The Dark Knight Rises review

Review Simon Brew 18 Jul 2012 - 15:29

Batman returns for the last time under the stewardship of Christopher Nolan. Here's our review of The Dark Knight Rises...

Before we begin: Given that The Dark Knight Rises is the last part of a trilogy, our overriding advice remains to avoid reviews, even spoiler-free ones like this one. We appreciate that’s, er, a bit self-defeating, but given the number of things we’ve read this week that seem intent on spoiling the film, it’s half-tempting to pull the plug on the Internet for a week. Strong recommendation, then: see it, then read the reviews afterwards. There will be a lot to talk about…

Review starts here:
A small favour: do you mind if we get the hyperbole done and dusted right from the start? Appreciating that some of you want to come in, get a general impression, look at the star rating and move on, the basics are this. The Dark Knight Rises is very good as a standalone movie. As the bookend to a trilogy, it's even better. Either way, it’s not without one or two slight problems, but they’re not massive ones.

We’ll be talking about Nolan’s Batman films decades into the future, we suspect, and whoever has to follow just what he’s managed will have the biggest problem in blockbuster cinema.

The Dark Knight Rises is first and foremost a dark ensemble drama (at its best), with some exquisitely staged action sequences. It’s one that takes a fair amount of time to put its pieces into place, too.

It sets up and positions a collection of new and returning characters (we're not going into any detail on them here, for spoiler-reasons), while providing a couple of entry points and refreshers from the rest of the trilogy (its commitment to weaving in stands from the previous two films is a very big plus). This takes time and investment, both on the film’s part and the audience’s.

This is no bad thing, of course, but while The Dark Knight Rises is laying its foundations, there may well be a moment or two where you’re willing it to fire fully into life. It’s a tough criticism, and it’s a by-product of the ambition of the narrative here, but there’s a lot of groundwork that has to be got through.

That groundwork has a pay-off, of course, and it’s also part and parcel of this being a blockbuster movie that actually has something substantive to say. Its messages may not be massively radical ones, but Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy has always worked in reflections of real life, and that’s more the case than ever with The Dark Knight Rises. You’d be hard pushed to suggest that it’s a film that dumbs things down at any point, and it's all the better for that.

It never loses touch with the fact that it’s a blockbuster movie, though, and when Nolan puts his foot down, it’s some ride. He raises the stakes far higher than he has before with The Dark Knight Rises, escalating the overriding threat in the film to sky-high levels.

He’s not done digging into the character of Bruce Wayne, either, and it’s very much a dark, sombre place where we originally find him. This is as much of the story as you’ll get out of us, and it’s what’s been widely trailed: the film picks up eight years after The Dark Knight, with Wayne (and Batman) a recluse. What follows is a series of events to drag him out of his self-imposed exiled. Bane, played by Tom Hardy (making a real impact under his mask) is the catalyst, and a worthy physical challenge. Here's a foe that you're never in any doubt can do a lot of damage – remorselessly.

Considering the complaints about Bane’s muffled voice in the exhilarating prologue, screened before Christmas, there’s clearly been work done here to make him more understandable. It’s not been entirely successful, though. As with Nolan’s previous film, Inception, there are moments in The Dark Knight Rises where hearing every word each character has to say proves to be a challenge. We’ve checked other reviews, and most people aren’t reflecting this problem, but considering we got to see the film on a huge IMAX screen in a cinema with an excellent sound system, we figured it worth raising.

One by-product of seeing the film on an IMAX screen, of course, is the stunning visual impact. Both in day and night, Nolan’s Gotham City is astounding. What’s particularly impressive is the sheer level of detail he and cinematographer Wally Pfister fill the screen with. It’s one thing pointing an IMAX camera at a cityscape. It’s another making sure that there are things going on that warrant the effort, and that’s the striking achievement. What’s more, with over an hour of IMAX material here – including many fast-moving sequences - you more than get your money’s worth: this is a bubbling, brooding, living Gotham City.

Furthermore, as the trilogy has progressed, Nolan has also become a better action director. Action isn't the main reason to see The Dark Knight Rises, in the same way it hasn't been in the previous Nolan Batman adventures. But that doesn't mean it's not impressive. Nolan's much-reported and cherishable desire to keep computers at bay for as much of the time as possible pays real dividends. The scale of the action, and the execution of it, can’t help but leave you hoping more directors follow his lead in using CG only where necessary.

It’s because of this commitment to physical work, along with the small details, the individual human quandaries of its characters, and the attention given to every facet of the production, that The Dark Knight Rises feels real, even when it brings into play its more fantastical elements.

Where does it sit in the trilogy? It’s too early to say, realistically. The Dark Knight felt more immediately satisfying, but then it told a more concentrated story. The Dark Knight Rises is, however, a really satisfying conclusion to the series as a whole, albeit with an issue or two in the last act. It ties together strands, it leaves things in an interesting place, and there’s a feeling that a three-dimensional story has reached a natural endpoint. No wonder the audience we watched the film with simply applauded at the end. We suspect that reaction will be repeated a lot.

After all, the trilogy is a colossal achievement when taken in its entirety, and in comic-book movie terms, it has nothing to match it. Back when Christopher Nolan was first appointed as the man to revive Batman, we don’t think we had any right to expect the three films we now have.

The Dark Knight Rises may not be the best of the three, but it stands proudly alongside them, ranking alongside The Avengers as the best blockbuster of the year (they’re very different films, of course, but both strong at what they do).

Bottom line: whether you find The Dark Knight Rises the best of the three Nolan-directed trips to Gotham or not, it’ll certainly be a long, long time before we get to see a Batman film this good again.

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Disqus - noscript

Right on! Dark Knight rises her I come :D

Have you ever studied English? This review is filled with grammatical mistakes.

here’s clearly been work done here to make him more legible. Should be audible, not legible.

Your sentences are too long and rambling. Remember less is more.

Please study The Elements Of Style by Strunk and White. It will teach you how to write.

Have you studied being a cock-knocker?

You forgot to use quotation marks when quoting.

I look forward to trying this one out. But, honestly, after AVENGERS, I feel like the comic films for 2012 have climaxed. You're not going to get much better than that fun, epic romp. In fact, Batman looks all but depressing comparatively. That being said, it's hard to compare and contrast oranges and apples. Either way, though, they're still fruit. ;) I'm sure this will be fine. But, I also feel that the comic book industry has earned the "serious" title it always wanted with the Nolanverse series. Having done so, it's time to stop taking it all so seriously and do more AVENGERS-level movies. Why? Because they're fun, exciting, and allows a three-hour escape from this crappy, politically-driven world we're stuck in right now. Last thing I want to go watch, honestly, is BATMAN vs OccupyWallStreet. Hopefully this will be more than that... ;)

That aside, you're correct. The review is appallingly written.

can't say i noticed the grammar mistakes "filling up" the review. Thanks for the book recommend though. Tell me, can you recommend a book that could help me be a pretentious idiot on the internet?

I won't go on but "unseen recluse", "Gotham City is astounding simply to stare at" not to mention the spelling and grammar(which seem to have been tidied up slightly since the review went live). Simply not good enough, chaps.

I was ready to chastise your chastisement...but "unseen recluse" makes me laugh and it probably shouldn't.

You didn't use quotations marks, and there's a capital " T " missing from your second line. Embarassing.

I appreciate a post on a website isn't a literary essay... but neither is a film review.

I believe the phrase is " pull your head in ".

Can't wait to see this on Friday, but I have to ask... Am I the only person on the planet who doesn't like The Avengers? TAS was much better.


Seen it, and love it. It's absolutely epic!

. . . and you come across like a pompous prick



When you go off criticizing somebody's grammar, you better make sure yours is up to snuff.

Why oh why do I have to wait 'till August 21st to be able to see it ? :(

I think it rhymes with trucking tanker.

Ranked along side Avengers? Comparing a kids movie to the Dark Knight trilogy. Very amusing.

Dude. Do you know which Jason that is?

That's Jason Statham... Grammar Nazi.

Don't be sniffy. Movies can be good in different ways. Batman might be deep, but The Avengers was fun.

Why so many morons picking fault with the review? As with all Den of Geek reviews this is superb, as it tells me everything I need to know. I can't remember ever disagreeing with a D.O.G review (although they gave the sequel to the worst film ever - Ghost Rider - a good review...not seen it but i'm sceptical.
Anyway, Batman, i'll be seeing this over the weekened but I can't imagine it'll be anything less than amazing

You know what you lot are doing? You're all winning.

I have never heard that much negativity about it, from anyone really, what's your view?

Okay, read the review a few times(Very good, and properly focused on what matters), where does this film drop it's star? I thought it was due to "there’s a lot of groundwork that has to be got through." but then you say, "That groundwork has a pay-off, of course, and it’s also part and parcel of this being a blockbuster movie that actually has something substantive to say.". So would Simon be able to clarify for me please?

Avengers isn't a kids' movie. Stop being a snob.

I just thought that it was a bit of a dull film. The characters weren't very developed and there were too many SFX in it. It's OK, but not as good as people say.
Like Aliens.

someone seems to have forgotten that batman is also a comic book movie. i would hate if my pride in life was my sneery opinion of a movie

I got to see the film last night. It's ok I suppose. The Bruce Wayne death scene is handled well.

Not comfortably without resorting to spoilers, sadly.

Just a heads up - these comments should be SPOILER FREE please. Anyone posting spoilers here will have to be blocked. It's not fair on those who haven't seen the film.

I saw this last night - I think its going to divide a lot of people, particularly the hardcore fans of the comics with the casual movie goer - I would say, its enjoyable, but story wise, its a bit of a mess - there is literally so much going on and for this reason, also suffers pacing issues. My initial reaction was that I preferred Avengers, but having thought about it, I think its a little bit like comparing V for Vendetta with Spider-Man - both share comic book orgins but are completely different beasts. I am seeing it again tomorrow - and am hoping I am going to enjoy it more with reset expectations - It is definitely a movie with considerable flaws

Oh.. I was struggling to understand your point, until you added....
" like Aliens. "

Now I get have no idea what you're talking about.

The Avengers and Aliens...dull films??


I liked the bit where Batman challenged Superman to a dance off

I think it was a great film and only hamstrung by loss of Heath Ledger as Joker, there's a point in the 2nd or 3rd act that would be a perfect excuse for him to appear and I would have liked to see the interactions between him and Bane to see if they were on the same page.
Along similar lines its a pity two-face was absent aswell as I think his character was good and it wouldn't have been to much of a stretch to have him reappear and maybe have a redemption.
The only bit I didn't like was a scene right near the end that was a lot like one in another recently released big super-hero movie, but I would assume Dark knight rises would have wrapped up filming by the time of its release.
It certainly wrapped things up nicely but left room for a sequel or at least a spin-off.

The characters weren't developed?? Most of them had their own film beforehand?

Off to see it this afternoon and have so far managed to avoid all reviews of the movie so that I can make my own opinion!

I thought it was awful and I really want to pretend this movie doesn't exist. Such a waste of a terrific villain (Bane). So many things just completely wrong with this movie. I'm gutted because I wanted to love it so much...why Nolan...why??? The Dark Knight was could you have missed the mark so much?

Take out the "Like Aliens" comment and he makes a fair point.

Read this late because I've been avoiding reviews before watching the film. I can appreciate the desire to avoid spoilers, and this is probably going to sound a little harsh, but you really shouldn't say a film is flawed while reviewing it without giving some explanation as to what they are... That's my opinion, anyway. *shrugs*

I was worried that the huge action-funfest romp that was the Avengers, that my viewing of DKR might somehow be diminished. However, I was very quickly back in Gotham, and engrossed in the thrilling story and sumptuous visuals. It wasn't a perfect movie - but my god, it was easily the most epic movie I've ever seen, and am likely to see for a long time.

I liked when Mr Freeze turned up at the end!

I would give the film a 9/10 overall. The only issues I had is that 1: The story accelerated too fast. 2: Bane's identity was revealed too early on. 3: There were too many sub plots and side stories.

However, they still managed to stay on track. Three hours is not nearly enough time to explore all of those arcs closely.

Did anybody else notice that all of the footage used the the trailers came within the first hour of the movie, and that the dialogue on certain clips in the trailers, came out differently in the actual film?

I'm in agreement - The Avengers is just typical glossy comic book action. Dull characters and nothing really that different from Transformers or other eye-candy material. TDKR is pretty bloody epic and spectacular mainly because it's character driven.

One of the best hollywood Trilogys ever, en par with Avengers in scope, scale but very different movies but excelling in their ambition and respective genre. Nolan has created a fantastic movie but as trilogy - it's been a delivered beautifully. Care, craft, panache, style and with full respect to the original comic book origins... this is surely the pinnacle in true comic book movies. True Masterpiece.
Whomever is to fill Nolans shoes with the next movie - has a fine template to work from - but will be faced with an almighty challenge.

As for the actual movie itself.. Not quite the brilliance of The Dark Knight... and Bane is less refined a creation than Joker - the voice sadly does prove inconsistent. However the performances, direction, brilliant action scenes and that haunting score. Pure Joy.

Batman Begins will always be my favorite.

No one can match Heath Ledger's Joker, it will be a long time before someone even comes close.

And I'll take TDKR over the Avengers any day. Better writing, characters and casting. Not to downplay Avengers, it was quite good, but so far TDKR isn't getting the reviews it rightfully deserves.

Perfect way to end the trilogy, highly recommend you see it if anyone hasn't.

Is it just me or did Bane sound a bit like Sean Connery at some points in the film?

Dark knight rises was the best superhero moive of all time


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