The Dark Knight Rises Review: A Fitting End to a Masterful Trilogy
Is The Dark Knight Rises, the final installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, better than 2008‘s The Dark Knight? Definitely not, because a choice has been made in this film to replace The Dark Knight’s narrative perfection for purposeful disorganization. This is a big movie that lobs on disjointed ideas, characters, and events to create a world as busied with a short-hand of anxiety as our own. We know this world so well that when the terror starts, we (the audience) are as overwhelmed as the film’s multitude to protagonists.
And I do mean terror. My late father once asked me, “Why did The Dark Knight have to be so… dark?” I reasoned that the stakes of the superhero film inevitably had to be raised to reflect our own realities. He didn’t like that film, and really wouldn’t have liked The Dark Knight Rises, a messier story with more on its mind than good versus evil. When Batman (Christian Bale) has a fist-fight with Bane (Tom Hardy) amid a torn and tattered Gotham City, we can see we’ve been duped. This ain’t your daddy’s comic book movie, but rather an apocalyptic vision of a terrorist whose only goal is to have the city tear itself apart.
Does this sound familiar? If you’ve been watching this trilogy, you should recall that this was the goal of Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson) and his League of Shadows in 2005’s Batman Begins. How far we’ve come from those simpler times, when slums were slums and criminals wore suits. Bane is now the leader of the League, and he is infiltrating a Gotham without it’s protector. The Dark Knight Rises takes place some eight years after its predecessor, which ended with Batman taking the blame for the crimes of Harvey Dent (Tom Hardy). This has shunned our hero into retirement, and so too Bruce Wayne, who limps around his mansion with the half-destroyed relics of another time.
Then along comes a cat. Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a professional thief who is quick to steal Bruce’s mother’s pearls before stealing his heart and jumping out the window. (She’s Catwoman, but isn’t credited that way and nobody calls her that). This leads to Bruce’s return to Batman, which will have him encounter franchise stalwarts Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Wayne Enterprises CEO Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), as well as the heroic young Officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon Levitt) and millionaire investor Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). All this is surveyed by his butler Alfred (Michael Cane), who watches brokenhearted as Bruce is first wasting away from his years of crime fighting, and then destroying himself on the road back.
And what can be said of Bane, the incumbent nemesis in the absence of Heath Ledger’s thrilling performance as The Joker? For one thing, I think he’s scarier. Bane’s face is shrouded in mystery, but his voice is that of devoted religious zeal. He’s a muffled West Burrow Baptist, promising and delivering horror with a warm song in his heart. His initial fight with Batman lands Bruce in a mythic underground prison. His initial attacks, a shoot-out at the Stock Exchange and blowing up a football stadium, are designed to decimate and devastate. Nolan has always been preoccupied with the nature of violence, and here he analyzes the sort of structural terrorism that our media-fueled society fears most. If Gotham can be broken, so can your city. If Batman can be broken, so can you.
Sometimes even when you don’t know what’s coming, you can still be surprised about just how little you knew. The Dark Knight Rises is that sort of story. Maybe it’s because I avoided the spoilers, but here is a sequel that delivers nothing that you expect it to and everything you wouldn’t consider. For a film of it’s length, it hardly even features it’s title character. Has Nolan and the story risen beyond that of Bruce Wayne’s cape and cowl? That’s for you to judge. For me, this is a good final installment to a progressive franchise.
Note: For information on the shooting at the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, CO, please click here.