Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises Above Expectations

The words “outstanding” and “trilogy” are rarely said in the same sentence in regards to films. The quest for financial gain frequently blinds both studios and filmmakers to what ultimately makes certain trilogies successful in the first place...the story. Usually the first two films hold up reasonably well before the third film comes along and sours the memories of the previous two. Of course there are trilogies that are exceptions to the rule, the most recent being Pixar’s Toy Story trilogy, but these are still few and far between. It is safe to say that Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy will be added to the pantheon of outstanding trilogies.

Picking up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, the story finds the once crime ridden streets of Gotham in more peaceful times. Thanks to a new law that was named after the late Harvey Dent, criminals have run out of loopholes and are finally being locked up for their crimes. As crime is down, Gotham no longer needs the vigilante Batman (Christian Bale), who is wanted by the police for Dent’s death, to be their savior. Hanging up his cape and cowl, Bruce Wayne lives like a recluse in his vast mansion mourning his lost loved ones. After an encounter in his mansion with a clever cat burglar, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), the detective side of Wayne slowly awakes from its slumber. When it becomes clear that Kyle may have links to a known mercenary, Bane (Tom Hardy), who has recently arrived in Gotham, Wayne must put on the Batman mask once more to protect the city that he loves. However, after being out of the game for eight years, stopping Bane and uncovering his true motives will be much harder than Batman could ever anticipate. Despite being use to doing things on his own, Batman will need to raise an army if he hopes to avoid the deadly fate Bane has planned for him.

Throughout the entire Dark Knight trilogy, the idea of rising up against the fear that oppresses society has been a prevalent theme. This is especially true for The Dark Knight Rises which manages to skillfully tap into the fear and anger between the social classes in society. The notion that the wealthy only care about themselves and are not doing enough to help society as a whole is referenced routinely in the film. Characters such as Selina Kyle, corporate investor Miranda (Marion Cotillard), and beat cop Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) all have their own “I had to come up from nothing” stories to tell. Although they all have issues with the various forms of “establishment” (e.g. The wealthy, the police, those who lack charity, etc.), none of them can match the anger that flows through the pumped up veins of Bane.

Unlike The Joker in the previous film, Bane does not care about chaos for the sake of chaos. He envisions a new world without the shackles of modern society. He wants a world where you take what you want when you want it. He is the darker side of the “we are the 99%” movement as he uses “hope” as the ultimate weapon to instill fear. Despite being an absolute beast of a man from a physical standpoint, it is actually his words and ideology that makes Bane such a menacing villain. Tom Hardy plays the character with such assured bravado that is easy to see why so many people would sacrifice their lives for him. He is ultimately a victim of circumstance who refused to remain a victim and forged his own dark path. Though part of Bane’s arc feels like it was taken directly out of the James Bond film The World is Not Enough, but handled far better in The Dark Knight Rises, he is nonetheless a worthy addition to what has been an outstanding gallery of villains in the trilogy.

While Nolan’s vision for the Batman franchise has always felt ambitious, The Dark Knight Rises feels especially sprawling based on the sheer number of characters that Nolan juggles in this film. The additions of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anne Hathaway were wise choices as it offers yet another layer to the idea of Batman merely being a symbol that inspires people to action. Gordon-Levitt is great as the cop who is constantly trying to do the right thing in the face of the political bureaucracy that engulfs the police force. Although Gordon-Levitt is quite good in the film, the real surprise of The Dark Knight Rises is Anne Hathaway. Despite proving herself a talented actress in films such as Rachel Getting Married and The Devil Wears Prada, she had the tough task of filling the boots of Catwoman after the likes of Julie Newmar and Michelle Pfieffer made the role so iconic. However, Hathaway portrays Kyle as a strong woman who is unable to hide her moral core despite her numerous attempts to do so.

The performances and story in The Dark Knight Rises are so captivating that it actually does a disservice to the action sequences in the film. Although well choreographed, the moments of action, aside from the opening sequence, never really matched the level of thrills achieved in The Dark Knight. While this may come across as a knock against the film, it is actually a good thing when you think about it. Batman is gone for a good portion of the film and you do not miss him at all. Watching Bane orchestrate the collapse of a once Gotham’s society, while Bruce Wayne can only watch in pain, was far more riveting than seeing any of the fancy Batman gadgets. It is just another reminder that, throughout the entire series, Nolan’s vision for the Batman franchise has always been about the characters and story rather than merely selling toys.

Whether you view The Dark Knight Rises on its own merits or as part of the trilogy, there is no denying that Christopher Nolan has pulled off something truly special. The Dark Knight Rises is more than just a mere “superhero” film, it is a sprawling blockbuster that manages to emphasize the importance of rising up from whatever level of society we originated from and becoming that positive symbol that the character of Batman represents in our own communities.


  1. Great review CS. This film had me from start to finish and never let me go. It was the near-perfect thrill-ride I needed from this last part of the trilogy to be and only Christopher Nolan could deliver on that. I'm going to miss him directing another Batman film, but at least he can now go off and do some other crazy, original flicks.

    1. While I am sad to see the series end, Nolan has given the fans more than they could have ever hoped for with this trilogy.

  2. Very well written indeed. Personally I feel that on 2nd viewing TDKR looks very good. I liked Batman Begins a lot even though I had given a perfect 10 for TDK; the entire trilogy has been Nolan's best gift to all the movie buffs out there. Tom Hary has been good in his own ways & I feel his role should not be compared with Ledger even though most of the folks will try to do so ...the entire series was supposed to be on Bruce Wayne's journey & I feel both happy & sad to see a near perfect ending to the trilogy arc. I hope Nolan's presence in the next 'Man of Steel' project gives some boost to the next DC character even though he will be taking the role as producer.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.