Monday, July 23, 2012
When Gotham is Ashes, The Dark Knight Rises
Eight years have passed since the events of The Dark Knight, when Batman took the fall for Harvey Dent so Gotham could have a hero that they needed to become a better city. Bruce Wayne, secluded in a massive manor while Gotham became a city with less crime and more opportunity, once again has to come forward due to a new, incredibly powerful villain that is threatening not just Batman and Gotham's citizens, but its class and financial systems as well. The film is filled to burst with thoughts on terrorism and class warfare--I'm hesitant to mention 9/11 or the recent shooting at the Colorado theater, but when watching the film, it's hard not to react to a plot that feeds off of America's collective consciousness and our anxiety in a post-9/11 era, where fear (instead of hope) is pumped through every news station on television, fear as gross as raw sewage.
The Dark Knight Rises is Nolan's last film about the caped crusader, and it comes with the same finality as a period at the end of a sentence. It helps having a brilliant core of actors at your disposal, willing to go to great lengths to make this a potent third and final installment (something rare in trilogies). Particularly great are three actors: Christian Bale has always been a great choice for Batman (even if you hate his over-the-top deep growl when donning the bat costume), but in The Dark Knight Rises his portrayal reaches a point of melancholy and sadness that was never reached in the previous two installments. His scenes with the great Michael Caine (as Alfred) boast a specific impressiveness, as the tears well up in his eyes when he finally says "Goodbye". Caine has always filled Alfred with humor and common-sense intelligence, and a little of that is here too, but his regret in this final film is what will gain him award nominations at the end of this year. Then we have the newcomer to this series, Tom Hardy, a brilliant actor who plays the muscly, brawling Bane, a man-beast of a villain who unfortunately had the job of living up to one of the greatest bad-guy performances in all of cinema. Though his motivations are a bit murky, his performance is admirable and full of force.
But Bane isn't the only new character that provides a spark to this final installment: two new women provide a foil and love interest for Bruce Wayne and Batman. One is Catwoman, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). It's fair to say many were skeptical to how Cat would fit into Nolan's universe, but Hathaway puts enough sass, sarcasm and sexiness into the pick-pocketing character to make it her own. The other is Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a mysterious millionaire with interesting motivations that may save (or be the downfall of) Bruce Wayne's company. Like every woman who plays a major part in these three films, they quickly realize that getting close to Bruce (or Batman) may be far too dangerous to handle. And let us not forget about Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a young cop on the Gotham force who realizes how powerful the hope that Batman's actions can bring to a folding community. He may play the most important role of all in the end to this trilogy.
No, The Dark Knight Rises doesn't reach the heights of its predecessor, The Dark Knight. That would have been nearly impossible, an achievement that was almost completely unreachable. It suffers from too many new characters and a few predictable plot points near the end of its run time. It also isn't some grand statement on American culture (as some fan boys would lead you to believe), a prediction of what will happen when the rich keep getting richer and "leave so little for the rest of us," as Selina Kyle states. It's actually something much simpler: the final, entertaining, satisfying, sad, and--ultimately--hopeful end to one of the best big-budget trilogies in American cinema, a story of tortured souls in a treacherous environment who realize that the notion of hope is much more important than one specific costumed superhero. (B+)