The final chapter in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy has finally arrived. Starting in 2005 with Batman Begins, Nolan redefined the superhero genre, creating a gritty, dark, and cold vigilante who must come to terms with the pain and fear inside before he could truly save Gotham from corruption.
Nolan’s attention to specifics and efforts to ground the characters in realism placed the franchise leagues above its competition. The Dark Knight Rises comes full circle, as Nolan tries to place everything from the beginning of the franchise in nice bow. However, amidst its colorful characters, brilliant cinematography, talented actors, and one amazing score, the plot slowly crumbles beneath itself, but holds together right before the very end. The problem? An over political and unnatural script, sculpted by Inception-styled plot points.
It’s been eight years since anyone’s heard or seen of Batman, and in that time Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse. Taking advantage of the vigilante’s absence, Bane (Tom Hardy) and his men turn Gotham’s underground system into their world– it’s a place few are willing to venture. Above the ground, Gotham’s streets have been “cleaned-up” due to the Harvey Dent Act, put into place by Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), who, with the permission of Bruce, have led the people to believe it was Batman who murdered Harvey Dent/Two Face.
The lie works for a while, until Bane makes his presence known in Gotham, causing havoc as he fulfills his mission. Brought to the light by a devious and witty Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and a firm believer of the Batman, John Blake (Joseph-Gordon Levitt), Bruce makes his way back into the world. He aims to give Gotham a fire, a light by which they can follow out of the darkness; however, crippled both emotionally and physically, Bruce must first make his own way out of the dark.
Nolan understands how to build a story that never lets up on tension, keeping audience members on edge. After a good 30 minutes of exposition, the throttle shifts gears several times, and never backwards as the story unfolds. A mid-air act in the opening scene sets the bar high, as we’re introduced to Bane’s never ending terror. Throw in several action packed scenes led by Selina Kyle and John Blake, and we’re in second gear. In the last 30 minutes, Christopher and his brother/screenwriter Jonathan Nolan utilize the “ticking clock” plot device for a chilling and climatic peak. The falling action and denouement… well that’s a whole different story.
A Superb Cast
On a whole, the cast kept this film afloat, delivering stellar performances that captured the emotion despite having to spew monologues overladen with political themes. Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman were nothing but brilliant.
Christian Bale & Michael Caine
I thank Nolan for finally giving Caine some meat. We really get to understand Alfred’s concern and love for Bruce as he puts on the mask to save his city. On more than one occasion, Caine’s monologues really brought tears to my eyes. They were delivered with brilliance, and the tension between Bale and Caine was cleverly crafted. Alfred’s character went from being just a family friend and butler to a father figure.
By the same token, Bale did great with what he was given. Out of three films, TDKR showed Bale at his finest. He spends a lot of time outside of the mask, as Bruce tries to move on from his past. Bruce’s character arch from beginning to end, gave Bale a lot to work with, and of course he handled it with pure skill. In fact, the compelling parts of the film occurred away from the mask. But it was Bruce’s relationship with Alfred that stood above all relationships.
Speechless. Anne Hathaway morphed into Selina Kyle. One must also note that not once in the film is she referred to as “Catwoman.” From that angle alone, Hathaway was forced to create her own character from scratch. Despite Catwoman having been played by 5 other actresses, in 5 completely different ways, Hathaway didn’t rely on their performances; instead she crafted an ass-kicking, smart, and dangerous Selina Kyle. Many thought she wouldn’t fit the bill… (OK I’m guilty of doubting Nolan’s casting as well) but damn, did she prove us all wrong. The way Hathaway walked and carried herself, her thirst for riches, and her determination to live was impeccable.
No, you cannot compare Bane and the Joker. Why? Because they are completely different characters — one’s ruled by creating chaos for the hell of it , and the other, ruled by a controlled anger, a desire for what he considers to be “the correct way of life.” Separating Hardy from Bane, Hardy’s portrayal of fear was absolutely frightening, not to mention his physical transformation, which showed Hardy’s dedication to the character. He had the difficult job of portraying emotion with his eyes as more than half his face was covered by the mask. Hardy’s performance was nearly flawless, despite Nolan handling the character quite poorly.
Han’s Zimmer’s Riveting Score
Ive talked way too much about Hans Zimmer‘s beautiful score, so I won’t go into much detail here. But listening to it from computer speakers and then in the theater are two different experiences. Having seen the movie, I can truly say that the score’s power and emphasis on the brass and drums definitely works, falling right inline with the characters and plot. Those of you looking for a full on review of the score can check out The Dark Knight Rises Soundtrack Review.
For more than one reason, I was disappointed in the way the Nolan brothers handled such an interesting character. I can’t say too much without giving away a spoiler or two, but the revelation of another character completely ruined Bane for me. I no longer feared him, in my eyes I no longer saw him as the villain. That uprooted everything I had thought about him, and I left the theater a bit ticked that they put so much investment in a character to have him thrown away in such a manner. And his voice… I didn’t understand 40% of what he was saying, and hearing Bane speak for the first time was a bit comical — expected something much deeper with less-inflection.
I just didn’t get this one. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, much like Tom Hardy, was fantastic. Once again, the character suffered from the Nolans forcing in another plot line/character that wasn’t needed. Did he add to the story? Kind of. However, the cheesy ending, nearly killed it for me. I wish we had spent more time with John Blake; perhaps Nolan could’ve introduced him in The Dark Knight. I enjoyed his story, looking up to Bruce Wayne as the orphan who made a name for himself, but he took away from the plot line, and I didn’t care for him as much as I should have — his “new position” wasn’t deserved.
The Handling of Political Themes
The story flowed at a nice pace. A bit long at points, and sure we could’ve done without a couple scenes, but it didn’t feel like a 2 hours & 30 minute plus film, which is good. The story flailed in Nolan’s attempts to saturate it with political themes. I’m all for addressing the world’s current state through art, but the rule of thumb in any artistic medium is not to preach. From Selina’s Occupy monologue, heard in several TV spots, to the scenes of Bane dragging out the rich and giving more to the poor and putting the government back in the people’s hands… once again it was too much. Nolan practically beat us over the head with it.
After studying the story a bit more, I’ve come to the realization that the film is more of a commentary on what could happen if The Occupy Wall Street protestors had their way. In TDKR Gotham resembles a post-OWS city, absent of any order, absent of police and those in charge. Selina Kyle represents the current mind set of OWS protestors; however, her position on taking from the 1% changes over time as she sees Gotham falling into the hands of terrorists. TDKR is a warning — be careful what you wish for.
The Story – Too Many New Characters, Not Enough Continuation
With Batman Begins and The Dark Knight we were introduced to The Joker, Harvey Dent/Two Face, Rachel Dawes, The Scarecrow, Ra’s al Ghul; in The Dark Knight Rises all of these characters have either died, or are no longer important to the plot. We’re then introduced to whole slew of new characters — John Blake, Bane, Selina Kyle, Miranda Tate — for whom we’re supposed to all of a sudden care about in the last chapter. It’s too many characters a bit too late. It’s as if Nolan felt rushed or pressured to add these characters to make fans happy, or to give us an ending that would make everything come to light, but it was too much. I didn’t care for any of the new characters. Sure Selina Kyle was a boss, but I didn’t know anything more about her at the end of the film than I did at the beginning.
Overall Score: 4 Stars Out of 5
Unfortunately, not even Nolan could stand against the trilogy curse — X-men 3: The Last Stand & Spider-Man 3 both suffered the same fate (TDKR was no where near tragic as those two). When we’ve seen better from Nolan, are expectations are higher. Was the film horrible? Not at all, I enjoyed it tremendously, and I’ve seen it twice. Might go for a third round. However, I went in with certain expectations, and those expectations were not met. I respect Nolan for his contribution to the genre. This trilogy is one of the best in cinema history. Without it, the superhero genre would be in a completely different place. Thanks, Nolan for an amazing seven years of Batman.