Dark Knight Rises, The//
Release date: July 20, 2012
Director: Christopher Nolan
Comic by: Bob Kane
Screenplay by: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Cane, Morgan Freeman
If The Dark Knight was the cinematic equivalent of a shark spearing through harsh, stark cityscapes on a cool blue night, a relentlessly primal surge of sadism and satiety, then The Dark Knight Rises is a gargantuan beast, one stomping blindly through deserts and civilization.
Comparing the two is difficult therefore, and if anything this film’s more of a follow-up to Batman Begins, with its antagonist Bane (Hardy) being a former troop of the League of Shadows, the grandiose organization that trained up Bruce Wayne (Bale) before falling at the feet of Batman in the first film.
Such a reliance on continuity does surprise, and may also confuse those less familiar with Christopher Nolan’s first chapter of his Bat trilogy. This reliance also lessens the impact of Bane’s mission somewhat, and in a movie of presidents, deserts and overthrows, political gestures really need to be cried bold when channeled through so much mangling of imagery, otherwise seeming lazy and sheepish.
In Rises, Gotham is targeted simply because it’s Gotham, and once the city’s turned into a ticking time-bomb island halfway through, the audience can’t help feeling more ‘distanced’ from this legendary city which isn’t our home. What TDK was so good at was making it feel like we too were lost in the midst of its anarchic madness. Gotham could have been anywhere. But the blanket of myth that covers it throughout Rises proves to be an alienating one in contrast. Give us the end of our society, and not the grand end of something as huge as civilization, for it can’t really hit home half as well.
No matter how low the emotional investment in Gotham may become though, it doesn’t matter, for that isn’t where the heart of the film lies. Finally, it’s safe to say that we actually have a film about Batman himself, or Bruce Wayne to be more precise, seeing how the old black suit fades in its significance.
Rises is the survival story of one man’s soul, not a city’s. It’s the story of a man trying to bury what haunts him. It’s the story of human beings, and Nolan and Bale, etc. have here crafted the most human of the three films. We care about Levitt’s honest cop John Blake and Anne Hathaway’s dishonest cat burglar to the point that the more opaque Bane and the enigmatic damsel Miranda Tate (Cotillard) can only pale in comparison. The native Gothamites are why the film ultimately triumphs.
One of TDKR’s perfect moments actually comes at the start, when Michael Caine’s Alfred tells Bruce of an old fantasy of his that sums up how worrying Wayne’s existence is in its futility. It’s a touching scene which reminds us that there’s a man inside that Batsuit, who in real life would probably buckle under the sheer weight of the world he’s forged around him. Rises’ other perfect moment comes at the end, where we get the fitting finale fans deserved, with small gestures glowing against all the grandeur of the political gesturing beforehand.
But one question has to be asked though — isn’t it a little sexist to have the female leads be both sexy and untrustworthy at the same time? Discuss.