Christopher Nolan once again shows that ambition and
scope have a place in big budget blockbusters.
In line with this, The Dark Knight Rises continues to investigate the importance of legends, symbols and ideals and plays them up in ways that are simultaneously thought-provoking, thrilling and even moving. In Batman Begins, when Bruce Wayne first decides to become Batman, he tells Alfred (Michael Caine), "People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can't do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man I'm flesh and blood. I can be ignored. I can be destroyed. But as a symbol? As a symbol I can be incorruptible. I can be everlasting.” In the second film, Batman and Gordon attempt to salvage a new symbol (Harvey Dent), by corrupting what he once intended to be incorruptible (Batman), and, throughout the third film, this is portrayed as a failing on their part. As a result, much of the film is dedicated to Wayne’s effort to restore the symbol of Batman, so that it can inspire hope and become “everlasting” once more (thus, the title “The Dark Knight Rises”).
Many have questioned if John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) will become Robin or Nightwing, but it’s obvious that he will continue as the Batman. The Robin reference was just a cute, knowing nod to the fans (and a pretty awesome one to boot). The whole Blake arc is extremely well done (outside of that wretched “You missed a spot” line he says when Batman saves him from some bad guys). I’ve heard people complain about the predictability of it all (as soon as Gordon-Levitt was cast, people began speculating on this story thread), but it seems a weak complaint. Just because it’s predictable doesn’t make it any less involving and appropriate – the main reason it’s been so well established that it’s almost preordained.
I’ve heard many complaints about Bane (Tom Hardy). He’s no Joker. His voice is weird. He’s no Joker. He gets wiped out so easily. He’s no Joker…
Hardy doesn’t get to steal the movie in the same way Heath Ledger did, but as part of the puzzle, he excels. He brings an awesomely raw physicality to the part that, combined with the crisp, easy-to-follow camera work (Nolan has come a long way as an action director since the first film), really makes the fisticuff scenes with batman pop. And, although restricted by his mask, Hardy does some interesting acting with his eyes and voice to really add nuance to the role. Speaking of the voice, I know some people are hating on it, but I loved it. It was weirdly hypnotic, unsettling and larger than life, and I couldn’t be happier they went with such a bold choice over a more traditional, grunt-like intonation.
I even love the way Bane goes out. When Talia Al-Ghul (Marion Cotillard) leaves and tells him to keep Batman alive so he can watch the fire, I love that he says “We both know that I now have to kill you. You’ll just have to imagine the fire,” and then I love that he just jarringly gets killed by a bat missile. Some have said it’s a poor exit for the man, but he already got his great last fight scene, and really, it plays like gangbusters.
The one thing I’m not crazy about is how he gets defanged by his relationship with Talia, which undermines the whole fanatical buildup of the Bane character. I’m generally on board with the Talia stuff – it’s a nice nod to comic book continuity and works fine in the film – but keeping her identity a mystery from viewers really diminishes the character by forcing Nolan to keep her on the shelf for the entire outing. It’s fairly obvious, even though they keep Cotillard in the shadows, that she must have a bigger role than that of a thankless romantic entanglement (she’s an Oscar winner!), and so I’d have greatly preferred if the story didn’t treat her reveal like a big twist. It should obviously be a surprise to Wayne, but since it’s not going to surprise many audience members (and absolutely no Batman fans, especially once an heir to Ra’s Al-Ghul is mentioned), why be so obscure?
Bale Continues to Own the Batman Role
Weak reclusive Bruce Wayne was an interesting choice
I don't think full worked. But Bale still brought it.
Oh, and while I know many people would’ve preferred if Batman bit the dust at the end, I thought the ending was well done. I’m not saying the death of Bruce Wayne wouldn’t have been powerful, but considering they build up the fact that he’s not afraid of death, but rather unable to heal his wounded heart and psyche, I thought it was a better arc for the character as developed. Doing things the other way would’ve at least required a bit of a rewrite throughout to feel truly earned and fulfilling.
Hathaway Earns Her Claws
As good as Hathaway is, I do have some issues with the way the script uses the character. Kyle predominately functions as a plot device for Wayne, and although Hathaway and Bale sport a good back and forth, and the film makes it clear that he is instantly intrigued by her, I didn’t really buy the development of the romance (halfway through, I still wasn’t sure if she was in a relationship with the Juno Temple character). Another scene or two would’ve been nice, and by that I mean something that seems natural and not the repeated encounters where Wayne indicates his out-of-left-field confidence in her integrity and character.
That said, she plays the whole thing well, and her return at the end is a major crowd pleaser. As much as I didn’t fully buy the idea that they were falling for each other (unlike say Bruce’s relationship with Gordon or Alfred, this trilogy doesn’t truly earn any relationship Bruce has with a woman – it just tells, tells, tells, with very little show), I liked the idea and the ultimate ending.
Gordon-Levitt makes an excellent adition to the ensemble,
while Oldman continues to shine.
Also, while I get the thematic significance of Matthew Modine’s character, I wasn’t a big fan of the character (and it annoyed me he wore that whole getup, gloves included, in the final fight). The amount of screen time he was awarded just seemed excessive. It also was somewhat distracting to have Juno Temple on hand as a sort of buddy to Selina Kyle and then do nothing with her. I know she’s not a super big name yet, but it was distracting. I think cutting her and Modine would’ve given more time to flesh out the budding romance perhaps, which would’ve strengthened the movie as a whole.
The simple bat graffiti that peppers Gotham in The
Dark Knight Rises is perfect piece of iconography.
I know I’ve gone on too long here, but I’ve got to add that this movie looks and sounds awesome. From the little iconographic details (the cracked Batman mask, the little bat graffiti) to Wally Pfister’s excellent cinematography (I already alluded to how great the fist fights are, but there’s also that great scene with Blake in the bat cave and a ton of other majestically shot scenes) to the awesome special effects (the stadium implosion and plane hijacking are real show stoppers). It’s all perfect. Just perfect. And I say this as a guy who didn’t see the film in IMAX, which I’m sure was a pleasure to behold. Oh, and let’s not forget the work of Hans Zimmer, who continues to be a stupendous collaborator for Nolan and really sets the tone here.