Dark Knight Rises Review: The Beautiful End of It All
This weekend saw the end to one of cinema’s most beloved franchises. If you think that’s hyperbole, take a look at the numbers for both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. However, commercial success does not make it a classic. The films did something that few other superhero movies ever could do – they changed the game.
Begins, introduced the need for a solid back-story. It gave the viewer a Bruce Wayne struggling to find his place in the world that stripped him of his innocence. He was looking for rhyme and reason in a world that he truly never understood. Dark Knight saw a man accept his role as a savior even taken the falls for the evils of others to give people a hero they deserved, but not needed.
What The Dark Knight Rises does is close the story that of a man and a mission. That drive and determination are only parts of the mythos. That Batman is more than just a man with gadgets and cool cars, but a man that can be hurt and damaged to the point of almost giving up.
“Why do we fall?” is a question that continues to pop up in this series; and with good reason. We fall to learn and to overcome. Something that we know Batman will do. However, what does a Batman do when there is nothing left to overcome?
Last we left our hero he took the fall for the actions and death of Harvey Dent. Our daring hero and Gordon concocted a lie that has rid the city of most of its crime- and branded the hero a criminal.
But unlike the triumphant opening of the Dark Knight, TDKR opens with a recluse Bruce Wayne shut in from the world that he has made safe. Bruce no longer needs to fight crime, forcing himself to throw extravagant fundraisers that high society types likes to doll out for causes like poverty and sustainable energy. It is through this that Bruce Wayne wages a war like his parents before him, but not with the will or fervor that he once had.
The film makes it a point to show a character fractured- not because of a lack of crime fighting but because he lost his only love. Nolan and Bale paint a portrait of a man who has nothing to fight for and for lack of a better reason, nothing to exist for. It is this minutia that Bale shines as an actor and as Batman.
He’s simply alive. He’s not moving on from the pain he’s experienced; he’s not looking for love or even doing much to help others. Michael Caine reprising his role as the sage Alfred, reminds him how lovely Wayne Enterprises board member Miranda Tate, played by the gorgeous Marion Cotillard, is. It is Alfred and his hope as a pseudo-parent to Bruce that wants him to experience romance and perhaps even acquire the will to start a family. He wants Bruce to become the man his parents would have wanted and not the terrifying symbol he embraced as a scared, mournful and angry youth.
After eight years it’s cat burglar Selina Kyle that finally piques the recluse’s interest. In her role as both masked Catwoman and vulnerable yet feisty Kyle, Anne Hathaway shines. The internet was abuzz with how she was wrong for the role, but after seeing her and the physicality and depth of her performance, it’s easy to fall in love with the cat once again.
Her on-screen chemistry with Bale is palpable and is a second only to Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in “The Amazing Spider-Man.” It is their unmasked interaction that goes to prove over 50 years of comic book arguments correct – Batman and Catwoman must marry. Their masked scenes are truly a great kick back to the dynamic duo in a classic set them up, knock’em down fashion.
They are simply executed too well.
Hathaway’s Catwoman is magnetic. You want to look at her when she is on-screen and when she isn’t you wish she was. Cat-suit aside, the more realistic take on the feline retains those key traits every comic nerd loves: the sly humor, sexiness, wonderfully acrobatic fighting and a great set of bladed heels. Selina is the proverbial good-bad girl, but Hathaway injects humanity into her with a survivor’s edge that makes her feel genuine and sympathetic, even when she’s being naughty.
But the crux of any good Batman story is the villain.
You could not see Tom Hardy’s mouth move but if you could, you would see him chewing up the scenery as the villain Bane. A brute in his last on-screen appearance; Bane has finally achieved the same greatness that we saw in the Knightfall story arc. A cold, calculating villain bent on seeing Batman suffer.
Bane is a force of nature venom free in this take, but as muscle-bound as humanly possible and without remorse. This Bane is cold and of a single vision. To destroy Gotham and watch his protector die. In classic comic book form the first battle between the two proved to be less about form and power and more about a man who was rustier than a Pittsburgh steel mill taking on a World’s Strongest man competitor. Bane. Broke. The bat. He pummeled him like life pummeled Bruce Wayne. However, Nolan decided to let the action play out. No quick cuts, no kicks just guttural human nature on-screen showing a man in a bat suit fighting for his life hoping to die.
Knocking the savior of the city down Nolan tackles the 99% ideal. Give the city back to the people. But even with the city given to its citizens it does little to show the class struggle that Nolan may have wanted to show on-screen. Maybe a little less preachy and a little more story would have gone a long way.
But what he does give you is the sense of loss. He gives you a look at the suffering of a hero who has to watch his city burn. The Joker frustrated the Batman. Bane tortures him. A city cries out for its savior. Selina got what she wanted and now doesn’t know what to do with it. All story beats play out artfully and with the typical Nolan subtext.
It is then that Bruce must accept his fate and give people hope. The hope he had when he placed the cowl on his head years ago. The hope Alfred wants for him. He must want to live and be afraid to die; and this is where The Dark Knight Rises shines. It is a call to all people- be the best at what you can be.
The last turn of the villains and the battle for Gotham is a great set piece but it is secondary to the pain of a daughter and son who lost parents, a man who lost a love and a city who lost a hero.
The Dark Knight Rises is certainly the most comic book-y of Nolan’s three Batman films. However being the last of the franchise has caused the hype machine to overwork itself. Expect to be surprised and wowed. There might be some disappointment, but let it sink in. The ending by itself is worth a watch. It is the ending that all comic book fans, despite what they may say, want to see.
Nolan and his team have delivered the grandest, most emotional and super heroic chapter in their Batman saga. The Dark Knight Rises is a satisfying end to story of Bruce Wayne the man and Batman the legend.
Juan De Jesus
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