The Dark Knight Rises
For those of you who know me, you know that I have a borderline obsessive affinity for the Caped Crusader. Whether it be the Bat symbols on my car, the countless number of t-shirts and apparel, or the permanent Bat-gear I sport on my upper right arm everyday.
For those of you who don’t know me, allow me to introduce myself - my name is Patrick Dougherty, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve loved Batman. When I dig through a drawer and blow the dust off a photo from 20 years ago, I see myself playing with Batman action figures or wearing Batman pajamas. It has always been a part of my life.
For the last eight years, the Batman mythology has been brought to life like never before. Christopher Nolan’s vision of Gotham mirrors the world we live in today, and his vision of Batman and Bruce Wayne has mesmerized fans all over the world. What Christopher Nolan started in 2004, which concludes here in the summer of 2012, has held a special place in my heart. The cinema has always been a place where we can go to escape and leave our troubles behind us for a few hours. With The Dark Knight Trilogy, we can not only escape the everyday trappings of our lives, but we can escape to another world - a world that is vast, dark, and beautiful. With Batman Begins, Nolan set the benchmark for the superhero genre by showing us what it’s like to face our deepest fears. In The Dark Knight, Nolan reminded us of the chaos created when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. The Dark Knight transcended the genre. Nominated for 6 Academy Awards and delivering us one of the finest movie villains of all time - it’s more than just a summer superhero blockbuster, it’s a piece of film noir.
With the weight of an infinite number of high expectations on it’s shoulders, The Dark Knight Rises delivers. This isn’t your average superhero film, this isn’t your average summer popcorn flick, this is a cinematic spectacle of the highest degree, and could quite possibly be the best comic book movie to date. Christopher Nolan has crafted a story that features so many twists and turns that you would think you’re watching something along the lines of Momento or Inception. Warner Bros. advertised this as “the epic conclusion”, and epic might be the only word that does it justice.
From minute one, The Dark Knight Rises pulls you in and doesn’t budge until the credits roll. The story picks up eight years after the Batman took the fall for the murders committed by former Gotham District Attorney, Harvey Dent, and we see our hero as a broken down man, a recluse. Pent up in the east wing of Wayne Manor, Bruce Wayne now walks with the assistance of a cane due to the injuries suffered at the end of The Dark Knight. Under the Harvey Dent Act, Gotham is virtually rid of organized crime and is in a time of peace.
Academy Award winner Christian Bale turns in undoubtedly his finest performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman, and his character has never felt more human. We see Bruce Wayne go through many stages in this film, and you can see the pain of his past behind his eyes. In the first act, you truly feel that Bruce Wayne is the mask, and Batman is the man. Without Batman for eight years, and without his childhood love, Rachel, Bruce feels as if there is no real purpose for him in the world.
Despite the brilliant performance turned in by Heath Ledger as The Joker, this film gives us the finest collective acting performances of the trilogy. Michael Caine is absolutely moving as Alfred, and delivers some eye watering speeches to Bruce about moving on. Morgan Freeman is solid as he returns as Lucius Fox. Much like Bruce Wayne, Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon is still living with the pain of the past. Gordon is living with a lie that has shaped today’s Gotham, as he and Bruce are the only two that know Harvey Dent’s true crimes and true identity.
While the returning members of the cast (Bale, Caine, Freeman, Oldman) deliver the fine performances that we have all come to expect, the newcomers are equally or more impressive. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is riveting and very well written as idealistic Gotham City police officer, John Blake. As you can see the painful past behind Bruce and Gordon’s eyes, you can see hope in John Blake’s. Marion Cotillard’s Miranda Tate isn’t a very understood character when we are first introduced to her, but this member of the Wayne Enterprises’ board is sure to be one of the most talked about characters in this film. Anne Hathaway dominates the screen as Selina Kyle (never referred to as “Catwoman” in the film) and erases any doubts that were held before this film released. Hathaway took an already iconic character and made it her own, she blew me away.
The biggest newcomer of them all comes in the form of Tom Hardy’s antagonist, Bane. While Christopher Nolan’s take on Bane is drastically different from that of the comics, in both appearance and in origin, this adaptation of the character works great for this film. Bane may not be as iconic as The Joker, but he basically succeeds in The Dark Knight Rises where The Joker failed in The Dark Knight by bringing chaos and destruction to Gotham. Tom Hardy is menacing, absolutely perfect for this role, and what he does with his eyes is incredible. There are only a few lines that can’t be made out due to his muzzled voice, but I found that the voice really worked and made him all the more menacing. Any doubts that were raised about Bane’s voice from the prologue back in December can be erased. He was the perfect villain for this film, as he is one of the only villains in Batman’s Rogues Gallery that can physically break The Bat. As I think about the film I find myself constantly thinking about the first scene where Batman and Bane go toe to toe. Anyone who sees this film will not forget it, it’s truly horrifying.
From a visual standpoint, this film is GORGEOUS. Roughly 75 minutes were filmed on 70mm IMAX film, and I strongly encourage fans to seek out a true IMAX theater - this film needs to be experienced in that format. While Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were relatively flawed in their action, The Dark Knight Rises action scenes are woven together seamlessly with unbelievable style and grace. This is one of the most action-packed films that you will witness for a long time, and that’s a great thing. It’s not action just for action’s sake, the film’s action sequences have purpose.
The Dark Knight Rises has its flaws, but none that need harping on. This film is beautiful, touching, and demands to be experienced. Unlike the other films, you can truly feel the weight of the events that take place. This film is the most emotional of the trilogy and may require the use of tissues by the time the third act hurdles to it’s roaring conclusion.
The Dark Knight Rises reminds us of why the world needs heroes. If I had to pick one problem that I had with The Dark Knight Rises, it would be that it had to end. Christopher Nolan goes out with a bang, and delivers a truly epic conclusion to one of the greatest trilogies in film history.