With “The Dark Knight Rises,” filmmaker Christopher Nolan has completed one of the greatest trilogies in cinematic history. It is a thrilling spectacle with tremendous emotional power, and I came out of it not just fulfilled but quite shaken. Regardless of whatever plot holes this movie may have or if it has one too many characters to deal with, it is still fucking brilliant like its predecessors!
Now I’ll give you more or less a brief outline of “The Dark Knight Rises” without giving away major plot points. I know you all have been seriously pissed about reviewers ruining the movie for you like Homer Simpson ruined “The Empire Strikes Back” for a crowd waiting to see it outside a Springfield movie theater during an episode of “The Simpsons,” and I wouldn’t dare to do the same thing here.
Basically, eight years have passed since Batman/Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) took the fall for Harvey Dent’s death in order to hide the murders he committed. Since then, Gotham has entered a time of peace and prosperity, all of which is based on a lie. Enter Bane (Tom Hardy), a brutal and methodical terrorist who plans to reduce Gotham to ashes slowly but surely. This brings Batman out of hiding, but he also has to deal with cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) who catches him off guard, a beautiful corporate executive named Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), and the idealistic young cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) whose “hot head” ways makes him much smarter than his fellow officers. So that’s it for the movie’s story.
Actually, to go into full detail over the plot of “The Dark Knight Rises” would take forever as it goes in various directions to where seeing it once is not enough to take everything in. Nolan has said that part of his inspiration for this film was Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” which is known for this famous quote:
“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”
Now while that quote is never spoken in “The Dark Knight Rises,” it never needs to be. Nolan is fascinated with how the lie over Harvey Dent’s death and actions has helped Gotham while at the same time turned it into a prison state where freedoms are eroded. It also parallels current events in the real world by taking into account the continuing gap between the rich and the poor and how people will go out of their way to manipulate the collective anger regarding it. This movie is of course a huge action spectacle, but it has a lot of things to say about the world we live in today which makes it all the more powerful.
Many have been calling this the “darkest” Batman movie of them all, as if the two which came before it were like a sunny paradise in the realm of “Batman & Robin” (they most certainly were not). But while the movie is indeed a dark vision of a city under siege, it also has a strong ray of hope emanating from it. Bruce Wayne has always wanted to hold Batman up as a symbol to inspire people, and you revel in seeing the impact he ends up having on the characters around him.
People have also been saying that Nolan has put far too many characters into this one movie. Newsflash, Nolan has done that with each of his “Batman” movies, but what truly amazes me is how he has gotten with doing so each time. Every single character in “The Dark Knight Rises,” from Matthew Modine’s bone-headed Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley to Ben Mendelsohn’s greedy businessman John Daggett, informs the movie’s main characters and overall themes throughout. Not a single one of them feels extraneous to the plot or subplots as each illustrates examples of justice and personal responsibility and of how easily misconstrued they can end up being.
Christian Bale completes his tour of duty as Batman with a deeply felt performance. In many ways, “The Dark Knight Rises” is more about the rise of Bruce Wayne than anything else as he is forced to deal with who he is than what his alter ego can do. This character is now endowed with super powers the way Spider-Man and Superman are, and this movie renders him all the more vulnerably human as he starts off walking with a cane and dealing with injuries that are not easily healed. It’s those human flaws however that make Bale’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne all the more powerful and enthralling.
With Bane, Nolan has fashioned a villain that’s far different from Heath Ledger’s Joker which was a smart move. While the Joker was far more desirous of watching the world burn, Bane simply wants it to suffer right down to its dying breath. With Tom Hardy, Nolan has found the perfect actor to portray him as he brings to life Bane’s twisted code of ethics and his utter brutality which allows him to batter his helpless opponents with sheer efficiency. Thanks to Hardy, Bane proves to be Batman’s most formidable foe yet.
As for Anne Hathaway, she is excellent as the character known as Catwoman but who is never actually called Catwoman in “The Dark Knight Rises.” Her portrayal of Selina Kyle never invites easy comparison with the actresses who played her in the past as her version exists in the world of realism created by Nolan. Hathaway succeeds in giving this movie the feeling of exuberance and fun it needs from time to time, and she more than holds her own against acting heavyweights like Bale and Hardy. But then again, this should be no surprise to those who remember her Oscar nominated performance in “Rachel Getting Married.”
And of course you have the usual cast of supporting characters played by Sir Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman. All of them are fantastic as always and give this movie the emotional heft it calls for throughout. We also get a great bunch of franchise newcomers like Joseph Gordon-Levitt who is sensational as the intelligent John Blake, and Marion Cotillard who radiates both beauty and mystery as Miranda Tate.
Technically, “The Dark Knight Rises” looks flawless with cinematographer Wally Pfister capturing the dark corruption consuming the citizens of Gotham which they are forced and inspired to rise out of. And with Hans Zimmer (minus James Newton Howard this time around), we get another rousing and thrilling music score which keeps our adrenaline pumping along with movie’s thrilling action set pieces.
Yes, the movie has some plot holes which I’m sure you will discover for yourself. None of them however were enough to derail my enjoyment of this awesome spectacle Nolan and company have put together. I’m not sure where I would rate this in the series, but while it doesn’t best “The Dark Knight,” it still comes very close to doing so and continues Christopher Nolan’s reign one of the best movie directors working today. I don’t think I am overreacting in the least when I declare “The Dark Knight Rises” to be a fucking brilliant motion picture.
Oh yes, some will say that the movie’s final scenes seem to spell out a potential new direction for the franchise to take as if it were a set up for a sequel. I’d like to think it speaks to the influence Batman hoped to have on the citizens of Gotham, to inspire them to do good. Thanks to Nolan, Batman is a hero we can appreciate and applaud.
* * * * out of * * * *