"I am Gotham's reckoning."
It's the big one - Chris Nolan's last ever Batman movie. And it shows because he goes out with a bang! Seriously - a big frickin' bang! The problem is, The Dark Knight was so well-received (although I think Batman Begins is the superior film) that expectations are ridiculously high for Rises. It doesn't quite reach the pedestal.
The first half hour is, forgive me for saying, boring. A lot of plot lines are set up and characters float around stating their opinions which makes the opening seem like one big introduction to a university thesis. It makes you very aware that the movie is going to tackle some big issues over the next two hours, but it's a little jarring. We want to see more action in this action film! So I was worried 30 minutes in. But around the 45 minute mark, everything kicks off! And from that moment, you never look back and your half-hour boredom feels ok.
Anne Hathaway is fine as Selina (who we are never actually told is Cat Woman), but that's all. A lot of praise has been dumped on her, but I see nothing major about her performance that warrants it. Her character constantly reminded me of Black Widow, and that role was done better in The Avengers. Neither is the character really necessary and it seems like her removal would not only unhinder proceedings, but would actually improve the movie.
Tom Hardy gives an incredible performance as Bane, who commands every scene he's in, even the ones where he just lurks in the background. He's a great villain and perhaps even more memorable than the Joker. In the way Begins showed us a political idealist/tyrant and TDK gave us a psychologically unstable madman, Rises shows a truly unstoppable physical and spiritual force who you should be very afraid of! It's just a shame that his character isn't done even the tiniest bit of justice towards the film's close. Spoilers aside, it's just not very good.
Where Rises falls down is in the waffle. I'm not averse to a 160 minute movie, but here it seems gratuitous. With some serious streamlining, the film could be so much better. Get rid of a bunch of characters (Cat Woman, Lucius Fox etc) and give proper attention to the likes of Alfred (who only ever turns up to provide moralistic discussion for the audience and is forgotten about then conveniently brought back when the plot needs him) and newcomer Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). It's funny, because I felt The Avengers was too short - so we should take half an hour from Rises and throw it to Marvel to play with.
Don't get me wrong, Rises is a good film. But there's too much excess baggage to make it as brilliant as people are saying. But no matter how floppy it may feel, there's something very satisfying about how Nolan ties Rises into the first two instalments, digging up previously-explored themes (even if they are annoyingly signposted with big flashing flashbacks!).
Bane's mission is epically terrifying in its scope, and Bruce Wayne's journey is emotional, compelling, and inspiring. It's a fine movie across the board, and only has a few problems that keep it from a 4-star rating. If you can get through the first half hour (and you should because Nolan has earned your patience!), then you're in for a story of massive scope handled with a very human eye. So rather than not enjoying Rises, you'll love it, but at the same time be ridiculously frustrated by the few shortcomings that are a heavy drag on the story. Whilst incredible in parts, the rather awful elements force the rating to an annoying middle-road.
Read more of Neil's reviews.