In a similar manner to how Heath Ledger’s death cast a shadow over The Dark Knight, there’s an air of inevitability to this conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s batrilogy. You know you’re going to be in the theatre for quite a while, that Nolan will use massive scale and strong characterisation to awe you on multiple levels, that it will aspire to loftier heights than most blockbusters, but mostly that it is actually all going to end. For all its aspirations, The Dark Knight Rises leans heavily at times on convention – a ticking clock here, a betrayal there – but these prove more welcome than the earnest speechmaking that could so easily have sent off this great big-screen version of the caped crusader.
Nolan tries to replace Ledger’s magnetic performance with Tom Hardy’s imposing physicality, which impresses on the screen but isn’t hugely differentiated from the other macho brawling seen in this film or its predecessors except in terms of its massive scale. Bale excels as always as he goes on a journey that recalls both the previous two films, and so do his co-stars – Anne Hathaway proving not as out of her element as I’d anticipated.
Gotham’s plight comes close to Escape From New York territory in a big departure from what we normally get out of the toothless threats of super-villains and there are welcome nods to the Occupy movement and Arab Spring to help differentiate this from run-of-the-mill fare. Plus the action’s great and the IMAX stuff looks awesome, but most importantly The Dark Knight Rises wraps in satisfying fashion, even if it may take a little while to fully grab you. There are some bumps along the way – it’s by no means perfect, and doesn’t hit the same heights The Dark Knight did – but Nolan’s done good.