Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan & Christopher Nolan
Stars: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Ann Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Cain
The Dark Knight Rises begins in Central Asia eight years after the events of The Dark Knight. A wanted Russian nuclear scientist, Dr. Pavel (Alon Aboutbol), is being transported by plane along with three captured hooded mercenaries. While in the air another plane intercepts the first. In short order, Bane (Tom Hardy) reveals himself as one of the hooded prisoners, his men disable the plane, they kidnap the scientist, and destroy the C.I.A. plane. Bane is revealed to be feared, cunning, methodical, and his men fanatically loyal.
In Gotham, the lie of Harvey Dent is still being perpetuated. A law in his name has sent many to jail, and a city holiday exists in his honor. The Batman is still wanted for Dent’s crimes, and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is battered and a recluse. All the while Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) is being psychologically eaten from the inside by the poison that is the lie of Harvey Dent. Gotham is ripe for the fall.
The Nolan Batman Trilogy comes full circle with the story of Rises roughly following Batman Begins. Instead of Falcone and the Scarecrow there is Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn) and Bane. And just as Falcone thought he controlled the Scarecrow and then was later betrayed by him, the same occurs between Daggett and Bane. As in Batman Begins where Bruce Wayne is trained in the lair of his enemy, hereto he receives an education about himself in his enemies prison. And most important of all, Ra’s Al Ghul’s (Liam Neeson) words are made true: a man can be destroyed, but a legend can never die. What’s amazing about the story is how little the Dark Knight is actually in it and how much the legend of him is–especially through the eyes of John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). It is John Blake who calls Batman to action, it is John Blake who brings hope, it is John Blake who remains true through all the evil and lies, and it is John Blake who rises along with Bruce Wayne.
The look of the film is real as opposed to dark. Gotham in the first two films is overwhelmingly oppressive. Here Gotham is New York, not some hyper-realized version of it. Even at its darkest moments in the story there is always light symbolizing hope. The destruction of the stadium and bridges occurs during the day and not the night. The prison pit of the damned has a great oculus where only day is ever seen. The final battle between good and evil occurs during the sunlight of a cold winter’s day.
The story is amazingly well paced. Though clocking in at 164 minutes, the movie never drags and only has minimal fat–specifically the Police Commander Foley (Matthew Modine) storyline. More importantly, moments of humor are allowed to occur.
The acting is strong across the board, especially the poignant scenes being between Alfred (Michael Cain) and Bruce Wayne. Cain and Bale have developed a natural chemistry together, and you can feel their affection for each other. Almost as strong are the interactions between Gordon-Levitt and Oldman. Their relationship a microcosm of a father and son. In the beginning, a son places his father on a pedestal; a god to admire, learn from, and emulate. But by the end, a son sees his father with open eyes; a man with faults who has made mistakes, a man you can still learn from but can also learn from you.
Hathaway succeeds in bringing both a very accurate depiction of the Catwoman from the comics to the big screen, as well as a very realistic portrayal of the character. An important observation to note is Selina Kyle is only ever Selina Kyle and is never mentioned as Catwoman. And what of Tom Hardy as Bane? He brings a raw physicality and menace to the role. And there is something to be said to have that British voice behind the mask, as well as his eyes. There is a tragedy in seeing Tom Hardy’s face in a flashback of Bane and knowing that he becomes a monster.
If not for the final ninety seconds a great movie could have been a perfect film. If only the film would have ended with Blake’s tale and no other.
Grade = A-