The Dark Knight Rises
(2012 – Director: Christopher Nolan Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy)
I wasn’t sure about another movie after The Dark Knight, but The Dark Knight Rises put all my concerns aside and triumphantly ended the trilogy. The rest of my review has SPOILERS so don’t be mad at me for giving things away.
The Dark Night Rises really showed me how gifted Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, and David Goyer are at writing. Even with no intention of making a third movie, they really solidified the character of Bruce Wayne. Despite my love of how The Dark Knight ended and my desire to leave the franchise at that, the third installment proved to be necessary for Bruce. Batman Begins is Bruce’s tale about how he must create Batman to deal with his past and his desire to rid Gotham of evil. It established who Batman was and what he’s capable of doing. It was never supposed to be long term. Just until things were under control so Bruce could be with Rachel. The Dark Knight was Batman learning about sacrifice and what it means for him to become what Gotham needs him to be. Because Bruce lost everything he was fighting for (Rachel) it was fitting that Harvey Dent’s death gave him a chance to fulfill his duty of protecting Gotham long term and in turn, protecting his other loved ones. The Dark Knight Rises isn’t so much of a Batman story like The Dark Knight was, but it was more of a Bruce Wayne story. And I appreciated that. Forget Bane, forget Catwoman. Yes, there wasn’t a villain in this film as good as the Joker. But this film wasn’t about any villain. The villain was inside Bruce Wayne. After losing his love, and the city becoming almost criminal free, Bruce lost all reason to live. The Dark Knight Rises is one big action story about a man wanting to start over. To rid the life he created for himself, an alter ego that would eventually be the death of him. It’s an emotionally powerful story that is much more personal than the other two films. We see Bruce try to assert himself many ways only to be shot down. His ego is crushed both as Bruce Wayne and as Batman. His money is being taken away. Alfred leaves him because he refuses to see Bruce kill himself. Bruce’s path to eventually lose his fear and regain his desire to live as Bruce Wayne is what propels him to once again become Batman. There’s no girl, there’s no longing to fight crime. He simply wants to be Batman in order to finish being Batman in hope for a better future where he and Gotham don’t need Batman. Without a desire to be with Rachel, Bruce once again found the inspiration to let Batman go. I love that path with this story.
Because of the personal nature of this story, it’s not as complex and as driving as The Dark Knight. But that’s ok. The Dark Knight showed Batman at his finest. The Dark Knight Rises shows Batman at his worst, but ultimately ends with his very best. The Joker carried The Dark Knight. There was so much screen time given to him since he represented the other side of the coin. And I enjoyed that. Bane could never live up to how exciting and confusing The Joker was. I don’t think the filmmakers tried for him to be. Smart move. Don’t get me wrong, Bane is cool. He pinpointed Batman’s weak spot, his soul, and took advantage of it. Unlike the Joker, Bane was far superior to Batman in terms of strength and man power. Bane is confusing and intriguing, but I’m glad Marion Cotillard’s character turned out to be more than what met the eye. It was a nice tie in with Batman Begins. Because we never see Bane’s mouth speak it’s actually very distracting. I felt bad for Tom Hardy because it wasn’t a great acting opportunity. What we get instead is a voice-box that was mixed strangely. His voice doesn’t sound like it’s coming from his mouth, but instead sounded stereo, as if he was speaking from a loudspeaker the entire time. I understand the need for the audience to hear what he’s saying, but it sounded fake the entire time and was almost humorous.
I didn’t enjoy Bruce’s romance with Marion Cotillard. It felt very James Bondish for me. It didn’t serve any purpose other than to show that the two got to know each other more. I think a good friendship or maybe a hint of romantic interest would have done a lot more. And that goes for Bruce’s kiss with Catwoman too. It felt completely out of place. I actually loved the two of them ending up together in the end. It was closer for both characters and it made sense. But the big kiss before he left was silly and I think it spoiled the importance of the moment.
Let’s talk Catwoman. I am not an Anne Hathaway fan. But I must give her props for her portrayal of Catwoman. Having her as a jewel thief and master pickpocket was clever and fun to watch. It never felt too over the top. We never really knew what Catwoman’s true intentions were, but Nolan did a great job with her character and giving us glimpses of her humanity, making her transition into helping Batman redeeming.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt was more of a Batman in this film than Batman. He stole every scene he was in. His character was there to show what Bruce Wayne used to be. What he could be. It wasn’t a surprise that he would be revealed as Robin at the end, but it was still very satisfying and a great way to make sure Gotham had a protector after Batman was gone. They easily could have made him part of the action as Robin but I’m glad it didn’t turn into the messy Batman & Robin. Both Catwoman and Gordon-Levitt’s character had their roles and never really became Batman’s partners. Thank God. I was afraid there was going to be too many heroes and too many villains (Spider-Man 3.)
This was definitely not Nolan’s best directing in his Batman trilogy. His pacing seemed a bit off, the cutting was weird at places, and the fight choreography was confusing at times. Of course, I’m comparing it to The Dark Knight which was near flawless. That aside, The Dark Knight Rises was more of a character piece, featuring Bruce Wayne, Selina, and Blake. And all three gave performances worth cheering for. And bravo to Nolan to standing up against 3D, for standing up against digital, and making a movie the way he wanted to make it.
With Alfred seeing Bruce Wayne and Selina at the end, it was an incredibly satisfying moment. I know this sounds dorky, but I was happy for Bruce. I mean, the dude’s been through a lot. It’s about time he catches a break.
I’m glad they made The Dark Knight Rises. I think it deserves a second viewing in the theatre. Probably in the IMAX this time. I really want to catch more when Bruce is in the prison and his path to climbing the wall. What a great way to symbolize his journey to trusting himself and losing his fear. The Dark Knight Rises stands tall as the end piece to a brilliant trilogy that will stand the test of time due to the high craftsmanship of acting, writing, and directing.