The Dark Knight Rises: not the same without the Joker

The Joker. One of the greatest enemies that comics have ever offered. An adversary that gripped comic book fans for years and did the hard task of gripping the mainstream cinema audience in 2008.

The Joker. One of the greatest enemies that comics have ever offered. An adversary that gripped comic book fans for years and did the hard task of gripping the mainstream cinema audience in 2008. Heath Ledger’s performance as the makeup clad clown bought people of all ages to the big screen and left the gripped by Christopher Nolan’s (director of Inception, The Prestige, Memento and many more) Batman series. Despite being the second of the trilogy,The Dark Knight made Batman popular once more as it racked up well over a billion dollars by 2010.

After such a widespread success, how can the latest in the series The Dark Knight Rises even come close to its predecessor?

Despite it being nearly impossible to better such an impressive movie, The Dark Knight Rises gives fans of the series all the things they look for in a comic book action-epic; expansive action sequences, moments of drama, and the cheeky comedy we’ve grown to love from the genre. These make Batman’s latest adventure one that audiences are sure to enjoy.

Eight years on from the death of Harvey Dent and the collapse of the mob, Gotham is in a time of peace and Batman is in retirement. Lonely millionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), still mourning the death of Rachel, is forced into donning the mask and cape once again when villain Bane (Tom Hardy) looks to cause carnage in Gotham.

It was always going to be difficult for Nolan to find an enemy as brilliant and challenging as The Joker. Bane presents a different challenge to Batman. Rather than the intelligence and sheer craziness presented by The Joker, the size and strength of Bane means he is the first villain Nolan’s Batman has faced who is stronger than him. His strength and almost Darth Vader-esque voice, combined with the mask he wears, make Bane a worth adversary of the Bat.

Hardy’s performance as the brutish villain didn’t leave me feeling 100% satisfied. Don’t get me wrong, there were some great moments of comedy that were delivered perfectly but I found the robotic voice a little hard to understand at times. The deep bassy voice was perfect for creating a truly scary villain, but didn’t give the Nolan brother’s excellent dialogue the clarity it deserved. However, what Hardy’s performance lacked vocally, it more than made up for in his eyes. With a mask covering the majority of his face, his eyes were all that was the only way left for the audience to gain insight into the mind of the antagonist. A performance feature that could have easily been missed, yet added so much to the film.

The quality of the cast add so much to the film, whether they are returning characters from earlier in the series or fresh faces. Christian Bale (despite his apparent ‘diva’ temperament on set) is once again brilliant as the troubled millionaire come crime fighter, Michael Cane delivers a sublime performance as Alfred, Morgan Freeman’s cool style runs throughout the character Lucius Fox and, of course, not forgetting Gary Oldman who returns as the extremely likeable Commissioner Gordon.

It was the new faces that Nolan bought in that made the film special. Bringing in the likes of Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard (all who starred in Inception) brings Batman’s latest adventure to an all new level. Gordon-Levitt play the everyman role of Blake perfectly, giving the audience a character to relate to in an unbelievable world. As well as the Inception ensemble joining, Anne Hathaway stepped out of her usual rom-com role to play Selina/Catwoman. She puts Hallie Berry’s portrayal of the character to shame, as she brings class to the table, not just her undeniable beauty.

There were a few moments the film became a little frustrating. I found my mind wandering away from the action towards the middle of the near-three hour film – the pace slowed, the intensity dropped and it seemed little progress was made in the story for a while. However, as the intensity picked back up, the story became gripping as it twisted and turned, leaving the audience guessing as to how the story would unfold.

An excellent cast, coupled with one of the greatest directors of this generation, The Dark Knight Rises almost has it all. The one thing it is missing… The Joker. Although Tom Hardy’s Bane is a strong villain, it is impossible for him to match up to the genius of Ledger’s joker. Had this been a standalone film, I would be saying it is the best film ever, but I can’t help looking back at The Dark Knight and thinking of the creepy clown.