The Dark Knight Rises To The Occasion
By Brian Peterson
In Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” Ann Hathaway’s Selina Kyle looks at Batman as the climax reaches a tipping point and says, “You don’t owe these people anymore. You’ve given them everything.” “Not everything,” Batman replies. “Not yet!” You can’t help but think this was the stance of Warner Brothers brass when Nolan propositioned them on making a third and final Batman movie. Lucky for us, team Nolan and Gotham’s greatest guardian disagreed with that assessment, and went on to engage us in a final act of theatricality. To call The Dark Knight Rises a sensational spectacle is like calling the Holy Grail just another piece of fine china; it’s so much more than that. This is Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” meets Charles Dicken’s “A Tale of Two Cities,” with enough Batman bravado to stake claim as the best comic book movie of all time.
Eight years after the events of “The Dark Knight,” a new terror gripes Gotham in the form of Tom Hardy’s Bane; a muzzled villain steeped in systematic and cataclysmic coup de grâce whose hell bent on not only breaking the bat, but seeing to it that Gotham is baptized in a sea of smoke and ash that makes the eruption of Pompeii look like a back yard barbeque. Unlike Heath Ledger’s Joker, Bane is a physically imposing adversary backed by an army of terroristic fundamentalists ready and willing to execute not only a plan, but also anyone who stands in their way. Think of a dual proprietorship between Occupy Wall Street and Al Qaeda, and you’ll get an idea of the class warfare that threatens to rip Gotham apart at the seams. Bane’s controlled demolition of bridges, tunnels, stadiums, and everything in between is poignant imagery that evokes the threats and fears which now plague our post 9-11 society. If you can, it’s vital that you see this movie in true, 70mm IMAX format due to the sheer scope of this final installment of the Batman trilogy.
The star of this movie finally belongs to Christian Bale’s Batman. There’s a strong emphasis on “finally” because the last movie belonged whole-heartedly to Ledger’s Joker. Each and every time the clown prince of crime flooded the frame; he captivated the audience with a brilliant performance that saw Mr. Ledger take a back seat to the character he conveyed. From the beginning of The Dark Knight Rises, we discover that Bruce Wayne has been living a life of self-imposed exile within the dimly lit corridors of Wayne Manor. The Bruce Wayne mantra of “turning fear against those who prey on the fearful” is now fully eroded leaving Mr. Wayne looking both gaunt and dejected. Sir Michael Caine’s Alfred Pennyworth has taken a staunch stance in regards to Bruce’s alter ego, urging him to hang up his cape and cowl for a life of normalcy. There are some really gut wrenching moments between Bruce and Alfred that will have you reaching for a box of Kleenex. Luckily for me, I started a fight with the lady behind me all for the sake of getting pepper sprayed in the eyes to mask my tears in these especially heartbreaking moments. Wayne feels so guilty about the deaths of Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes that his emotional baggage nearly anchors him in anonymity for the rest of his days. Bane’s all out onslaught on Gotham City is the call to action that Bruce needs to free himself from his myopic meandering.
When Batman finally enters the fray, a police officer in hot pursuit emphatically tells his partner, “Boy you’re in for a show tonight, son.” And boy are you ever in for a show for the two hours and forty-five minutes that encompasses the tragic fall and necessary ascension of Bruce Wayne and the Batman. The first encounter with Bane is especially anxiety inducing as it leaves our hero bruised, battered, but not totally beaten. Wayne awakens to find himself in a prison that plays out like an episode of “Locked Up Abroad” on steroids. In order to rise, Wayne must first build himself up, both physically and mentally. This particular segment is heavily laden with references to key elemental plot points that occurred during Batman Begins, so it is advisable that you see Begins before heading out to the theatre this weekend. The Batman will rise again, but now that Bane has his hands on a modified four-megaton nuclear bomb, the situation seems impossibly hopeless.
There is a lot to love about The Dark Knight Rises, and leave it to Ann Hathaway’s Catwoman to nearly steal the show. This incarnate of Selina Kyle is now the most definitive feline fatale to date, upsetting Michelle Pfeiffer’s bolo whipped stranglehold on the number one spot since she appeared in Tim Burton’s “Batman Returns” in 1992. Selina is ultimately the reason for Bruce’s calculated mishap that leaves a broken bat in Bane’s wake. Ultimately, she gets a shot at redemption, and pounces on the opportunity to team up with the Caped Crusader in order to stop Bane from blasting Gotham City back into the Stone Age. The other femme fatale that’s vying for Bruce’s attention is Marion Cottilard’s Miranda Tate, a green thumb environmentalist whose business savvy is more than just asset to Wayne Enterprises.
Joseph Gordon Levitt does an impeccable job playing the role of rookie cop, John Blake, continually pressing Commissioner Gordon for answers following the mysterious disappearance of the Batman after the death of District Attorney Harvey Dent. During the final act of the film, there’s a total team effort between Blake, Gordon, Catwoman, and Batman that will leave you wishing that “The Dark Knight Rises” wasn’t Nolan’s “So Long, Farewell” swan song to the greatest movie trilogy ever produced. If this is indeed Nolan’s final goodbye to Batman, then he wasn’t joking when he said that he literally wanted to go out by blowing everything up. Perhaps just this time, Gotham is beyond saving, and must be allowed to die in order to start anew.
As glowing as this write up is, it’s still a great injustice to how incredibly legendary this dark and brooding movie really is. Once the teargas clears and the smoke subsides, you shouldn’t be concerned as to whether or not Batman lives or dies. What you should leave the theatre with is a sense that anyone can be Batman. He’s you. He’s me. He’s all of us. And with that, Christopher Nolan self-destructs the Batman franchise, shortly after riding off into the sunset in Dark Knight like fashion. But this time, Batman can rest easy knowing that we don’t have to chase him ever again, until some poor soul secures the rights to a reboot.