Every film studio's marketing agency tries to bill their latest effort as "the most anticipated movie of the year!" Well, this time, one company have the right to use that slogan, but haven't. Now there's confidence for you!
2005 saw Christopher Nolan turn the superhero genre on its head with his realistic, reality-based Batman Begins. It wasn't until his 2008's The Dark Knight that the world woke up to the fact that Nolan had not only turned the genre around but would have redefined it for all of those that were to come. Now, the finale in Nolan's Batman trilogy is upon us and the pressure to not only perform to the standards of The Dark Knight but to also manoeuvre into the rare slot of "perfect trilogy" along with the likes of Toy Story and The Bourne franchises is all too real.
He's done it!
From the beginning reel, this is all about spectacle, story and surprise! For those of you that have recently watched the first two outings you will be rewarded with a story arc that goes full circle and will have you smiling and nodding in appreciation at the cleverness of the script and its execution. It's that good. It's that engaging. It's that close to celluloid perfection. Each cinematic visit to Gotham has shown Nolan's increasingly deft hand at the action sequences as they, along with the scripts and performances, have built up to more and more breath-holding, armrest-clutching and mind-bending proportions. It now comes to the point where, especially when viewed in the IMAX format, that you seriously wonder how Warner Bros could reboot the Batman franchise and who would be brave and stupid enough to try.
The opening sequence here involving a Federal plane being hijacked whilst in flight is enough to equal, if not top Dark Knight's Joker-fuelled bank robbery for sheer visual opulence. The "jump-straight-into-the-story" scenario of a mid-flight kidnapping is something that any of the Bond films would sell Moneypenny to have on their CV and is made all the more enveloping to the viewer by being one of the many extended scenes filmed in the IMAX format. Here, Nolan along with his regular cinematographer Pfister, uses that format to fill the entire frame with a controlled cacophony of colour, conundrums, chaos and carnage. The stakes are the highest that they've ever been for the Batman and this is reflected in the set pieces that fill the screen and the imagination.
After such a striking intro, some audience members could feel that the following 45 minutes feel like abit of a "go slow" but this is where Nolan and co-writers Goyer and brother Jonathan Nolan take the time to introduce the new key players in memorable style and lay the groundwork for the finale by going over key points from Batman Begins and Dark Knight. One such player is Hathaway's Selina Kyle/Catwoman. By still keeping everything grounded in a heightened sense of reality, here the Pfeiffer interpretation of Catwoman in Burton's Batman Returns that sent hormonally overcharged males over the edge is a gone-but-not-forgotten memory. The overtly sexual chemistry that she delivered opposite Keaton's Batman is replaced here by Hathaway's coolness and banter with Bale's broken Bruce. Hathaway treads the thin line between help and hindrance to Bale's out-of-practise hero with the single goal of solitary survival - it's this characteristic that makes her so watchable without any camerawork that lovingly follows her form in the skintight catsuit.
Then of course there is Bane, the Bat's baddie this time round. Original fears that circled around the characters hard-to-understand voice are mainly unfounded - all is clear, and those lines of dialogue that aren't are easy to establish with Hardy's body language and his motivation - destroy Gotham and its protector, the Batman. Here, the threat to Bale's broken Bruce/Batman is all the more credible than before - Ra's Al Ghul wanted to mentor him; Joker wanted to play with him; Bane wants to destroy him. There is, especially tied in with the fact that this is Nolan and Bale's final Batman outing, a real sense that the Bat could bow out at any time whilst on the receiving end of Bane's fury.
The returning cast members, in true Nolan tradition, all have their own story lines and their parts to play in the return and the Rise of Batman. Caine, as loyal Wilfred, is still the anchor of reason and humanity for his master and as well as delivering alot of the humour still, this time he gets to hit the emotional target for the audience as he tries to speak some sense into Bale's heart-broken billionaire. Freeman as the Q of Bruce Wayne's world has the most diminished role of all the regular cast but still has the dry sense of wit that makes him a welcome addition each time he appears on the screen. The best revelation is Oldman's increasingly grizzled Gordon. With the knowledge of Harvey Dent's true demise haven eaten away at him for 8 years, Oldman gets the more accomplished story arc and remains the strongest link through all three films. That, plus he gets to have one of the more emotionally charged reveals in the final act.
What we have here, is the perfect end to a perfect trilogy. Nolan has delivered what many feared that he couldn't do - a film that could be equal to what was considered one of the best sequels committed to celluloid and the best superhero film of all time. Each fan will have their personal favourite out of the three adventures but they will like all of them regardless, and that is what separates these from the rest of the wanna be's. A film that has definitely been worth the wait and worth the hype.
UK release date: 20.07.12