The Last Dance for the Caped Crusader
As I begin this review, I would like to pause momentarily for the victims of the Aurora Massacre…
Now, onto the review. One of 2012’s most anticipated films, The Dark Knight Rises is finally here. It was well worth the wait. Set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, we find that thanks to the Dent Act, put into place after Harvey Dent’s “murder”, organized crime is virtually a distant memory of darker times. The streets of Gotham City are safe and all seems to be well. The dream of a self-sustaining Gotham that no longer needs a hero has been achieved and The Batman has disappeared into the shadows.
Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) however, has become reclusive and withdrawn from the world. Tortured by the sacrifices he made, we find a noticeably injured and seemingly frail Wayne in a place that is not unlike where Ra’s Al Ghul found him when the whole story began in Batman Begins. That place is lost. Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) is also haunted by his role in the cover-up of the truth about Harvey Dent and even though crime is way down, he remains on his guard. Of course in a trilogy capper such as this, we know that things are bound to get interesting. And boy, do they ever.
‘Interesting’, I would say is a key word regarding this film, which actually doesn’t have a whole lot of Batman in it per se. Yet, the story of Bruce Wayne’s struggles as he is brought out of retirement by the feisty cat burglar, Selina Kyle (played with just the right amount of sass and sensuality by a fantastic Anne Hathaway), kept me engaged. It’s been said that the film moves a bit slow before Batman actually hits the scene, but I disagree. Nolan, as always, manages to keep the pacing just right. There is enough happening that you don’t get bored. In fact, you almost forget that it’s a Batman film you’re watching. It also doesn’t hurt to have great all around actors filling in the spaces in between all the action with some substance.
We have newcomers like Marion Cotillard, who plays Miranda Tate, a mysterious millionaire investor who also does her part in bringing Bruce back to the land of the living. As does the young idealistic cop, John Blake, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who, like Cotilliard’s Tate, has a satisfying character arc. Both characters also have profound effects on Bruce and managed to fit in nicely with the series’ veteran thespians Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman.
The new villain in town is muscle-bound genius, Bane (successfully reimagined and menacingly played by Tom Hardy), who is set on completing Ra’s Al Ghul’s mission from Batman Begins of destroying the city of Gotham in order to establish a new order devoid of corruption. As a former member of The League of Shadows like Bruce, an intellectual, and a physical force to be reckoned with, he presents a unique challenge for Batman, one that he hasn’t yet faced. We are certain when these two first meet that Batman will be in for the fight of his life.
The story is very much a Bruce Wayne story. It’s all about him rediscovering, when at his lowest point, with nothing, what it took for him to become Batman in the first place. The emotional depths he reached, the physical extremes he had to push his body to, the anger and fear he learned to manage in order to overcome. We also revisit the theme of fear, which was a central theme in Begins, and its significance in Bruce’s life; his relationship with fear from being afraid to not and back again. Things like this bring Bruce Wayne’s story full circle. Christopher Nolan has managed to do this in a way that doesn’t feel gimmicky in the way that say, Spider-Man 3 does by bringing back the issue of Uncle Ben’s murder and changes the killer from some random thug to Sandman in order to teach Peter Parker a lesson about forgiveness. Rather, it feels very organic and the result of expert plotting by Nolan and his brother.
This film is as dark as its predecessors, which it should be. There are great acting moments particularly between Christian Bale and Michael Caine, which all three of the films have. They demonstrate the complexity of the relationship the two men have. The moments between them are real, honest-to-goodness family moments and those moments in between the big action set pieces do much to give the film some heart, which surprisingly, Rises has quite a bit of. It is a film in which the shadow of the events of The Dark Knight and Batman Begins is strongly felt and many of the issues brought up in those films are dealt with here. The tale of Bruce Wayne/The Batman is brought to a greatly satisfying close, while also allowing the legend to live on, which is what Begins suggested all along. If you can become more than a man in the eye of your opponent, you become legend. Make no mistake, this film and Nolan’s trilogy as whole, is definitely legendary.