Trilogies rarely stay consistently solid, increasingly entertaining films. In fact, most tend to go from great to poor. With Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight Rises”, a glimmer of light shines in a dark world of third installments. This is how you end a series!
The film starts as a moving train going slow enough for you to jump on, but steadily moving forward so you can’t think twice. Picking up eight years after the death of Harvey Dent, Gotham is a city of peace and fat cats. The film’s main characters are introduced to us quickly. Tom Hardy’s Bane is a hulking terrorist, with a vader-like voice, and chilling controlled intensity. He’s the embodiment of everything we fear about terrorism, the lack of conscience, focus on achieving a goal at any means, and a disregard for order. In a suspenseful extraction scene, Bane and his henchman take a doctor for a reason we’re waiting to have solved, and it’s off to the races to put the puzzle together.
A shell of his former self, we first see Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) in a silhouette, blanketed by night itself, with a can in hand at a dinner gala. When I first saw the photos of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, I had my doubts. However, Ms. Hathaway prances into her role as Selena Kyle with confidence and earnestness. Taking the role to a different height mixing femininity and sass in just the right way. When Bruce and Selena meet the chemistry is apparent and makes for a fun tango throughout the rest of the film.
With the evil on the horizon, Bruce’s father figure Alfred (Michael Caine), tries to be the mirror of wisdom and knowledge for Bruce. It’s a conversation with orphan turned cop, Officer Blake (Joseph Gordon Levitt) that puts wind to the low burning ember that is Batman. When the Bat returns to Gotham, the spectacle that we all want to see from the franchise is turned on with a chase scene through the city. One character says “You’re in for a show tonight son”, as Batman wizzes by in our first glimpse of caped crusader.
From there it’s off to the races as our hero must defeat a seemingly unstoppable villain bent on the destruction of Gotham. Nolan’s pacing of the film is superb as we jump from action to dramatic scenes. The Bane vs. Batman fight is what every fan boy waited for, suspenseful, dramatic, and action packed. As Bane schools the Bat like Apollo Creed did Rocky, the back break is like an act break, marking the dawn of a new Gotham.
As Gotham is plunged into anarchy, all hope seems lost as evil slowly takes over. Innocence in the voice of a young boy singing the national anthem is blended in a montage of explosions going off around the city. The city’s terrorist watches from the sideline and seems to delight in inflicting pain on the community at large. In an almost ominous montage of Gotham City’s finest rushing into the sewer to thwart off evil, only for the city above to come crashing down on them, as if it’s Nolan’s nod to 911 and our current fights with terrorist acts in the real.
The movie’s statement on good versus evil, terrorism, economic collapse and truth are noticable but not over the top. In fact, truth seems to be the thing that each character is searching for throughout the film. Whether it’s Kyle’s desire for a clean slate to stop living lies, Commissioner Gordon’s wrestling with telling the truth about Harvey Dent, or Bruce coming to grips with his fear of letting go of the past. Every character has some vulnerability and inner discovery that they have to find. That’s what makes Nolan’s take on the franchise great. He understands what makes Batman a great hero. The fact that a mortal man can become more, and fight for truth
The movie’s final thirty minutes puts a nice ribbon on the series. Leaving room for spinoffs while concluding the series, Nolan can walk away with his head held high. My only gripe is that Bane’s persona takes somewhat of a nose dive in the wrap up. There are more than a few plot holes throughout the film that have to be overlooked, but they’re not big enough to fall through.
The “Dark Knight Rises” may be the weakest of the three films in the trilogy, but after establishing the new take on Batman, and Heath Ledger’s legendary performance, the stakes were high. Even so, Nolan delivered an outstanding end to the Caped Crusader’s reign.