Review | The Dark Knight Rises

Name’s Bane: Tom Hardy’s masked man comes to break the Bat

Seven years ago, Batman Begins redefined the bl0ckbuster genre by approaching a fantasy character with realistic execution and aesthetics. Four years ago, The Dark Knight raised the bar for comic book adaptations (and sequels, as well) by diving even further in the main character’s psyque. And here we are with The Dark Knight Rises, which levers even farther the Batman’s drama on a conclusion with pharaonic scale.

Set eight years after the predecessor’s climax, the plot brings Gotham City living a time of peace and harmony, where Comissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) put an end to practally every criminal organization, and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) finds himself retired from his Batman days, as well as a social outcast. A storm approaches when a mercenarie known as Bane (Tom Hardy) arrives in the town with a mysterious plot of destruction, forcing Wayne to bring back the Dark Knight.

First of all, let’s give it to Christopher Nolan for actually continuing the story after the mesmerizing work in The Dark Knight, even because I thought it was unlikely that the hero returned on a plot the justified its existence. Rises proved me wrong, and even if it isn’t better than the predecessor, it shows once again the director’s huge talent to develop characters and promote spectacles. Precisely because he’s spends 1 hours just setting up his characters that the explosive climax works so damn well – since, in it, each character has a specific part to play, with appropriate foreshadowing during the projection – even if the experience clocks around 3 hours.

With the trilogy being marked by its realistic approach, Nolan follows the same line with Rises, with action scenes that remain dominated by practical effects and a precise use of CGI, at the same time it reveals to be the chapter that most needs “fantastical” explanations to work. From a back condition being solved in a most exotic way to a giant nuclear device, everything looks believable thanks to Nolan’s and his brother Jonathan’s script, and the – once again – excellent performance from Christian Bale, who brings a much more damaged Bruce Wayne.

The drama here is much more dense and adult than any other comic book adaptation to date. A legitimate concern with the hero – out of shape and impaired by the years away from the armor – is felt when his loyal butler Alfred (Michael Caine, more emotional here) warns him not to resume the cowl and that he’s “buried enought members of the Wayne family”. And it’s even more hassling to watch the hero as he is brutally humiliated by the villain Bane during a fist fight, since for the first time, we have a phyisically superior opponent (the mercenary leisurely explains his actions, only to finish with a menacing “…then I will break you”. Even if Tom Hardy has his face hidden by the breathing mask during almost the entire film, his character has a monstrous, frightening presence, a result of the actor’s solid work with his eyes and voice ; even if the sound effect that modifies his speech can be a little weird at first – after all, not everyone is James Earl Jones.

The cat’s meow: Anne Hathaway is Selina Kyle

Taking a role erstwhile made iconic by Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns (and ridiculed by Halle Berry in Catwoman), Anne Hathaway makes a pretty good job embracing Selina Kyle’s role and providing her own version. Hathaway’s cat burglar is farmore interesting for having her human side explored (apart from lines such as “cat got your tongue?”, never once we hear the codename “Catwoman”) and also for playing with her survival instinct: in a specific scene, Kyle gets in the middle of a shootout in a bar, but doesn’t hesitate to drop her gun and scream dramatically like a mere victim when the police shows up.

Speaking of victims, what about Gotham City: Bane promotes a series of attack on the city (curiously, justifying them as a revolutionary movement) where a chilling invasion to the stock exchange and the cruel explosion of a football field have more impact – this last one, even more due to its brilliant musical choice: a suave, isolated singing of the U.S.’ anthem, provoking a hauting effect and bringing to memory the terrorist attacks the country suffered on the last decade. Also worthy of applause, Nathan Crowley and Toby Whale’s production design garantee a grand, real air to the devasted streets of Gotham (the snowy cinematography of Wally Pfister helps building the stark atmosphere), including the intelligent move with the dark prison on the bottom of a giant pit, serving as smart parallel to Bruce Wayne himself and the theme of rising.

On therms of conclusion, The Dark Knight Rises provides satisfaction and linearity with the franchise by rescuing elements from the previous chapters (specially Batman Begins) in a coherent action that works properly as the third act of a long, three-movie story. And, even if the Warner executives said so, it’s not impossible to follow the end of the trilogy: the movie’s ending finishes the cycle started in 2005, but leaves doors wide open to a very interesting possibility.

One last time: Christian Bale in Batman’s suit

With The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan delivers the mesmerizing conclusion the franchise deserves. The Batman cycl is complete, now setting to become something more than a simple trilogy: a legend.

Obs: The scenes shot in IMAX are really impressive if watched on the format’s screens. Highly recomended.

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