REVIEW: 'The Dark Knight Rises'
The Dark Knight Rises is a superhero movie that’s trying its darnedest not to be a superhero movie. And in a way, it suits Christopher Nolan’s approach to his Batman series. Ever since 2005’s Batman Begins, Nolan has tried to make us understand why Bruce Wayne would become a masked vigilante and take on the scum of Gotham. More so than any other movies in the comic book genre, Nolan’s trilogy feels grounded and real. And so the events in The Dark Knight Rises hit home in a way that few of its competitors can.
Even after all the buzz and the theories, The Dark Knight Rises still has a few surprises in its arsenal. It may not be able to surpass the powerful storytelling in its predecessor, The Dark Knight, but it comes awfully close. It’s a movie that deserves to be watched again and again, a mighty finish to a series that’s bound to be a classic.
The story opens eight years after The Dark Knight, when Gotham is clean of organized crime and Batman is still wanted for the death of the city’s “White Knight” Harvey Dent. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is a recluse in Wayne Manor, convinced that he’s no longer needed as Batman.
But a new villain comes to Gotham with the goal of finishing what arch-assassin Ra’s Al Ghul (Liam Neeson) started in Batman Begins: to level the city and establish a new world order. That adversary is Bane (Tom Hardy), a brutal mercenary who is more than a match for the caped crusader. For once, Batman can be beaten, and this allows The Dark Knight Rises to actually catch us off guard, and remind us why we connect with the Batman lore.
Of course, any Batman film – even a Nolan one – is only as good as its villain. And to be honest, Hardy’s Bane is not as captivating as Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight. But I’d argue that the two antagonists represent two very different ideals. The Joker only cares for the mad fun of causing chaos. Bane operates on a larger scale, with a godlike strategy for wiping out an entire city.
Rather than be drawn to Hardy’s performance, we want to avert our eyes. It’s a fantastic decision on Nolan’s part, marking exactly the kind of challenge we’d expect for Batman at this stage in his story.
The new supporting characters don’t disappoint, either. Some fans were worried we’d be let down by Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), or grow tired of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s cop character John Blake. Instead, they flesh out the film, giving us a reason to keep watching when Batman’s not onscreen (which is often, in this case).
The film takes on a greater depth for people familiar with the Batman comics. You don’t need to have read the stories to enjoy the movie, but it’s rewarding to pick out the references to classic Batman story arcs like Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”, Jeph Loeb’s “Hush” and, of course, the Bane storyline “Knightfall”. What I wouldn’t give to see Christopher Nolan write an original Batman arc for DC some day.
The post-apocalyptic theme and references to the Occupy movement, however, bring us back to the real world. If it weren’t for the costumed heroes and villains, we might start to believe that The Dark Knight Rises was a grim prophecy for our own society. For a comic book movie to do that is a remarkable achievement. The Dark Knight Rises gets three and a half stars out of four.
What did you think of The Dark Knight Rises? Did it live up to your four years of expectations? How would you rank Nolan’s three Batman films? What would you like to see from the next Batman series, whenever it arrives? Let me know in the comments section! If you liked this review, share it with your friends and followers, and check me out on Twitter here.
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