It’s been forever since my last post, so I figure, why not get back into the ol’ routine by talking about the most-anticipated movie of the summer, if not the entire year? No spoilers, just my thoughts on the film.
Let me begin by saying that The Dark Knight Rises is pretty unrelentingly bleak. There are a few moments of levity when characters make wry asides or exchange bitingly witty dialogue, but overall, an aura of doom pervades the film. Gotham is in worse peril than ever and the Caped Crusader hasn’t been seen for eight years.
Gotham’s newest threat takes the form of Bane (Tom Hardy, brilliantly terrifying if occasionally unintelligible), the ruthless, hulking terrorist with a chip on his shoulder. His imposing presence and physicality sets him apart from the villains Batman has faced in the past. The gangly Jonathan Crane and the wiry Joker seem especially so whenever Bane fills the screen. Bane’s actions and methods also strike me as more brutal than his predecessors’. While the Joker’s attacks were incredibly frightening and cruel, they were random and meant to inspire panic and chaos. By comparison, Bane’s attacks against the city are paralyzingly precise. In a few deft strokes, he cripples the city and has every citizen of Gotham cowering at his feet.
So, we’ve got a great new villain. Another thing this film does well is skillfully weaving plot elements and themes from the previous two films into this one. The call-backs to Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are brief but astoundingly poignant. In one moment, Bruce, in a moment of utter weakness and overwhelming despair, recalls his how his father came to rescue him from the bottom of a dank, dark well. In another scene, Commissioner Gordon, asked to say a few words on Harvey Dent Day, remembers the snarling, disfigured face of the man who held his family at gunpoint. The flashbacks to the first film are somewhat sentimental, recalling how Bruce Wayne first donned the cape and (perhaps naively) thought he could singlehandedly inspire hope in his fear-stricken city. Scenes from the second film are more like bittersweet, painful memories that resurface when one wonders, “Where did it all go wrong?”
What I was most pleased with, though, was Anne Hathaway’s portrayal of Catwoman. Even though I respect Hathaway as an actress, when I first heard the casting news, I was skeptical of her ability to capture the slinky, devious anti-hero (she was so sweet in The Princess Diaries, after all!). Color me impressed, though, as Hathaway pulled off the role with panache. Not only is Hathaway’s Catwoman/Selina Kyle sexy and alluring, but she’s also resourceful, strong, and wickedly cunning. She also makes for a great foil to Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne/Batman.
Funnily enough, one of the first thoughts that popped into my mind after the film ended was: Film students everywhere are going to be writing theses about this movie for years to come. There’s no shortage of complex societal commentary in this film. Here are just a few of the timely issues that The Dark Knight Rises addresses: the growing gap between rich and poor, the fear surrounding the threat of terrorism, and the responsibility the government has to its people. And the thing is, the film’s handling of these topics is never heavy-handed. These complex issues are treated with a subtlety that’s rare-to-non-existent in standard Hollywood fare.
As the final chapter of this Batman trilogy comes to a close, it is clear that director Christopher Nolan has accomplished something very special. He has crafted three movies that rise far beyond the countless other superhero movies that the Hollywood machine has cranked out. In fact, these three films transcend the genre of “superhero movie.” Through exquisite casting and writing, Nolan has made excellent movies that just happen to be about a man in a cape and cowl.
Also, I just love this goofy picture: