Tag Archives: the lord of the rings

Review – The Hobbit III: The Battle of the Five Armies HFR 3D (12a) [2014]

The Hobbit III - title banner

Star Rating: 2/5

Director:

  • Peter Jackson – Lord of the Rings TrilogyThe Lovely BonesThe Hobbit I & IIThe Adventures of Tintin II

Additional Writer:

  • Guillermo Del Toro – Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy I-III, Mama, Pinnochio

Cast:

  • Martin Freeman – The OfficeThe World’s EndSherlockFargo, Captain America III
  • Ian McKellen – Lord of the Rings TrilogyX-Men I-IIIX-Men: Days of Future Past, Mr Holmes
  • Cate Blanchett – Notes On A ScandalBlue JasmineCinderella
  • Richard Armitage – Captain America: The First AvengerBlack SkyInto The Storm
  • Aiden Turner – AlarmThe Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
  • Ken Scott – CasanovaCharlie Wilson’s WarOne Day
  • Graham McTavish – Rambo24: Day 8ColumbianaCreed
  • Benedict Cumberbatch – Tinker Tailor Soldier SpyStar Trek II: Into DarknessThe Fifth Estate12 Years A Slave
  • Orlando Bloom – The Lord of the Rings I-IIIThe Kingdom of HeavenThe Good DoctorZulu
  • Lee Pace – The FallTwilight IV: Breaking Dawn: Part IILincoln, Untitled Lance Armstrong Biopic
  • Evangeline Lilly – LostThe Hurt LockerReal Steel
  • Luke Evans – Clash of the TitansImmortalsThe RavenDracula Untold
  • Stephen Fry – V For VendettaAlice In WonderlandSherlock Holmes II: A Game of Shadows, Once Upon A Time In The Kitchen
  • Ian Holm – Lord of the Rings I IIILord of WarRatatouille
  • Christopher Lee – Lord of the Rings TrilogySeason of the WitchThe Girl From Nagasaki
  • Hugo Weaving – The Matrix TrilogyLord of the Rings TrilogyCaptain America: The First AvengerTransformers I-III, Strangerland

Music Composer:

  • Howard Shore – Lord of the Rings TrilogyHugoA Dangerous MethodThe Hobbit I II, Denial

(Please read my reviews of The Hobbit I: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit II: The Desolation of Smaug for context, as I won’t be going over points I’ve already made, such as the problems with the High Frame Rate, negotiations with the orcs, and the alterations that Jackson has made to the trilogy from the source material.)

Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy was one of the greatest trilogies of all time. It was beautifully put together and held phenomenal emotional weight that made viewers care about the characters in the story. The same, however, cannot be said for the first two volumes of the prequel trilogy. Nevertheless, could the final volume of the prequel trilogy, The Battle of the Five Armies, redeem The Hobbit trilogy?

Smaug the Dragon (voiced thunderously by Benedict Cumberbatch) is our of the Lonely Mountain and torching Laketown.

Smaug the Dragon (voiced thunderously by Benedict Cumberbatch) is our of the Lonely Mountain and torching Laketown.

The Hobbit III starts where The Desolation of Smaug ended: with Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) unleashing his fury upon Laketown. But with the dragon now out of the Lonely Mountain, there is a huge treasure of gold to be had. The greedy leader of the dwarves, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), may not want to share it, but the people of Laketown, as well as armies of elves, orcs, and other dwarves come for their share of the treasure all the same. Thus, the battle of the five armies begins…

The Hobbit III is the shortest of The Hobbit films at 144 minutes and that is one of the movie’s saving graces. Well, that, the opening scene when the Cumberdragon burns Laketown, and the ending itself. The desolation of Laketown is done well, particularly as it’s given the right length of time, as well as the right amount of comedy, action and special effects for it to be spectacular.

Thorin (Richard Armitage) looking for the Arkenstone within a vault of gold so deep he could swim in it like Scrooge McDuck.

Thorin (Richard Armitage) looking for the Arkenstone within a vault of gold so deep he could swim in it like Scrooge McDuck.

It is a shame that the ‘epic’ titular battle, itself, is neither spectacular nor given the right amount of time. It is 45-minutes of repetitive, pleasure-seeking action, devoid of the laws of physics, emotional weight, and should have been cut in half. One does not care what happens to the dwarves or the CGI orcs as they’re all synonymous and lifeless. Plus, if Jackson had comprehended the problems of the hour-long battle in Transformers III or the 40-minute fight in Man of Steel he would not have allowed his ‘epic’ battle go on for so long because it loses its sense of timing. Without the crucial ingredient of timing, the battle becomes snooze-inducing. But then again, the dwarves have always been synonymous throughout the trilogy, the (dark-skinned, deformed) orcs have been there merely to be slaughtered, and more or less every scene in An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug went on for too long, had no sense of timing and ignored the laws of physics. So there really was no hope Jackson learning his lessons and making The Battle of the Five Armies an emotionally fulfilling, succinct masterpiece.

Bard (Luke Evans) on a mule and the King of the Elves, Thranduil (Lee Pace), on a... reindeer? Anyway, they have arrived among an army of elves and men to claim their shares of the treasures in the Lonely Mountain.

Bard (Luke Evans) on a mule and the King of the Elves, Thranduil (Lee Pace), on a… reindeer? Anyway, they have arrived among an army of elves and men to claim their shares of the treasures in the Lonely Mountain.

And like the muddled titular battle, the rest of The Hobbit III is dispiritingly all over the place. That The Hobbit has had a troubled production history might go some way to elucidating why The Hobbit III, in particular, is so bad. (A film based on The Hobbit book was supposed to have been written shortly after the successful conclusion of the LOTR in 2003, but didn’t materialise. Guillermo Del Toro was appointed to direct The Hobbit at some point in the late-2000s, but stepped down for unspecified reasons. Jackson, subsequently, came to the rescue of the project, only for Del Toro to come back on board in some capacity. And, then, after initially deciding to make two films out of the 300-page book, Jackson decided to split the second film in two and shoot new scenes in 2012/13 to make The Hobbit into a trilogy in post-production.) But is the film’s troubled history truly a reason for why the dialogue is so clunky; for why the aftermath of Laketown goes on for too long; for why storylines (unforgivably) do no conclude; for why the central premises of the film/trilogy are (inexcusably) forgotten; and for why the eponymous character of the trilogy, Bilbo Baggins (played with charm by Martin Freeman), feels like a peripheral figure in the concluding chapter of his own story, among other things? The Hobbit III is so unsatisfying that the answers cannot boil down solely to a troubled production history, especially as Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) claimed earlier this year that the LOTR had a chaotic production too. This entails that the film’s/trilogy’s faults lie with Jackson, who has done nothing of significance since the LOTR and has now shown that he can muck up something he loves if he is not controlled.

Azog the Defiler (Manu Bennett) roaring an army of orcs toward the Lonely Mountain to kill the dwarves and everyone else.

Azog the Defiler (Manu Bennett) roaring an army of orcs toward the Lonely Mountain to kill the dwarves and everyone else.

One might have pardoned Jackson for some of the aforementioned errors in The Hobbit III (and the trilogy as a whole) if he had added something innovative to Tolkien’s universe. It would have made for interesting viewing if he had given audiences details of the backgrounds, cultures and religions of the peoples of Middle-Earth that Tolkien, himself, failed to put into his stories, or put in a Machiavellian-style character (like Littlefinger from Game of Thrones). But no, Jackson (depressingly) doesn’t do any of this, meaning that people go away from this bloated film/trilogy knowing nothing more about the wizards, men, elves, dwarves and orcs of Middle-Earth than they did after the LOTR. Simply put: this is not good enough, Jackson.

Over-all, one can breathe a sigh of relief that The Hobbit trilogy is over. While The Battle of the Five Armies has a couple of good moments, like the opening scene and the end credits, it is a mess and suffers from the same issues as The Hobbit I & II: notably, its swollen length to accommodate the extreme self-indulgence, tedium and sameness. Whilst watching The Hobbit III, it feels like one is watching a glutton stuff his/her face, whilst the problems within The Hobbit trilogy as well as the problems surrounding the trilogy’s production illuminate before one’s eyes. Worse, The Hobbit III and the trilogy as a whole show up the problems within Tolkien’s works, including the LOTR. Peter Jackson, how could you go so wrong?

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Review – The Hobbit II: The Desolation of Smaug (12a) [2013]

The Hobbit II - title banner

Star Rating: 3/5

Director:

  • Peter Jackson – Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Lovely Bones, The Hobbit IIII, The Adventures of Tintin II

Cast:

  • Martin Freeman – The OfficeThe World’s End, Sherlock, Fargo
  • Ian McKellen – Apt PupilLord of the Rings TrilogyX-Men I-IIIX-Men: Days of Future Past
  • Cate Blanchett – Notes On A ScandalBlue Jasmine, Cinderella
  • Richard Armitage – Captain America: The First AvengerBlack Sky, Into The Storm
  • Aiden Turner – Alarm, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
  • Ken Scott – Casanova, Charlie Wilson’s War, One Day
  • Graham McTavish – Rambo, 24: Day 8, Columbiana
  • Benedict Cumberbatch – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Star Trek II: Into Darkness, The Fifth Estate, 12 Years A Slave
  • Orlando Bloom – The Lord of the Rings I-III, The Kingdom of Heaven, The Good Doctor, Zulu
  • Lee Pace – The Fall, Twilight IV: Breaking Dawn: Part II, Lincoln, Untitled Lance Armstrong Biopic
  • Evangeline Lilly – Lost, The Hurt Locker, Real Steel
  • Luke Evans – Clash of the Titans, Immortals, The Raven, Dracula Untold
  • Stephen Fry – V For Vendetta, Alice In Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes II: A Game of Shadows, Once Upon A Time In The Kitchen

Music Composer:

  • Howard Shore – Lord of the Rings TrilogyHugo, A Dangerous MethodThe Hobbit IIII

In December 2012, Peter Jackson started audiences on another nine-hour trilogy into Middle Earth, nine years after the last one ended. But anyone expecting The Hobbit Trilogy to be of the same quality as The Lord of the Rings Trilogy should have looked at the size of their respective source materials. With The Hobbit book having less than a third of the pages of The Lord of the Rings, it was unsurprising that The Hobbit I: An Expected Journey was overly-stretched, self-indulgent and stuffed with scenes that added little to the adventure. Well (predictably), The Hobbit II: The Desolation of Smaug suffers from the same syndrome, but it is a vast improvement on its predecessor.

Thorin (Richard Armitage), Balin (Ken Scott) and Dwalin (Graham McTavish, furthest left) looking for a the secret entrance.

Thorin (Richard Armitage), Balin (Ken Scott) and Dwalin (Graham McTavish, furthest left) looking for a the secret entrance.

In The Hobbit I, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) left the Shire to help Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the dwarves of Erebor reclaim their gold and homeland from Smaug the Dragon. By the end of An Unexpected Journey, after a long and dull trek (that mimicked the journey of the fellowship in The Fellowship of the Ring), some chases, and some fights with goblins and orcs, the eagles rescued Gandalf, Bilbo and the dwarves, and flew them to within sight of the Lonely Mountain and the ruins of Erebor.

Now, it is up to our new fellowship to make their way to the Lonely Mountain and retrieve the Arkenstone, the legitimising gem for the dwarf king. Yet, in order to regain this precious pearl, someone will have to be brave enough to snatch it from under the clasp of a dragon…

The plot for The Desolation of Smaug is straightforward and fun. The storyline also runs at a much faster pace than that of An Unexpected Journey, which is a good thing (since last time out it took 43 minutes just for Bilbo to leave the Shire).

Another noteworthy matter is that Peter Jackson has somewhat rectified two of the faults of the last film by adding in a major (albeit made up) female character (Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly); and by giving some personality to Balin, Dwalin and Kili so that they can differentiate themselves from Thorin ‘wannabe Aragorn’ Oakenshield and the other nine (synonymous) dwarves.

Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), the uniquely badass elf, showing the orcs what she's made of.

Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), the uniquely badass elf, showing the orcs what she’s made of.

Moreover, the dragon has been done superbly well. The special effects, combined with Benedict Cumberbatch’s rich, rumbling voice make the scenes with Smaug some of the most creative dragon scenes ever seen in a movie. Undoubtedly, the arrival of Smaug is one of the best features of The Desolation of Smaug and makes the film worthwhile.

However, in a similar vein to An Unexpected Journey, at 161 minutes The Desolation of Smaug is long. (Couldn’t the eagles have flown the protagonists to the Lonely Mountain and spared us two hours?). Worse, The Hobbit II is bloated with the disapplication of the laws of physics, an overuse of CGI, too many fight scenes, some (Logger’s Leap-style) fairground rides, irrelevant sub-plots from old and new characters, and an unnecessary love triangle (stolen from that wreckage of a pentology known as Twilight) to cap it all. All of these add nothing to the story and should have been edited out.

Yes, the water rides might be as entertaining as the love triangle is contrived and pointless. But there is something troubling about the continued mowing down of the orcs by the protagonists. Why couldn’t Peter Jackson have had our heroes at least try to negotiate peace with the orcs? Is it because the orcs look deformed that they can’t be negotiated with?

One may argue that as no negotiations take place in the source material, it cannot happen in the films. But, first, we are in 2014 (not the 1930s when the book was published, or the 1960s when the book became a sensation, or even 2001 when the first of The Lord of the Rings films came out). And in 2014 peace negotiations with peoples different to our own must be given every chance to succeed. Second, Jackson has changed so much from the book that merely to state the excuse of ‘not in the source material’ is neither convincing nor valid.

Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), usurper and desolator of Erebor, awakening from his slumber to reveal his awe-inspiring (and frightening) size.

Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), usurper and desolator of Erebor, awakening from his slumber to reveal his awe-inspiring (and frightening) size.

Perhaps, if Bilbo had posed the above-mentioned questions, it would have enriched the story and given the film a deeper moral dimension. More to the point, it would have been in character with Martin Freeman’s excellent portrayal of Bilbo and made The Desolation of Smaug a more gratifying and thought-provoking film.

Over-all, The Hobbit II: The Desolation of Smaug is a step up from An Unexpected JourneyThe Desolation of Smaug moves at a decent pace; has some, if too many, enjoyable and imaginative action scenes; and a fantastic looking and aptly sounding dragon to make for an entertaining spectacle. Nevertheless, there is no getting away from The Hobbit II’s swollen running time. The Desolation of Smaug, like An Unexpected Journey before it, is burdened by the numerous, purposeless, Jackson-invented side-stories that have ruined all that is good about the first two instalments of The Hobbit Trilogy, and that are also surreptitiously sullying The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

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Review – The Hobbit I: An Unexpected Journey HFR 3D (12a) [2012]

The Hobbit - title banner

Star Rating: 2.5/5

Director:

  • Peter Jackson – Brain Dead, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, King Kong, The Hobbit II & III

Cast:

  • Martin Freeman – The Office, Love, Actually, Svengali
  • Ian McKellen – Apt Pupil, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, X-Men I-III, X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • Cate Blanchett – Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Blue Jasmine
  • Barry Humphries – The Dame Edna Treatment, Finding Nemo, Justin & The Knights of Valour
  • Hugo Weaving – The Matrix Trilogy, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Captain America: The First AvengerTransformers I-III
  • Christopher Lee – Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Season of the Witch, The Girl From Nagasaki
  • Richard Armitage – Spooks, Captain America: The First Avenger, Black Sky
  • Ian Holm – Lord of the Rings I & III, Lord of War, Ratatouille
  • Elijah Wood – Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Green Street, Open Windows
  • Andy Serkis – Lord of the Rings Trilogy, King Kong, Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Music Composer:

  • Howard Shore – Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Hugo, The Hobbit II & III

<<guest review by KJF>>

Eleven years after the first of Peter Jackson’s magnificent two Lord of the Rings-related trilogies hit our screens, its prequel has finally arrived. What has alarmed many viewers even before getting into auditoriums to see The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey is that it is three hours long, and only the first of a proposed nine-hour trilogy covering the events of JRR Tolkien’s beloved, but not particularly lengthy children’s book, first published in 1937. The result is that An Unexpected Journey is a lengthened, over-indulgent spectacle that will be welcomed by Middle Earth addicts, but might alienate the average cinemagoer.

Bilbo (Martin Freeman) bewildered as the dwarves invade his home unexpectedly and immediately make themselves at home by gobbling down his food and liquer.

Bilbo (Martin Freeman) bewildered as the dwarves invade his home unexpectedly and immediately make themselves at home by gobbling down his food and liquor.

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is the home-loving hobbit of the title, living in a cozy hole in the ground in the Shire, a rural idyll in the western part of Tolkien’s vast imaginary world. Bilbo’s part of a community of small beings with hairy feet who love the good life, preferring nothing better than eating, drinking, smoking and sleeping.

Bilbo’s personal tranquility is interrupted by the arrival of the wizard, Gandalf ‘the Grey’ (Ian McKellen), followed hot on his heels by a gang of dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). The dwarves are desperate to recover their homeland, the kingdom of Erebor, from the clutches of the evil dragon, Smaug, who rather inconsiderately destroyed it all, and who now spends his days drenched in all its treasure. So Bilbo is recruited into the party – as a ‘burglar’ of all things – and the adventure begins.

The early part of the film manages, quite successfully, to recreate the gentle humour of the book. Freeman, so good at playing the everyman (as in TV’s The Office), is an inspired choice as Bilbo, looking on in wondrous, mostly wordless amazement as Gandalf and the dwarves take over his home; the latter gang eating him out of house and hole. But then as events progress (at the aggravating pace of a snail), spectacle and action take over and the early charm is lost.

Yet, the spectacle is truly spectacular! The detailed recreation of Smaug’s attack on Erebor is a wonder to behold, filling the screen with the terrifying destruction he reaps, while only tantalisingly giving us a glimmer of what the monster looks like. There’s much else to goggle at with all the scrapes Bilbo and the party get into: dodging trolls, wargs and orcs overground; as well as goblins underground in the depths of the MistyMountains.

Jackson has, of course, been here before and it’s to be expected that the mise-en-scene of Middle Earth has been beautifully and lavishly re-created. Jackson again fully utilises the picturesque New Zealand landscapes to his advantage.

Bilbo attending a secret council in Rivendell, the home of the elves, along with Thorin (Richard Armitage), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and another dwarf.

Bilbo attending a secret council in Rivendell, the home of the elves, along with Thorin (Richard Armitage), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and another dwarf.

Nevertheless, unlike with Lord of the Rings, Jackson has shot The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at 48-frames-per-second, known as the Higher Frame Rate (HFR), rather than the standard 24-frames-per-second. Although the HFR was meant to make everything appear more realistic, it is more likely to bring about the peculiar feeling of watching a TV programme with a substantially greater budget. Actors might appear very clearly in the foreground, but the computer-generated backgrounds come across as just that: computer-generated! This sadly lessens the ‘reality’ that Jackson was aiming for, and the 3D element doesn’t add much either (other than a few quid onto the ticket price).

It’s a shame that with all the technical innovations Jackson hasn’t focused more on ramping up his creative approach. There are some nice sops to Lord of the Rings fans, particularly having the elder Bilbo (Ian Holm) and Frodo (Elijah Wood) appear at the beginning. After a while though, a sense of déjà-vu creeps in, whether it is in the use of musical riffs from the original trilogy, or the overlong focus on the re-introduction of Gollum (Andy Serkis).

What further acts as a ballast for the film’s 169-minute running time are events and characters not in the original narrative, but picked out from other of Tolkien’s writings. One would have thought that if Jackson had wanted to be so cavalier with the original source material, he would have done something that was truly necessary, such as putting in some more prominent female characters to spice up the narrative. Yet, aside from Cate Blanchett’s brief reprisal as a more-youthful Galadriel, other women in the movie are virtually non-existent. Indeed, Jackson has seemingly forgotten to even put them in the background for the orcs and goblins (which naturally prompts some interesting questions on procreativity).

Gollum (Andy Serkis), enhanced thanks to modern technology, playing a game of riddles with Bilbo.

Gollum (Andy Serkis), enhanced thanks to modern technology, playing a game of riddles with Bilbo.

In all of this, it is also hard to pick out distinctive characters throughout the film. Martin Freeman is superb as Bilbo, Ian McKellen once again gives a magisterial performance as Gandalf, and Barry Humphries is great as the voice of the Goblin King. Yet, aside from grumpy Thorin ‘wannabe-Aragorn’ Oakenshield, it’s hard to tell one dwarf from another, since they all seem as one-dimensional, hairy and gruff as the next. Considering that The Hobbit is about the dwarves trying to reclaim their homeland, this is not sufficient.

Thus, Part I of The Hobbit has started us on another unexpected journey through Middle Earth. Already though, after almost three hours (and with another six to go), it feels like we are on a long and bloated trek that possibly has the power to undo all that was good about Lord of the Rings.

KJF

Review – The Dark Knight Rises (12a) [2012]

Star Rating: 5/5

Director:

Cinematographer:

Cast:

Music Composer:

Once in a decade, perhaps, are audiences treated to a trilogy wherein the three films are not only worthy of five stars each, but also raise the bar over the movie that preceded it. Ten years ago, it was Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, which culminated beautifully in the epic The Return of the King. Now, it is the turn of Christopher Nolan and his Dark Knight Legend saga, which has climaxed spectacularly with The Dark Knight Rises.

The monstrous-looking, hulking Bane (Tom Hardy). Ra’s Al Ghul’s successor intends to finish off Gotham once and for all, forcing Batman to come out of his virtual retirement.

Eight years have passed since Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) defeated the Joker, killed the District Attorney, Harvey Dent, and disappeared. Since then, Gotham has branded Batman an enemy, after he took responsibility for Dent’s crimes to uphold the reputation of the ‘White Knight.’ Whilst away from his former exploits, Bruce has been a recluse, investing some of his considerable wealth in peaceful nuclear energy and the Wayne Foundation, where he uses the expertise of Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) to good effect.

However, Gotham now faces a new threat. The League of Shadows has returned and is led by the masked, super-strong Bane (Tom Hardy), who is out to destroy Gotham and Batman with it. After Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) is wounded trying to take out Bane, leaving the police almost solely in the hands of the young idealist officer, John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Bruce feels that the time has come to don the bat-gear again. But how will Gotham take to his return? And what will Batman do with the criminal Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), who has a mysterious interest in Wayne Manor and Wayne Enterprise?

Rises’ plot might be slow-moving for the first hour and it certainly requires great levels of concentration for the entire 164 minutes; yet, the film is intellectually-stimulating, absorbing and multi-layered. It also builds up to a stunning, well-thought-through climax, ensuring that those who give the movie their full attention will be rewarded.

One of the most satisfying aspects of the storyline is that Nolan cleverly links Rises with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, the two previous instalments in the series. He does this by making the caped crusader rise to a new mental and physical challenge, which is a direct result of his prior victory over the League of Shadows; and by illustrating the relevance of Batman and Harvey Dent as symbols of hope against injustice and corruption. (Not to mention demonstrating how susceptible the fabrics of society are to implosion when the symbols are smashed.)

Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) wearing her figure-revealing ‘cat’ outfit while she steals what she needs at night and fights her way out of trouble.

Furthermore, Nolan intelligently incorporated genuine, present-day issues and analogies into the previous two films to make them relatable to the epoch. He does it again in Rises. Like in The Dark Knight, he throws in moral and ethical dilemmas here to illustrate just how tough and messy decisions can be for our political leaders (in the war on terror). And, like in Batman Begins, Nolan underlines how sophisticated, scientific technology can be used as weapons. In the first film in the series, it was the dangers of microwave emitters. In the third, it’s the threat posed by ‘peaceful’ nuclear programs (Iran) and what happens should they fall into the wrong hands.

Arguably, Rises lacks a character with the charisma of the Joker, especially as he is Batman’s traditional nemesis. Nevertheless, the astuteness of the plot and the excellence of the cast make up for this absence. Christian Bale superbly reveals the psychological torment and the multifaceted nature of Bruce Wayne that makes all other comic-book based protagonists, such as those in Fantastic Four, The Avengers Assemble and Spiderman appear immature and superficial by comparison; Anne Hathaway looks as eye-catching in tightly-fitted latex as she plays; Michael Caine again gives a touching performance as Alfred, Bruce’s wise fatherly butler, as does Morgan Freeman as the humorous Lucius Fox, the head of Wayne Enterprise; and, lastly, Tom Hardy is terrifying as Bane.

Just as Nolan did with the villains Scarecrow, the Joker and Two-Face in the other movies, he’s turned Bane from a pantomime fool (as was seen in the unwatchable 1997 Batman & Robin) into a complex and sinister character, with a distressing backstory. It is not merely Bane’s brute strength and intelligence that’s scary, it’s also the glint of frightening fanaticism in his eyes which was probably last seen with Ayatollah Khomeini, the late leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

Batman (Christian Bale), with renewed vigour, battling it out with Bane to save Gotham from destruction.

While the actors do their parts splendidly, so too do the special effects team and Hans Zimmer. The effects look so real, viewers have to remind themselves that CGI was used. Similarly, the score may not be as grand or uplifting as the one composed by Howard Shore for The Lord of the Rings; nonetheless, the dark disposition of Rises entails that Zimmer’s gothic-style music is apt and augments the scenes exponentially.

Over-all, The Dark Knight Rises is an engrossing and special conclusion to an exceptional trilogy. Christopher Nolan has transformed the Batman story from a joke into a dark and very human tale that has relevance to the current era, making all other comic-book based movies seem light and casual in contrast. Once more, Nolan has used intelligence and a phenomenal cast to outdo himself in the same way that Peter Jackson did almost a decade ago. Heaven knows, it might be another ten years before we see a series of such brilliance again.

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