Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Christian Bale dons the Batsuit yet again in The Dark Knight Rises, the third and reportedly last of the Christopher Nolan helmed Batman outings.

Nolan’s initial reluctance to return and direct a concluding chapter to this trilogy is understandable to some extent. The first two films both set the bar incredibly high as to what a comic book adaptation could accomplish, whilst simultaneously rescuing the Batman franchise from the vapid campy spectacles that it had become associated with as the previous millennium drew to a close.

The Dark Knight Rises takes place eight years after the events of the previous film, with Bruce Wayne (Bale) living in self imposed exile due to Batman taking the fall for the death  of former district attorney Harvey Dent. A run in with cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), and the emergence of a threat to Gotham City from a mysterious figure known as Bane (Tom Hardy) eventually draws him out of seclusion in order to save the city.

The film is as epic in scope and portentous in tone as the previous two entries. It does an effective job in marrying well choreographed action set pieces with a more thoughtful depiction of Batman as an individual whose actions are primarily driven by anger and grief. Nolan co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Jonathan, and they deftly weave plot threads from the previous films throughout while slowly building up towards an explosive and gripping final reel.

Casting wise, Anne Hathaway defies all the haters in a wonderfully sly turn as Selina Kyle, while Christian Bale is as intense and sombre as ever.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt acquits himself well playing against type as in idealistic young cop, raising the intriguing possibility of a career reboot as an everyman action hero. And Michael Caine as always is a delight to watch playing Batman’s long suffering butler Alfred.

The Dark Knight Rises is constrained somewhat in its positioning as the final third of the trilogy, Nolan was arguably too ambitious in introducing the large number of new characters and sub-plots that he does whilst also attempting to tie up the series as a whole. This overabundance of ideas does mean that there is more than enough forward momentum to sustain the film over its 2 and a half hour run time.

Fans of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight should be more than satisfied with this epic conclusion, and although Nolan’s and Bale’s involvement with the franchise may be over, given the box office returns so far, it’s basically a given that Batman will return to cinemas sometime in the near future.

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  • “The Dark Knight Rises” by Ivette Fred-Rivera
    The film industry, like the city museums, have taken the task of making art in NY to revitalize the city after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They have succeeded, the city is as vibrant as ever, and this film shows paradoxically its endurance with other attacks that do not destroy Gotham, thanks to Batman, of course! The aerial vehicle of Batman seems an ufo over the city. The camera movements makes it to simulate a bat. Excellent. The sound track too.
    Although Bane (Tom Hardy) announced at the beginning that what matters is his plan, it is unclear what the ‘revolutionary’ plan is. Much less is understood that he is a necessary evil. How would a revolution take place when no one knows where is heading? A revolution requires strategist planning, clear strategies, defined purposes. Similarly, many protests end up as parades because at the end of the day nobody knows what the next step is. Meanwhile people get tired in the process.
    A pleasure to enjoy such strong chemistry between Bruce (Christian Bale) and Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). They have to really attract each other! Selina’s naked neck is spectacular as shown by Bruce’s mother stolen pearls on her neck. Also, in one scene, Bruce turns his back to Selina, showing his trust, which she honors by not attacking him from behind but disappearing instead.
    The film works with the fragility of good over evil in both Bruce Wayne’s as well as police commissioner Gordon’s physical fragilities. The street battles are improbable for our Batman. This theme is dealt brilliantly by Hitchcock’s villains.
    Seeing the movie gave me the impression that the author of the massacre in Colorado had seen it earlier because of the strong similitude with the scenes of violence Bane performed on Wall Street and in the crowded stadium.
    It is noticed that Bane is not at the level of evil, misuse of intelligence, that the Joker reached in the second part of the trilogy. I think because evil is divided into two characters, Bane and Miranda, for the alleged advantage of adding the element of surprise when we learned at the end that she – a woman – was the real villain. The effect is not good because her acting is loose. She had the challenge of playing the role of an ordinary looking woman, hiding her extraordinariness. But she played the role, ordinarily.
    Another issue: the importance of a good teacher, and her noble teachings, the movie reminds me of the acclaimed film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. It is not knowledge, the technology alone but the use we make of them, what puts ethics over science and tech.
    Some critics complain of the film lack of coherence, its confusing narrative. Even if this were true, I do not consider it a problem (apart from the prejudice of considering coherence as always a benefit). Usually artists and thinkers wait some time for a critical appraisal of the past. The movie talks about the present and shares the same confusion of the moment. It has the freshness and vitality of being current.
    I’ll paraphrase lines of the libretto – by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan – that I find memorable:
    Bain: ‘No one was interested in who I was until I got the mask.’
    ‘No true despair without hope.’
    ‘I am not afraid, I am angry.’
    Bain to Batman: ‘You think the darkness is your ally? I was born in the shadows, you adopted it. ‘
    ‘No need for heroes in peace time.’
    Selina: ‘When you do what you gotta do, then nobody let’s you do what you want to do.’ Precisely the problem of Carlito (Al Pacino) in Carlito’s Way.
    The older man to Bruce, ‘Your problem is that you lost your fear of death believing it is better. Come up without the rope, as did the child, so will return the fear of death that will make you brave.’ (Note the importance of the collective and individual mantra while trying to escape from the cave.)
    Robin: “Sometimes structures become barriers.’ (So you have to leave them!)
    Bruce: ‘There is nothing out there for me.’
    Batman to Robin: “If you work alone, use a mask. ‘
    Bruce to Selina: ‘There is more in you than that.’
    In the end, going out to sea, we recognize the infamous image of a mushroom as a direct quote of the atomic bomb explosion on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
    Can one man really save Gotham city? Bruce insists that he is an ordinary man and that anyone with good deeds can be a hero. Underneath his mask, Batman’s green eyes symbolize hope. Do you believe him? The movie is worth seeing.

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