Though this was one of the most anticipated films of the year, its appeal was much diminished by the terrible tragedy that occurred in Aurora, CO on opening night. There is little doubt that this film will always be connected with that event as much as the previous film will be connected with Heath Ledger’s death. It is a sober realization of real evil that exists in this world along with the horrible consequences of the Fall. Before we begin with any analysis on The Dark Knight Rises, we just want to offer our condolences to the victims of that terrible tragedy.
There is no denying the darkness of the Dark Knight Trilogy; even a different type of darkness presented in Tim Burton’s more fantastical interpretation. The realness of the world of Gotham, along with the motivations behind the characters and their actions, makes Nolan’s trilogy all the more profound and resonate with our culture. The deeper we are immersed in the world of Gotham the more we feel the portentous similarities. If all we were left with was The Dark Knight, I would walk away feeling unsatisfied and in despair, especially with what I would see as a compromised hero. The Dark Knight Rises does not disappoint in answering the nagging questions I had at the end of the previous film.
It has been eight years since Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) donned the Batman suit. During that time, Batman is completely villanized, while Harvey Dent continues to serve as the symbol of hope, the White Knight of Gotham. The mayor and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) have used the terrible events that occurred in The Dark Knight, to pass the Harvey Dent Act, which gives the police much more power enabling Gotham to actualize a supposed “peace time.”
What Gordon and others don’t know is that there is an evil rising literally from the sewers of Gotham in the likes of the villain, Bane (Tom Hardy). Excommunicated from the League of Shadows, Bane proves to be the most formidable foe for Gotham’s finest, forcing Bruce Wayne to come out of retirement as the Batman. This is much to the chagrin of Alfred (Michael Caine), who does not believe Wayne has the ability any more to be effective as Batman and still survive. Sure enough, this is definitely the image that we get. Wayne has become a recluse, can barely walk, and according to a doctor has no cartilage in his legs or knees, and much concussive damage in his skull.
Bruce Wayne is much more somber and fragile in Rises, and there seems to be a death wish behind all his motivations to fight crime as Batman again. Alfred sees this better than anyone, as well as Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). All of them encourage Wayne to date, specifically Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a billionaire philanthropist who tries to get Wayne’s help in funding an environmental project to no avail. The other woman in the picture is Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), who appears to be the opposite of Tate in every way, but still holds Wayne’s and Batman’s interest throughout. Another important newcomer to the film, who takes a surprising amount of the screen time is John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levett), who is an effective street cop with a good moral sense.
In every possible way, Bane takes Gotham, Batman, and even the audience to their limits. As stated before it’s a dark film, though even in a different way than The Dark Knight. Whereas the Joker was menacing, coming up with games (though terrible and evil as they were) to test Batman, Bane is an absolute destructive force. There is very levity in the film, and the viewer is left to endure much descending before any rising.
Nolan brilliantly shoots TDKR and it is a most satisfying finale to the trilogy. The storytelling mechanics are not up to par of Nolan’s other films, including the two previous films. Often is the case with the final film of a series. There are many new characters to be accounted for, and the romances and certain plot elements feel contrived. The action sequences are fierce (particularly the first battle between Batman and Bane that is almost chilling), and there are multiple scenes (mostly with Alfred) that are heavier than the usual Comic Book movie could stand. In many ways, the Dark Knight Trilogy left the Comic Book movie genre a long time ago, and we are left with a serious film that actually deals with the unbecoming of a superhero, which is not easy for the characters or the audience.
It’s an exceptional film that is not as good at The Dark Knight, but in fact makes it better. Rises probably could have never lived up to the expectations coming out of The Dark Knight, but looking at the trilogy as a whole, I suspect it will be seen as a masterpiece in the coming years if it isn’t already. The trilogy has a beautiful arc in and of itself. Batman Begins deals with the fear and longing for justice that creates Batman, The Dark Knight is about despair and chaos that bring him to his brink, and The Dark Knight Rises is about hope and redemption. As most arcs, there is a bit of mirroring to the most beautiful arc: Creation, Fall, and Redemption.
I am thankful for this film and excited about many of the implications that can be drawn simply from the theme of rising. We will tackle this and other elements of The Dark Knight Rises in the essays to come.