Darik's Review of The Dark Knight Rises
The Dark Knight Rises(2012)
Finally! With this film, we finally have the first three-quel to a major superhero franchise that stands as tall as its predecessors! And in my opinion, it couldn't have happened with a better series...
The Dark Knight Rises is the perfect closing chapter to a cinematic trilogy that's up there with the Lord of the Rings films or the original Star Wars movies (okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration... but in my opinion, not by much). It is not the best entry in Christopher Nolan's masterful series of Batman films-- that honor, unsurprisingly, remains with The Dark Knight-- but it brings the story of Bruce Wayne and his costumed alter-ego full circle in a way that is TREMENDOUSLY satisfying. It's also the biggest, most sprawling chapter in the entire franchise, boasting action on a larger scale than ever before and featuring an ensemble that would put even Inception to shame. And while the sheer size and complexity of the story can be trying at times, it's all there for a purpose-- even if that purpose is tough to see at first (Matthew Modine in particular is a puzzling addition-- at least, until the end). The Nolans (Christopher and his screenwriter brother, Jonathan) have cited Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities (detailing the plight of the French peasantry in the years before the French Revolution, and their subsequent brutality towards the aristocracy when all hell broke loose) as a major inspiration for the script, and I believe it; but at the same time, it features plenty of comic book inspiration as well, from storylines as diverse as Knightfall, The Dark Knight Returns, and No Man's Land. The result is a gigantic film that manages action on the scale of a war movie without sacrificing the smaller, intimate stories and characters that weave throughout it. Sure, there are a lot of new characters to get acquainted with this time (not the least of which being Tom Hardy's magnificently maleficent Bane and Anne Hathaway's slinky, ambiguous Catwoman), but the focus is set firmly back on Bruce Wayne in this film-- showing us the cost of his mission as Batman, the effect it's had on him, and the choice he ultimately has to make whether to allow pain and grief to dominate the rest of his life. The film has been marketed as the "final chapter" to Bruce's story, and it doesn't disappoint; in fact, The Dark Knight Rises has brought something to the mythos of Batman that has never been a part of it before: catharsis.
The film opens eight years after the events of the last film and the death of Harvey Dent, and apparently, Gotham City has become a much nicer place. Crime is down, the mob is a thing of the past, and the Batman hasn't been seen in years-- all because of the Harvey Dent Act, a piece of anti-crime legislation passed in honor of the fallen "hero" of Gotham. 'Course, it's all based on a lie, and the only two people who know it are Commissioner Gordon and Bruce Wayne, who's become a Howard Hughes-esq recluse in the newly-rebuilt Wayne Manor. But that all changes when Wayne's fingerprints are stolen by a cat burglar named Selina Kyle (ultimately used in a scheme to bankrupt Wayne), and Gordon runs afoul of an underground army led by a mysterious masked mercenary named Bane. Sure enough, Bruce brings the Batman out of retirement, armed with more toys and vehicles than ever before (including a spiffy new heli-jet called "the Bat")... but he isn't the man he used to be, which he quickly learns during a disastrous battle with Bane himself that ends with Batman captured, his back broken. Then, things REALLY get serious: Bane, in charge of a revitalized League of Shadows, detonates the bridges and tunnels out of Gotham and holds the city hostage with a nuclear device (retrofitted from a Wayne Enterprises fusion reactor). Bruce, meanwhile, is trapped in a prison halfway across the globe, forced to watch on T.V. as Gotham destroys itself in a desperate struggle to survive, and burdened with the knowledge that Bane WILL detonate the bomb. Can Bruce build himself back into what he was and find the strength to escape before Gotham is reduced to ashes? And how far will he have to go to save it? (Trust me, though, there is so much more plot going on here than I've mentioned-- I've just tried to streamline things for brevity's sake.)
Christian Bale is back one more time to reprise the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman, who starts out the film in the darkest place we've yet seen him. Robbed of his first love and no longer needed as Batman, Bruce has no more direction, ambition, or hope. Wayne the fop is gone-- a masquerade Bruce seems to have no more energy for. The only thing he seems to care about is the chance to return as Batman and bludgeon the shit out of criminals again-- it's the only thing he has to live for, to the point that it's become a self-destructive addiction. As the film progresses, though, we see the character struggle to emerge from his depression and rage, finally taking his first steps towards healing and away from the shadow of Batman; as always, Bale delivers a fantastic performance, humanizing Bruce Wayne to a point that no other portrayal has dared. Bringing Bruce some of the impetus to get back in the game is Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, a thief and con woman (who is never actually referred to as "Catwoman", despite definitely looking the part). Hathaway steals nearly every scene she's in-- she's got Kyle's devilish playfulness down to an art form, slinking through the film and manipulating those around her with a deft touch. But there's more to the character than just sensuality and cunning, and Hathaway makes sure that we can see it beneath the surface-- leaving us wondering if Selina is playing us up until the very end. (more to come)