A fire will rise.
On the night of this film’s intensely anticipated premiere, a 24-year-old man attacked a midnight screening in Aurora, Colorado and murdered 12 people. The horrendous act caused the studio to remove ads for the The Dark Knight Rises and director Christopher Nolan released a statement where he called the movie theater his “home” and that it had been “violated”. It is indeed sickening how this 24-year-old tried to connect the franchise to his personal inner terrors and make so many innocent people suffer for it. One way of dealing with it is to move on from the tragedy and talk about matters that are more significant in the long run, such as the gun culture, psychiatry… and the movie itself.
Eight years have passed since Batman sacrificed his good name for Gotham City. As the late Harvey Dent has become a haloed figure, Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) struggles with whether or not he should tell people the truth about Dent. Ever since Batman retired, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse in his mansion who cares little about what goes on in the city or at his own company. When a new powerful threat against Gotham emerges in the shape of Bane (Tom Hardy), a masked brute who plans to turn the city into something resembling a failed state, Wayne believes that the time has come for the Bat to return – against the advice of Alfred (Michael Caine) who recognizes a death wish when he sees one. At the same time, Wayne is confronted by the sexy Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) whose allegiances change as swiftly as a cat hunts a mouse.
Oddly endearing visuals of Gotham
We’ve reached the end of the greatest superhero franchise ever and Nolan ties the knot as beautifully as can be expected. After a long, dark and exceptionally brutal journey, Wayne faces his greatest challenge and Nolan’s insistence on grounding these films in an alternate reality that often looks very much like our own (this time, Gotham is decidedly New York-ish) makes us genuinely fear for not only Bruce’s life but those of several other prominent characters. Bane’s agenda of anarchy may look a little too much like the Joker’s in The Dark Knight (2008), but Nolan’s new take on it is a deeper examination of its large-scale implications – and it’s one of several ways how the director fuses various elements from both previous chapters with this finale, creating a cohesive whole. The running time tries our patience (as well as a few frustrating logical gaps in the story), but Nolan keeps us busy with oddly endearing visuals of a gritty Gotham and a final hour that amps up tension in many ways as everybody in this large cast finds useful purposes. Superior performances all around, including Hardy who finds a voice reminiscent of Gert Fröbe’s cheerful insanity in Goldfinger (1964), Caine whose Alfred uses every mean available to save Bruce from himself, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the young beat cop who’s destined for greater things. Hathaway brings a sense of humor as the Catwoman who’s never exactly called that; the character’s appearance risked moving the franchise closer to Joel Schumacher territory, but Nolan and Hathaway manage to avoid it.
As muscular, militaristic and masochistically painful as established in Batman Begins, Nolan remains true to his concept. But he also offers rays of light and heartfelt emotion, which is a relief as this is supposed to be the end. We need it. What we don’t need is another reboot, but I’m sure it’s coming. When it does, those filmmakers have their work cut out for them.
The Dark Knight Rises 2012-U.S. 164 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Emma Thomas. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Screenplay: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan. Music: Hans Zimmer. Cast: Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Tom Hardy (Bane), Anne Hathaway (Selina Kyle), Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman… Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Matthew Modine, Tom Conti, Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy, Thomas Lennon.
Trivia: U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy has a cameo again, as in The Dark Knight.
Last word: “For me, it was incredible because the great thing about it was – and the secret of the success of this picture as opposed to those massive blockbusters out there – is the stunts and special effects are real. There is very, very little computer generated imaging in it. All these other ones you see a million people marching towards you, you know they’ve photographed ten and just kept doubling it up and up and up. In ours, when the stuntman falls off the roof, it’s a real man falling off the roof and hitting the bottom. And I think that is very important. It’s very human and I suppose the class of acting is a little better…” (Caine, Empire)