The Dark Knight Rises
The film simply does not rise out of its consistent state of complacency. It takes itself too seriously and lacks the straight up excitement of the first two films.
Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy comes to a close with The Dark Knight Rises and if anything the series is done being nice. Long gone are the days when little one liners would pat the audience on the back and let them know it’s going to be alright. Gone too is the series’ sense of excitement and adventure. The Dark Knight Rises is instead filled with a flat out serious tone that prevents the series from ending on a high note.
The Dark Knight Rises begins with Gotham in a grand state of peace. Essentially all organized crime led by the Joker in the previous film has been shut down with literally thousands of criminals locked up under The Harvey Dent Law. It’s been nine years since the last events took place. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become secluded to his mansion with no one seeing him for years except for his always faithful butler Alfred (exquisitely played by Michael Caine). Wayne now walks with a cane after years of crime fighting have taken their toll on his body.
We get introduced to a couple of new characters early on, one of them being Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). Faithful followers of comics and Batman will know her as Catwoman, the slinky sexy antihero of the Caped Crusader universe. I don’t feel guilty giving this tidbit away since virtually everyone knows this and it is revealed very early in the film. Another character we meet is beat officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Levitt probably gives the best performance in the film other than Caine. Blake becomes a trusted ally of Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman). One of the few he can trust. Blake eventually gets promoted to the role of Detective after impressing Gordon when he hunts down certain clues that ultimately reveal what’s really happening in Gotham.
Miranda Tate, played by the luscious French vixen Marion Cotillard, is a mysterious billionaire who is trying to work with Wayne Enterprises on a new secret project that could allow Gotham to live in a more energy efficient manner. I had suspicions about her character early on, mainly because she reminded me of a character from the Batman cartoon that aired in the 90’s. However, I’m done talking about her character.
We all know by now that the main villain in Rises is the mask wearing, muscle bound brute known as Bane (Tom Hardy). Nolan’s version of Bane is a far cry from the abomination Joel Schumacher used in his terrible Batman & Robin. In that film he was a doping bumbling idiot of a bodyguard. Here he is cold, calculating and most of all, uncompromising. He is an out and out terrorist. Where he comes from and he thirst for destruction I will not reveal here as it is one of the better pieces of the film.
The opening scene of the film holds a lot of promise. It’s unfortunate that the rest of the film never quite reaches these heights, except for once. The CIA takes a few men in hoods aboard a small plane and flies them over some truly beautiful landscape. But make no mistake. This is no site seeing trip. They want to know the mystery behind Bane. Little do they know that Bane is actually one of the hooded men. All of a sudden a bigger plane is flying above them. Men drop from this second plane hooked to wires and grab onto the smaller plane eventually busting the wings off it and let it dangle like a carrot from a string. Bane makes a grand escape from this plane with a mystery man in tow.
Along with his thirst for pain and his conquest for destruction, Bane is a man made of rock. With his massive shoulders and gigantic biceps, he intimidates anyone who crosses. In most cases he would just grab someone’s head and snap their neck. He is remorseless. Where the Joker’s agenda was to playfully offer ways out of his traps for his victims while he would gleefully chuckle at their inevitable failures, Bane is here to merely destroy any kind of system. Whether it’s that of a city or that of a man’s soul, Bane simply does not care about anything or anyone. He is the meaning of destruction.
After the film’s hair raising opening, the film then settles into a weird rhythm that it unfortunately doesn’t break away from during the film’s remaining runtime. Other than one scene in the middle of the film, Rises is not exciting for a second. Gordon, one of the series’ best characters, is bed ridden for most of the runtime while he has the Levitt character running all over town for him.
The best scene of the entire film is a showdown between Batman and Bane in an underground fortress controlled by Bane and his henchmen. Nolan handles this scene with pure brilliance. Instead of letting the loud and intrusive score (by Nolan faithful Hans Zimmer) and flashy editing intrude on the scene, he lets the scene unfold in silence. Only the sounds of a waterfall ignite the soundtrack as Bane verbally and physically decimate Batman. Shots of Bane’s henchmen as they watch, almost ashamed to follow such a crass leader, are inter-spliced with the action showing how ruthless Bane truly is. The look on their faces as they watch Batman beaten to a pulp is at times hard to watch. Even they can barely watch such reprehensible evil exist.
Unfortunately after the showdown, the film settles back into a state mediocrity. The film trudges on for what feels like forever to a final conflict that feels way too sprawling for the series. I know what we are essentially watching is a comic book/superhero movie, but the final hour seems too illogical to ever really happen. Bane’s ambitions are not unimaginable, just the way he goes about them. Some of these scenes are interesting, but they always require a lot of faith from the viewer. For me it was too much. For the sake of the virgin viewer’s eyes, I will not go into detail.
After everything that happens with these climactic and insanely sensational scenes we are given a closing montage that is a little too ridiculous. One character is revealed to be a crime fighting torch bearer in a stupid wink wink moment and another is given a second life after we are lead to believe of his demise in a stupid gotcha moment. It’s too much and it feels like Nolan, who is a director who almost never comprises, has finally given in to his audience’s demands. I don’t think The Dark Knight Rises is a bad film at all. It’s very well made. All the dollar signs are on the screen and Christopher Nolan is still one of the best and brightest Hollywood directors working today. The film simply does not rise out of its consistent state of complacency. It takes itself too seriously and lacks the straight up excitement of the first two films. A summer blockbuster can be brainy and serious while it hurtles itself through explosions and vibrant action if it wants to, yes. But you still have to have fun while you do it too. Unfortunately, The Dark Knight Rises flies to close to its villain’s coattails to realize this.