everyone keeps harping on Bale returning from across the world in a day... But they are not putting things together. I've seen TDKR 8 times now, and let me tell you, it all adds up! You just need to think about it.

Before we get to Bruce Wayne's final scene in the prison, the last we see is Morgan Freeman saying the bomb will go off in 23 days. TWENTY THREE! That is more than enough time for Bale to get back to Gotham without his "toys."

In Begins we see Bale flee Gotham as a stowaway on a ship. This is likely how he got back to Gotham in TDKR. Nolan doesn't spell everything out for you, he makes you think and some people just don't have what it takes to keep up.

Not calling these people dumb, but not everyone thinks this way.

Also, really nice article.

A vertebra sticking out is NOT a slipped disk, but a broken back.

This film was a letdown, massively average, and the stupid section with Batman in a pit repairing his back was only one of the dull issues I had with it.

Three Colours.

Bruce Wayne/Batman is one of the craftiest people around. Are we really going to put it past him to get around the world in 23 days? C'mon now!

"I can’t believe that in a film that features a superhero that flies
around in a weird sort of ufo, rides a bike with sideways driving, and a
man’s face is kept on with a mask, people are still complaining about
the broken back recovery thing, BECAUSE that really is the most unrealistic thing about the batman HAHA."

Agreed. It's missing the forest for the trees.

I did like TDKR--no, it was not as good as TDK (in my opinion), but it is still an excellent film nonetheless, a great closing act to one of the best movie trilogies ever. And Hardy was amazing as Bane, and Anne Hathaway....yum! As for the new Superman film, I'm not worried. Snyder can direct a visually stunning film, and Nolan and Goyer developed the story, with Nolan producing. Seems like the film will be in good hands.

"....the sheer desperation, the ending." Good point! The last minutes of the film were, to be fair, a nail-biting experience. And personally, I say that Bruce survived. ;)

There's no debate in my mind. Nolan goes so far out of his way to make sure the audience knows Bruce survived that I can almost hear him audibly curse from here by the inevitable conspiracy theories.

He mentions the damn remote control of the Bat about five times, I knew it would come into play. :)

Lord of the Rings? Perhaps. But too slow. Certainly one of the best Toy Story? Can't comment. Star Wars? Brilliant, but seen on the cold light of day without the history, overrated. And the prequels have ruined the good legacy created. BTTF? The first one was one of my favourite films. Two was very mediocre. Only good thing about it was the established characters Three was good. Hardly a great trilogy.

Cabin in the Woods was shite.

Glad to finally see a review that steps back and takes stock of what a stellar film this was. Too many people compared it to TDK and whether Hardy could stand next to Ledger - but it wasn't about that.

For me, it was the epic ending to a legend that Nolan wove right from the first film, and you're right; seeing it in IMAX was totally worth it.

A very, very good film that doesn't quite reach the dizzy heights of TDK. It almost becomes overwhelmed by its own ambition, which in this day and age is something to be admired and celebrated. If it had ended ambiguously [SPOILER ALERT] with Alfred nodding towards the camera, leaving us to guess/assume whether it's Wayne he's looking at instead of showing os Wayne and Kyle together that would have been something; instead he went that bit too far.

Back to the Future has it's faults as individual films...but I still feel it is a better trilogy than Nolan's Batman for Sheer consistency (while the argument could be made that Batman Begins or The Dark Knight are better individual films than BTTF...the BTTF trilogy as a whole provides a more satisfying film viewing experience and doesn't have the huge shift in style like the change in Gotham between Begins and TDK or the jump from 'gritty realism' to 'full on cartoon' like TDK and DKR...BTTF all feels like the same universe, Nolan's doesn't...his films contradict each other, either through style or themes.)

Star Wars is over-rated in the same ways The Beatles are, it is the most iconic Blockbuster Franchise (and certainly without Empire Strikes Back you could never had have a film as dark as The Dark Knight.) As problematic as the prequels are, and what ever effec they had on the legacy, it doesn't detract from the films quality...even though Jedi feels like a step down after Empire it feels like a satisfying conclusion to the series (while Dark Knight Rises seemed more intent on showing why Gordon and Batman made the wrong choice at the end of The Dark Knight.)

As a Tolkien fan I never had issues with the length of LOTR and rank it so highly as a trilogy because it stayed true to the essence of the books.

Ultimately I loved Nolan's first two films, but was let down by third one which leads me to rank the series lower on consistency. More than anything DKR felt like it was ashamed to be a Batman film (Bruce giving up because Rachel dies!?!), compare this to Batman Begins which is probably the most faithful adaptation of Batman on screen...These other trilogies I listed may have their faults as individual movies but as overall trilogies remain more consistent than Nolan (much the same way Godfather 3 stops me from naming the Godfather as one of the best trilogies ever)

Therefore... wrong? What are you saying?

Obviously, Bane's mask was "built" to take punches & does so in both fights--I think if you watch it again you'll see that it was Batman's glove's blades that sliced a couple of Bane's mask tubes free--at least that's how it looks to me and I have watched it numerous times.

BTW--the novelization confirms that it was the blades that did the damage

A great end to the trilogy. Loved the chalked Bat motif.... Casting perfect yet again..... Loved so much about this movie. Looking forward to a different angle on Batman in the JLA movie universe....

Dark Knight tops? How could anyone survive automatic rifles (enemy) against handguns (cops) head-on? You have to review your choice!

This did not have a happy ending. It had a 'hero' who gave up.

A happy ending for Bruce Wayne would have been to come to terms with the loss of his parents whilst at the same time leaving Gotham a safer place. Instead he bottled it and left the job to someone else to finish off.

I'm sorry but your first para just doesn't cut it.

The point is that Nolan worked really hard to create a world where everything was just a few minutes into the future and there was no such thing as superpowers, In the end though he couldn't resolve the situation he'd created without using a few comic book tricks and this meant it stuck out like a sore thumb where he used it,

This was like the Moonraker of the Batman trilogy.

He also undid the some of the characterisation of the first two films in order to wrap up the end in a nice little Hollywood-style bow.

The ironic thing is I think Nolan could have easily given us a different movie which showed how clever Batman is against a formidable foe, instead we got a Batman that rushed into situations blindly and only tried to solve things with gadgets and his fists,

This film could have been much more than it was from a director who seemed to have lost his appetite for the franchise after The Dark Knight.

I agree with your sentiment in the last para. TDKR could have made the trilogy a great one but why does he get so morbid about Rachel when it;s the opposite reaction from the one he had for his parents?

It should have strengthened his resolve and made him darker still only for Blake (Robin) to turn up and stop him from losing his humanity,

How does Miller's Dark Knight make sense with one shown sat at a restaurant at the end of the movie,

This movie let down the trilogy and did not seal it's greatness,

Yeah, hardly the most major issue with the film, by far,

Sorry, I can only agree with the latter sentence there.

Bruce never gave up and I think he definitely left Gotham as a better place. For me, seeing the statue of The Batman erected symbolized the hope and good he set out to inspire in Gotham finally realized. He saved the whole city from destruction and in their minds he gave his life to do so. He set an example for everyone else to follow and that was his intention from the very beginning. As Nolan himself has said, "it all comes back to the scene with Bruce and Alfred on the plane in Batman Begins." Batman is more than a man, he's a symbol. And that's also why it's OK that he passed the cave on to Blake. Fighting crime is a never-ending task and Bruce can't do it forever. Eventually someone else has to take up the fight.
Also I think the fact that Bruce is able to settle down and start a new life with Selina Kyle does make it a happy ending. After the events of The Dark Knight Bruce became a recluse. When he put on the cowl again he fought like he had nothing to lose and as Alfred said didn't care if he died trying to stop Bane. Later in order to climb from the pit he has to find the will to live again. He has to be afraid to die and still have the will to act in spite of it. These scenes have a deeper meaning beyond just what we see on the screen. If leaving a tortured past behind you and finding peace with a significant other isn't a happy ending I don't know what is.
This was the ending Bruce deserved.

-Slight spoilers- Personally I felt The Dark Knight Rises was a complete let down: it was no way near as smart as it's predecessors, it was heavy structurally and overdone. The Robin revelation was unnecessary, and slightly ludicrous. Whilst Bane was portrayed well, I felt the plot was slightly offensive in terms of it's references to current urban demonstrations.

Personally, I was just thrilled to hear Mr. Kipling getting some work again as the voice of Bane.

I liked it much more than The Dark Knight but not quite as much as Batman Begins. My favourite film of 2012 by some distance.

Dark knight Rises destroys every other movie in 2012 and is better than the Dark knight and BB. Dark knight Rises is the Greatest movie ever

Why do people feel the need to nitpick and bitch, does it really take the enjoyment away from you when you analyse it in such detail. Cinema is escapism, surely?!

Did you not see or get the whole thing with Alfred saying to Bruce “you can strap up your leg and put your mask back on, but that does not make you the man you where” and when Bruce states “ you think i will go out there and fail” Alfred replys with “I’m afraid you want to”. the film wasn’t just about the villain and how the batman would go about beating the villain, but more about how Bruce would overcome himself to become that once great batman, that is why at fist he is a little sloppy.

I’m not saying all critics don’t have a point because I agree in some ways, but i believe and find that most don’t get or understand the moral of the story.

Also what is with people thinking that the film must be 100% realistic, for F sake it’s about a comic book hero.

Cabin in the Woods was a great film, until the final 10 minutes when its like they had no idea how to end it, so they went with the way they did, instead of how they should have, with the girl killing the weed smoker and stopping the end of the world.

I agree. This was the second best Nolan Batman film imo, TDK, followed by TDKR, and BB. TDKR was one of the best films this year

The first one is the best. The other two are weighed down by there own pretention. That said they are all well made really very good films. Entertainment of the highest order. And I mean that as a compliment of the highest order! You can bang on about it being the greatest trilogy ever and award it every other Platitude in any language in the Universe its all bollocks really.Horses for courses! different people like different films. The world keeps turning.

Watched this again on Blu-ray on my home cinema setup after having seen it at cinema the first time. I have to say it improves with every watch - I actually never judge a major film after only watching it once and can now say I really enjoyed it even more than the first time. Its not a throw away movie like the Avengers which you can watch over and over and enjoy a bit each time. "Rises" was epic grand scale storytelling and deserves to be top 10 of the decade not just year (so far!).

Of course it could have used a bit more flashy Hollywood set pieces (which could easily have turned cliché) and grand entrances (which could easily have turned cheesy) but the absence of these only makes for a better movie in my opinion.

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