I’ve seen The Dark Knight Rises twice now, and each time I find myself mesmerized, taking it all in and trying to digest the symbolism from film to film. With the wrapping of the trilogy, it feels less like three separate films and more like a natural progression, reaching it’s final stop. From the outset, it has been one of the most unique Batman stories ever to told, comics and films alike. It may have been inspired by such comic masterpieces as The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller or Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale, but this is a film series that transcends the comic book pages to bring you a believable, relatable, and scary world inhabited Bruce Wayne/Batman. That relatable nature is why we keep coming back.
The Dark Knight Rises is the first film in history associated with a tragedy, one that’s random and done in ways reminiscent of the villains in Batman comics. In a sense, this film became the most expensive to be made; twelve human lives. In a strange form of tribute, I had this film spoiled for me in anyway that I could. I watched spoilers, I read them, I knew the story by heart. Instead of ruining the experience though, it became inspiring, because the real goal of Nolan’s batman is not to present Batman as the solution, but as the inspiration for people. In that way, this film isn’t as much about the Dark Knight rising, but the people rising, finding strength.
Before the film review, the trailer for Man of Steel that appeared before the film was amazing. It conveyed so much with so little space, giving the Superman franchise hope for rebirth. The tone is very much Nolan’s while completely in the hands of Zack Snyder. Granted, Snyder get’s a lot of shit for the films Watchmen & 300, but these films aren’t bad. Some may say that he wasn’t able to capture the spirit of Watchmen, but that isn’t correct by any means. Sure, the frills weren’t there, but for such a compact space he told a thrilling story. I have a lot of hope for Man of Steel. Also, big tip to Lord of the Rings for supplying the music for that trailer; the emotional depth with that music had a tear running down my eye.
From the outset, The Dark Knight Rises is the most flawed film of the series, but in that, Nolan does something unique, he seeks to make his flaws profound and does so. The first of so is Officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) , and his miraculous deduction that Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is Batman. It comes out of nowhere, feels like a weak plot device to get the ball rolling, but serves as this inspiring moment for Wayne to take up the cause again as the rise of Bane (Tom Hardy) is simultaneously occurring. This single moment comes full circle at the end, as Batman inspires Blake to take up the Bat’s cause after him (Note: If you think that he was going to become Robin just because it was part of his name, you’re crazy. He’s taking up Batman’s cause.). That event at the end is genius when you get down to it, as Nolan gives it off to a nameless man, allow those coming after to do as they will.
Another big complaint I’ve heard concerns Batman’s trust of Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway)/Catwoman. Who does Batman have to trust? Alfred’s gone, Gordon is on his own front, Blake is trust worthy but not quite to that level yet; this is also a problem much larger than Gotham has ever seen. We know that Nolan didn’t want Robin in the film, we got Catwoman. She may be shady, but she has her moments that make you think you can trust her.
Some may complain about the pacing or the “moments where doom is foiled at the last second by…” In short, go fuck yourself.
The Dark Knight has become synonymous for fantastic performances. Most people site Heath Ledger’s Joker, and with great reasons. However, less we forget the outstanding performance of Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent. In DKR Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Bane is phenomenal; when an actor can act with their eyes alone, how can you go wrong. But more than that, Bane is a villain stronger, physically and mentally, than any of Batman’s theatrical Rogues Gallery. There is no physical force that can stop him and in doing so doesn’t require him to hide. He’s out in the open, almost as a dare. He has the ability to rally people to his cause through oration, and for a guy who sounds like General Grievous with a Scottish accent that is a powerful thought. I suddenly became fearful of Bane, the moment of Batman’s incarceration, when, and I can’t quote his exact words, but his stripping of humanity becomes about the human soul. I still get chills.
Despite knowing that Marion Cotillard was portraying Talia al Ghoul, she still pulled off the role quite well. In her monologue to Bruce Wayne at the charity event, I always got the feeling that she was talking to Batman and not Bruce Wayne, but it was so subtle that it was hard to tell. I may, in fact, be grasping at straws but there are subtle hints throughout the movie that she was Talia. Whether it was that monologue, to the looks she gave at certain points in the film, to other minor things, if you didn’t hear or see spoilers it was there, but more than likely you weren’t paying attention to it. As is the subtle art of film making.
The Dark Knight Rises is that phoenix ascending from the ashes, the reluctant hero donning the costume to once again save not only Gotham, but the world. We’ve seen people like Bane in our world, and they have tried to conquer it. Here, our hero goes through a cycle of not only rebirth, but redefinition. The character development for Batman is essentially the same as it was in Batman Begins, only this time he is without Alfred, who abandons him on his quest. In his first showdown with Bane, this visually stunning event becomes even bigger as you realize, for the first time that Batman stands no chance against this guy; he has no tool, no thoughts that can save him. It’s made ten times worse by the fact that after he is defeated, they use his own weapons against the people of Gotham, modified of course. After he’s landed in the pit, his true character development takes place as he picks up the pieces of his soul, finding purpose again. He has the drive to save Gotham, but what is it really worth to him, what is death to a man who has no fear of it? Suddenly climbing a pit becomes a wholly different symbolic journey than just escaping.
A nod has to be given to Hans Zimmer and his miraculous scores throughout the film series. This one see’s him in new directions, with shifting styles, but there is always that booming theme, present to remind us that throughout all the evil and terror, there is a beacon, a light, and a way out. His ability to create a sense of urgency or add epic ability to a film is truly unrivaled. The closest I’ve seen is Atticus Ross’ work on The Book of Eli.
This was more than just a trilogy, it was a natural cycle of films, inspired by it’s original medium, but taken to places never before seen in comics or film. My hope is that the movie will inspire people to pick up a comic book and see what’s available to them. My hope is that it will inspire people, as Batman’s purpose is to inspire. My hope is that Batman will not become the face of a tragedy, but tool to seek past it, pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and continue on. As he’s fighting Catwoman, he interrupts her at one point to say “No Guns/No Killing.” That is what Batman is about. There is no eye for an eye, there is only justice. Nolan’s greatest achievement was never in making a “Batman film,” it was in transcending it. That is his greatest legacy and for that we can’t thank him enough.