'Dark Knight' does little rising in convoluted last entry
Published: Friday, July 20, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05
Editor's note: This review includes spoilers. Refer to previous review for briefing of the film.
The legend ends. “The Dark Knight Rises” is the final installment in director Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. It is important to understand the film as part of a trilogy; that is, only part of a whole, to correctly appreciate what it is attempting to accomplish in this final outing of the caped crusader. Otherwise, the definitive authority with which Nolan tells his story can be unforgiving and jarring.
Seen in the larger context of the trilogy, something that we are reminded of constantly as loose ends are tied up with constant (sometimes annoying) flashbacks to the previous films, one becomes aware of how important each installment is to the over-reaching ark. Each installment can be seen as acts in a play, each with their own specific purpose— the first film is about fear, the second about chaos and the third about pain.
“Rises” takes place eight years after the events in “The Dark Knight” (2008). We begin with a reclusive Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) who has given up being Batman. The Dent Act has kept the streets of Gotham clean those eight years until unstoppable forces mobilize to finish what was started in “Batman Begins” (2005), the destruction of Gotham City.
I would argue that the trilogy is not so much about Batman in a costume, but more of a symbol and Bruce Wayne healing from his traumatic experience as a boy. Bale gives his absolute best performance as Wayne, who actually has more screen time as Wayne than in the Batman costume, and (to those that care) tones down the guttural growling of his speech when in Batman mode.
None of the villains featured in “Rises” present the challenge the Joker (played by Heath Ledger in an Oscar-winning performance) brought, but then again who could? So this film brings in the pain, with its primary antagonist Bane (Tom Hardy). If the Joker was an unstoppable force, Bane is a force of nature in all of his brutal glory. I found myself wondering how can this man be beat? The answer was somewhat disappointing, while being foreshadowed and somewhat ironic. So it gets points for that.
One of the most interesting plot lines involves Talia Al Ghul's back story as she disguises herself as millionaire Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). She is the daughter of Ra's Al Ghul, born in the (Lazarus) pit and the only person to climb up from it. She is an interesting figure in Batman lore and when her real identity is revealed she does not really live up to her awesome build up.
Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) is a successful burglar who makes her way into Wayne Manor and is one of the reasons Wayne comes out of exile. I enjoyed Nolan's approach to this character, as always, she is treated with the greatest of seriousness. There are no gratuitous shots of her body, she's never really saved (though she is helped once she gets to help Batman too). She is also never referred to as Catwoman. I enjoyed this tactic as it goes along with Nolan's serious tone, although I'm not completely sold on Hathaway's performance, the cat was just what the story needed it to be.
Every Dark Knight regular is here and in prime form, picking up the common motifs found in the previous installments, Alfred (Michael Caine) is at his most emotional, Luscious (Morgan Freeman) gets the usual lines taken from James Bond's Q providing Batman with cool gadgets, and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) is a man worn down by guilt but finding every inch of strength to make amends. New addition to the cast is Joseph Gordon-Levitt who plays the morally upright John Blake, playing it like a star-struck kid he keeps the gloomy film afloat with his earnest optimism.
This film is like a collage of themes and ideas, initiated since “Begins” all the way to “Knight.” There are so many plot lines it’s unrealistic to follow all of them, yet we are expected to be impressed by how much Nolan is attempting to balance in his hands. This film is about pain, it's not hard to spot this in the film. Strangely, this movie is not very enjoyable even when matched with the previous two Batman films; it is actually grave and heavy with thematic material.
In “Begins”, Wayne is left in pieces after the murder of his parents and doesn't have a clear sense of who he is and where he is going. It is only after he trains with The League of Shadows that he becomes capable of facing his fears and decides to become the protector of Gotham City. In “Rises”, a similar narrative is followed as he is left in a prison in the middle east with severe injuries (he is quite literally in hell with his back broken). Here he discovers that the fear of dying is important and as he becomes the second person to climb from the (Lazarus) pit he overcomes the pain he felt for the death of parents. This enables him to retire with a brighter outlook than where he was left off in “Knight.” Finally being recognized for his efforts for Gotham City, he lives long enough to see himself become the villain and dies being a hero. Batman does both in that order and still manages to live a life of retirement in Italy.
Mario Simental may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.