The true meaning of “Epic!”
Epic is a word that somehow easily gets passed around modern films in this movie-going generation. A word describing it’s sheer scale of action or drama, a word that’s stereotypically used when no other word to describe your own pre-opinionated concept of a film is available. But ultimately, a word that’s lost it’s real true meaning in cinematic sense due to the passive bright lights and loud bangs of the conventional Summer multiplex blockbuster. Here though, ‘The Dark Knight Rises‘, nods back to that nostalgic charm of the true meaning of epic in a quite remarkable way.
As the tagline indicated for director Christopher Nolan‘s third and final Batman showpiece, ‘The Legend, Ends’. Nolan stepping into uncharted cinema territory yet again by wrapping up his own creation. Going about this conclusion was always going to be the true challenge for Nolan with its anticipation way beyond going through the roof, having already blown audiences away with its predecessor The Dark Knight. A challenge to eradicate fans and audiences alike from their ‘Dark Knight‘s still better’ mentality, a challenge to tie up the loose ends and finish what is a both character driven and involving story. A challenge to ultimately tap into every person’s conscious thinking for whatever opinion they have for this film and just, deliver!
Set eight years after the events of the previous film, with Batman in hiding and blamed for murder, a reclusive Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) sees his beloved Gotham City turned into the epicentre of chaos by the monstrous Bane (Tom Hardy). But with the slick cat burglar Seline Kyle (Anne Hathaway), his only informative key to stopping Bane’s threat to Gotham’s citizens, Wayne must make his Dark Knight alter ego rise, once last time.
Yet the overwhelming aspect of the experience as just a stand alone piece of filmmaking, is simply the unashamed, bold, brave approach by its creator. Not only is Nolan’s unique directorial stamp all over the film, with its unexpectancy and arthouse sensibility, but he pushes his own boundaries in terms of themes, ideas and spectacle which he pulls off in impeccable fashion. Taking concepts from his first two acts, focusing on Bruce Wayne more than his Batman to a point were your both surprised, and at the same time impressed with reason, at just how long he holds off the cape and cowl. But when our hero arrives, boy does he arrive. The playful kid may almost punch the air in sheer adrenaline pumped emotion, but that’s skillfully only due to the culmination of the film’s opening act.
Christian Bale quite simply excels for his final time, both as Bruce and Batman. Reminiscing the ideas of Batman Begins and becoming a man actively wanting to reignite the fire inside himself of why he wanted to become the Batman in the first place. Having seen his world and loved ones around him fall once before already, Bale greatly endures and endears his audience. Even though he’s a character born in great wealth, he’s still able to engage you emotionally in the unfortunate events that have taken place – self motivating himself to an extent to fulfil his oath he made to his home city. Interacting perfectly with Anne Hathaway‘s Selina Kyle, showcasing once more the real world theme of Nolan’s franchise by avoiding to refer to her as ‘Catwoman’. Hathaway brilliantly plays the crafty con artist whose able to drift and manipulate her way through life in quite a convincing yet sinister way. But when the real peril hits home, it’s great to see her transform into a real soulful character.
Tom Hardy‘s Bane however, has a different plan of action. An absolute powerhouse both physically and mentally. Hardy embodies an absolute force of mother nature menacingly behind both muscle and mask, in a sense becoming a great tidal wave or some huge earthquake in human form. Backed up with a potent mix of unashamed impending doom and modern-day terrorism, he provides an unstoppable force focused on applying his perilous ideology. Audiences will instantly compare him to Heath Ledger‘s Joker. In my honest opinion, he is a completely different entity of villain altogether. Ledger’s Joker used his idea of anarchy, and the confinement of Gotham City as his playground to carry out his chaotic pleasure, whereas Hardy’s Bane looks to break the boundaries of Gotham into becoming a national threat, but with perhaps slightly less of the dark humour.
As always, Nolan is able to not only get the best, but to also manifest his ensemble cast with fantastic performances. Whether it be Michael Caine as Alfred, emotionally remembering the days when he could hear a “young Bruce’s cry echo around Wayne Manor” and being so attached to Master Wayne that he’d wish for bigger and better things for him. Or Gary Oldman‘s Commissioner Gordon, battling with himself to cope with the guilt of previous hidden experiences and ultimately putting that to oneside in the pursuit of ridding his City of crime once and for all. But the main surprise, was that of Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing Officer John Blake, a young cop who has the personality to question Bruce Wayne due to him having a similar experience in his younger years, and has a fascinating close interaction with every character he interacts with. As with the secrecy surrounding its plot, there are the odd one or two “treats” shall we say to give the film a real completion.
Interweaving the characters along with the sheer spectacle makes for that true epic sense of cinema. All the gadgets are there, the grand scale set pieces and just the vast scope of the production is all put up for you to admire. Wally Pfister‘s cinematography just beautifully glides along in unison with Nolan’s direction, from glacial baroness to warm hues to completely distance this franchise perfectly from the conventional gothic approach. Hans Zimmer‘s score twists and turns from frenetic screeching undertones of unrest, to the quivering violins of emotional interaction and the iconic musical themes of our hero we’ve all come to love and connect with these movies.
It’s bold and beautiful. It gives each character the chance to end their own story. I admire the fact that it may split people into whether the structure and narrative should have gone the way it did. But Nolan’s work has always allowed you to interpret certain aspects of his stories in your own way. You cannot fault the sheer epic scale approach that Nolan brings to his work though, and it provides a fitting end, to what has to now be the most entertaining and admired hero trilogy of all time.