July 21, 2012
I really struggled with what to say about the Dark Knight Rises. I saw it twice on Friday morning at 12:05 and then again at 3:40 in IMAX. Upon leaving the second screening giddy as a school girl I received news of the shooting in Colorado. Suffice it to say it put a huge dark cloud over the film and my thoughts. As the morning light entered the sky it seemed like Mother Nature herself was in mourning as it was a rainy and grey day here in New York City. After deliberating all day on what to say about the film I decided on this; The Dark Knight Rises is a GREAT film and it would be a shame to let one sick man ruin the experience of this film. Movies are a tremendously powerful medium and have the ability to inspire people to do great and terrible things, but in the end it can only bring inspiration. Action is the result of the individual and the blame for this latest crime lies solely on the shoulders of James Holmes. So that said I plan to review the wonderful film that was the Dark Knight Rises because despite everything that happened it is still just that!
The Dark Knight Rises successfully ties together the past two films in a stunning climax that hasn’t been seen since the Lord of the Rings the Return of the King. The scope of this film is huge but what is really amazing is that the use of CGI is extremely minimal for a film this big especially when compared to the Avengers which had a huge use of it. The plot essentially takes the only thing I disliked about the Dark Knight, the blaming of Batman for Harvey Dent’s crimes and turns it into one of this film’s biggest positives. There are a lot of motifs that run through this film: secrets, guilt, the American way of life turned upside down, wealth redistribution, starting fresh, and of course rising. There are also a lot of Batman comic influences here; The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: No Man’s Land, and of course Knightfall all come into play in different ways within the plot.
I’d like to just focus on the Rise motif for a moment though. A friend pointed out a very interesting thing about a prison in the film called the Pit. In the Batman comics Ra’s Al Ghul is kept young by replenishing his youth in Lazarus Pits but in the Nolanverse Bruce Wayne is born again when he rises out of this hellish prison. It’s a very cool adaptation of the comic book concept into a form that fits the current Batman films. There are also numerous other moments when characters on screen literally rise out of the shot; such as the very last one with Joseph Gordon Levitt. Not to mention that the film is also about Batman replacing Harvey Dent as the person who inspires Gotham; thus rising literally from being the Dark Knight to a White Knight. Lastly the two major secrets kept in the last film rise to the surface in this film.
This leads to the most emotional scene between Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne) and Michael Caine (Alfred) of all three films. He informs Wayne of the fact that Rachel (Batman’s love interest in the past films) chose Harvey Dent in the Dark Knight before she died as her lover. Perhaps Caine was not on screen long enough in this film but I believe he deserves some major accolades for this film; especially for his last scene at Wayne Manor. Anne Hathaway wishes to rise above her past as jewel thief Selina Kyle. Her Catwoman is a fantastic version of the character that is played expertly. Every time she was on screen I was impressed with how much she convinced me of the character’s reality. I never once doubted her physicality in the role and her suit, which came under fire early on, looks great throughout.
Bane is the perfect villain for this third act. He presents Batman with a physical challenge he has not yet faced and is calculating enough to rival his intellect as well. I wasn’t sure if he would break Batman in the traditional fashion, but he did and that scene made I and Oliver Layco squeal. His attempt at Gotham’s destruction is genius as he cuts the city off from the outside world and then equalizes it. There are many scenes that reminded me of the 2nd Russian revolution when those who had wealth were knocked down in the name of equality. Bane’s rallying cry is that he’s giving Gotham back to the people as he kills the rich upper class of Gotham and delays until he can fully destroy the city. The character even mocks those who believe in equalization by sarcastically calling it ‘the next phase of western civilization;. The hilarious irony here is that the stupid and uninformed have been hailing this film as something that would support the fairly recent Occupy movement. Instead It completely slams many of the ideas they stand for.
Of course Nolan is not really right or left leaning in his films. He spends a good section of the first half of the film slamming the rich upper class when Marion Cotillard’s Mirand Tate mocks the character John Dagget for only caring about money. Later Bane mocks Dagget when he says something along the lines of ‘You think because you have money you have power over me?’ A Tale of Two Cities is at play in this film as well as Bruce Wayne goes from rich millionaire to completely broke due to a Bane plot that illustrates how strange modern economics is, as we refer to numbers and a system on Wall Street many people do not fully understand for our money’s worth.
The ending is sure to be debated but I love it. There were a lot of rumors on the internet about what end Batman would face and some of them were true. We live in an age where the net allows so much speculation that eventually someone is bound to get it right. I miss the age where you could generally be surprised by a film but that said; the ending is still great. It’s the ending this series deserved and needed.
I cannot really say enough about how great this film was. Joseph Gordon Levitt’s cop John Blake entertained me every time he was on screen and Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon was equally fantastic. Strangely I almost wouldn’t call this a Batman film. Each character is fully developed and interesting and gets almost the same amount of screen time as Christian Bale; this is an ensemble movie more so then the Avengers. I think this film proves what I have known since I was 14 and that is that Nolan is really the only great director that exists right now. I keep waiting for him to make a film I do not like and he keeps giving me films I will watch again and again to dig through and find more metaphors, motifs and themes I didn’t see on my first viewing. He makes films in a way that is very literary and I can’t wait to see what his post-Batman career brings. In my opinion this is the best film of Nolan’s Batman trilogy and the best film of this summer and maybe the year.