The Dark Knight Rises
A hero in a lackluster summer
* This post may contain minor spoilers, so if you’re some crazy anti-spoiler purist who somehow hasn’t seen the film yet, run.
Well, there’s our first Best Picture nom.
Bringing a close to Christopher Nolan’s gritty re-imagining of the comic book superhero, Batman’s final adventure in massacre-prone Gotham City faced the tall order of living up to its beloved predecessor. It also faced the task of lightening up an adequate but unremarkable summer in the theater. It conquers both. The Dark Knight Rises is easily the best of the trilogy, which is in itself a difficult feat. If recent Spider-Man and Avengers big screen adaptions are standard superhero movies, many will deem Nolan’s Batman trilogy a masterpiece.
Set eight years after its predecessor, Bruce Wayne (still played by equally creepy Christian Bale) is now a reclusive cripple living in a near-dilapidated Wayne Manor (I don’t think it ever explains how he became a cripple, or how he recovered, other than “Walla, SCIENCE!”). Gotham’s lack of a Batman becomes a problem when semi-masked crook Bane (Tom Hardy) arrives to blow the place up. With police commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) removed from action, Bruce realizes the city needs the Batman, even though he is still exiled for the death of district attorney Harvey Dent eight years ago.
The movie expands the cast of come-to-life comic book characters, benefitting most from the inclusion of Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. Hathaway, versatile as ever, stole the screen about as often as Kyle stole a piece of valuable jewelery. Sexy and silky, yet maintaining a razor sharp hacksaw edge, Kyle’s redemption arc injected a sense of fun the movie desperately needed. The movie also flourished with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as seemingly normal detective John Blake, who proves that a mask and cape are not necessary to be a hero. Hardy plays Bane, the film’s new baddie/Darth Vader wannabe. Bane’s menacing mask and enjoyment in killing people with his bare hands are detracted from by his sometimes incomprehensible jolly cyborg voice. In most scenes he sounds like a proud grandfather genuinely offering his enemies jovial words of encouragement. He is a solid villain, but nowhere near the ranks of The Dark Knight’s Joker. Not that anyone expected him to be.
With Batman back in action, he leaves the crumbling Wayne Enterprises in the hands of trusty Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard, yet another Inception alum) and receives help from gadget mastermind Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). This time Batman receives keys to “the Bat”, which is basically a winged Batmobile with even bigger cannons. Selina also puts pedal to the metal on the Batbike (I don’t even know if it’s called that, I’m just blindly assuming), which was such a natural fit that I’m ninety percent sure she ended up stealing it.
Nolan likes to make long plot-stuffed movies, and certain parts in the second half traipsed longer than needed. The story is tackled with a constant barrage of action and twists, leaving little room for air, and at times I found myself wishing the movie would break from its intensity or at long last quit lollygagging and move on to the next important point in the story. Bane’s takeover of Gotham, swift and unstoppable, screeched to a halt when the crux of his plan took five whole months to complete, when it could have easily been completed in a fraction of the time. This inexplicable decision, just a few technicalities short of being a fully fledged deus ex machina, provided Bruce with exactly the right amount of time he needed to return to Gotham and get his own plan under way.
The movie contains other minor flaws, but don’t most movies? The difference here is, flaws aside, the movie amounts to greatness far grander than most, including every 2012 summer movie I have seen thus far. The flaws are minor ones that have little impact to the story and only occur to nitpickers a day or two after they left the theater.
And expecting to find absolute logical and scientific tranquility within a superhero movie is stupid, anyway.
With the trilogy closed, I can only wish luck to the upcoming Superman film, the next DC comic book series in line for a reboot. The trailer looks awesome, but comparisons to this trilogy are inevitable, as they are for all future superhero movies. Personally I’m not the hugest fan of the series, but I can’t deny they’re fantastic as both action and artsy films. If in 2040 film students study movies from our current time, Nolan’s Batman series is a likely contender.