The Dark Knight Rises, Falls, Growls…

Before I start this movie review, I want to take a moment to mention the infamous violence that will unfortunately and quite possibly forever be associated with The Dark Knight Rises. I’m not going to debate about gun control or the lack of emergency preparedness because such politicizing would be insulting to the victims and their families; and I certainly won’t assume to understand the motives of a person who had a mind to kill innocent people he never knew. But I want you to think, as I did during the movie, about this event in terms of our love-hate relationship with violence.

I, for one, am not someone who believes that watching violent movies or playing violent video games makes people violent. Do I think it overexposes us to violence and makes us numb to it? Yes. But a violent mind is bred biologically, psychologically, and behaviorally—not manipulated solely by sources of entertainment. Now that you understand where I’m coming from, I want to you to think about something. 

Why is it that we find violence in movies—like The Dark Knight Rises—entertaining? Some of you will say because explosions and watching the bad guy get knocked on his ass by the hero is awesome. Still, I’m guessing the majority of you will say because the violence takes place in a world that doesn’t existthat movies are our escape from reality, so we can enjoy things like violence because they’re not happening to us here and now. But what, then, happens when the same violence you see in movies becomes real?

The violence we see on-screen suddenly pales and becomes less entertaining. Some of you might not see it that way, but I did. I won’t pretend like I wasn’t thinking about the shooting during the movie. In fact, I was thinking about it so much that every time someone got up to leave to get food or go to the bathroom, I watched them intently, never trusting them. It’s strange how we can be so entertained by violence, yet so disgusted by it in real life. And this is our tricky relationship with violence.

I promise I’m done with that now, so onto the review…

Here is how Warner Bros. describes the plot: “It has been eight years since Batman (Christian Bale) vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) both hoped was the greater good. For a time, the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act. But everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar (Anne Hathaway) with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane (Tom Hardy), a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane.”

As you’ve probably noticed with this trilogy, the plots always surround the rise and fall of Batman. With Batman Begins, we were shown a troubled young Bruce Wayne acknowledging his fears in order to become Batman, a symbol of justice and hope in the crime-ridden Gotham City.

In The Dark Knight, Batman was at the top of his game, protecting the city and people he loves, until he was bested by the Joker, who proved that everything he had worked so hard to preserveespecially his symbolcould and would eventually come crashing down.

And with The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce Wayne had to push passed guilt, hatred, bankruptcy, and the fear of life (Yes, that’s right. I said fear of life, not death) to reclaim the things he lost. So when Bruce Wayne was trapped in a cavernous prison hole (That’s what I’m calling it) for half of this movie, you knew there had to be a literal ascension that would mimic the trilogy’s united plot of rising and falling.

But I think the most interesting discussion of rising and falling (which also relates to the immortality/mortality theme I’ll discuss in a moment) was the one Bruce had about his fear of life with another inmate. The inmate noted that Bruce didn’t fear death, which Bruce thought made him strong, but the man told him that not fearing death was what was keeping him down in the prison hole—because his acceptance of death meant that he didn’t cling to life like those willing to fight for it. And, of course, the only way to climb out of the prison hole was to do so without any rope because, then, Bruce would have to face the true fear of death and embrace life.

It’s true that these movies are much darker than other “superhero” movies, but that’s because director Christopher Nolan has tried to show us that the superhero is immortal, but the man behind the mask isn’t. This theme is what makes this trilogy so great because the theme, in itself, is a conflict entailing that the man sacrifices himself for the greater good of the hero to keep what the hero symbolizes alive. This is why Commissioner Gordon had such a hard time in this movie trying to figure out whether or not he should admit what truly happened to Harvey Dent. He knew that, if he told Gotham what Dent had done, he might’ve cleared Batman’s name, but then everything Dent had worked to achieve and preserve would completely destroy Gotham’s hope.

The same went for Bruce Wayne/Batman. He knew he hadn’t done much to help the city as Bruce Wayne, but he had as Batman; and that was worth much more to preserve. Even though he killed himself to save Gotham, Bruce Wayne immortalized Batman’s symbol to the people of Gotham (which also conveniently makes it easier for someone else *cough* to take over the role of Batman because Bruce Wayne was just the man behind the mask, not the actual symbol).

And can we please talk about Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman? She was brillant. Catwoman has always been a complicated character. In fact, I often compare her to Captain Jack Sparrow because she’s a free agent who isn’t necessarily good but isn’t necessarily bad either. She does what she wants, and she doesn’t really pick a side unless that side benefits her in some way. But there’s also an element of honor to her that she’ll occasionally act on when she doesn’t think something is right.

I felt Hathaway captured this complexity well, and I honestly couldn’t take my eyes off of her when she appeared. She was both a protagonist and an antagonist, and she didn’t rely entirely on acting the sexy, seductive tramp that most of us were probably expecting (though her tight little ass in that suit might beg to differ). And, I’m not going to lie, I really wanted her to end up with Bruce Wayne after all of their sexually tense banter.

Speaking of Bruce Wayne’s love interests…I knew something was up with Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) early in the movie. And when Bruce Wayne was hearing the story about Ra’s Al Ghul’s presumed son (who they wanted you to think was Bane), I was like, “But in the comics, Ra’s Al Ghul had a daught—OH SHIT!” And I was right. Nice try, Nolan. I caught on to your little plot twist. Readers, here’s a Bailey movie hint: When you’re introduced to someone in the beginning of the movie who you think is bad, they usually end up being good (like Catwoman); but when you’re introduced to someone in the beginning of the movie who you think is good, they usually end up being bad (like Miranda Tate, a.k.a Talia Al Ghul).

The nice thing about having a lot of characters in this movie is that Nolan was able to bring in a ton of heavyweight actors; but the bad thing about having a lot of characters in this movie is that there were a lot of freaking characters in this movie. Think about it this way: more characters, more background stories. Either you’re catching up with characters who’ve been away for years, or you’re learning about a new character, who has to be given ample amount of screen time in order to be multi-dimensional. And this happens right in the beginning of the movie. I’m pretty sure that’s why this movie was nearly three hours long.

Bane was an awesome villain, don’t get me wrong. The only problem I had was that, at times, it was difficult to understand him. What’s funny is I read that Christopher Nolan had Tom Hardy (who played Bane) come back in to do voiceovers after there were complaints of not being able to understand him in the teaser trailer. And I think they did well voicing over most parts, but there were some moments that I was sitting there going, “Uh, what?”

Now…the ending. I’m torn on this. So let’s start with the good stuff. For one, Alfred (Michael Caine) finally had some peace-of-mind because his promise of keeping Bruce safe was kept to the Wayne family (and if you didn’t see this shit coming when he first told Bruce about wishing to see him away from Gotham, then you’re kind of an idiot).

Second, Bruce is finally happy (and he obviously got to bone Selina Kyle). Third, it left an opening for a new man to take on the symbol of Batman, and that man just happened to be police officer and orphan John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), whose real name is later revealed to be Robin (I’m pretty sure Christopher Nolan was just trying to throw us off here because he didn’t use Robin’s real name from the comics, which is Dick Grayson; and if he did, we would’ve all seen it coming. But also, I called this one, too).

Buuuuuuuut part of me wanted Bruce Wayne to die. Why? As I discussed in much depth above, Nolan spends all this time immortalizing the hero and humanizing the man behind the mask, yet he doesn’t stick to that with this ending. I mean, he does in a way because the point in the end is that the symbol of Batman is more important than who was behind it, so why does it matter what happens to the dude under the mask? But still, wouldn’t it have really driven the point home if Bruce had died saving the city, leaving the legend of Batman to go beyond him. I think that truly would have immortalized the symbol and made a great parallel between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent.

Think about it! Harvey Dent died after going crazy and turning to chaos, but he was martyred and made a symbol for peace by the people of Gotham. Batman was thought to be a mad vigilante in Gotham, who would’ve ended up dying to save everyone and thereby becoming an actual symbol of peace. THAT would’ve been a fantastic conclusion. But we didn’t get that.

Overall, I think Christopher Nolan did well with this Batman trilogy. He really constructed, deconstructed, and then reconstructed Batman as a hero throughout these movies, which I personally think made for a strong character arc. If you’re wondering why I didn’t comment above on the cinematography or special effects, it’s because I don’t really need to tell you how amazing those things were (because they were). After all, it’s a Nolan movie. What do you expect? I feel bad that I couldn’t fit a lot of the praise I wanted to talk about, but I feel like a lot of people would’ve given up reading with so many paragraphs (and this is a long post already); but here are some big ones I would’ve included: Tom Hardy’s performance as Bane, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance as John Blake, and Gary Oldman’s performance as Commissioner Gordon.

My complaints were only that it seemed there were too many characters in the beginning with their individual stories taking up valuable movie time. But hey, if you don’t mind sitting around for three hours, then it’s no big deal. As for the ending, I know this will have people talking for months (like Inception), and I both liked and disliked it for various reasons—you’ll just have to brave the spoilers if you want that opinion. Also, don’t compare this movie to The Avengers. That’s like comparing apples and oranges. Yes, they’re both action movies with superheroes based on comic book characters that make a shit ton of money, but they both have very different angles and audiences.

My deepest condolences to the victims and families of the Aurora, CO shooting.

The Dark Knight Rises: A+

4 thoughts on “The Dark Knight Rises, Falls, Growls…

  1. *SPOILERS* Personally, I think the ending was ambiguous enough that we can’t be certain Bruce quit being Batman. He may have just finally reconciled the duality of his identity and is taking a vacation from Batmanning. After all, John Blake kinda rhymes with Tim Drake and Tim Drake happens to be the third Robin. Coincidentally, Drake had a similar backstory to Blake and became Robin after successfully deducing that Bruce Wayne is Batman. I think Nolan gives us just enough to draw some conclusions but as is typical for him, there’s nothing concrete in those conclusions.

  2. Very true. Nolan does like to give us just enough bait to keep us hooked, but he never really reels us to the surface in the end. We fall for it every time, but I guess that’s why we love him. Also, I didn’t know about Tim Drake, so that makes more sense now. And this is why I have you here to explain these things to me 🙂

  3. I agree with most everything you’ve said, with a few niggling points I have to make because I’m an ass like that:

    Things that were awesome:
    1. The ending. I LOVED the ambiguity. In fact, for me, it was one of the really transcendent moments in the film where I completely forgot about the plot holes and character motivation confusion, and just thought… yes. Awesome.
    I mean, Batman totally might have died – Alfred hanging out in Italy and “seein”g Selina and Bruce might have just been his way of coping with his feeling responsible for not protecting him. And Blake being left the Batcave in Bruce’s will was all kinds of cathartic. Which brings me to…
    2. Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Thank god for his character. This was a movie that really needed someone who was very clearly Good. He had conquered his psychological demons, he knew terrible secrets about those he trusted, and he steadfastly held to his convictions and did the noble thing every single time. It was important for Nolan to include him in order to contrast with the shady motivations of every other character in the film, including Bruce. Blake was the real hero of the film. If he could just channel his oft-referenced “hot-headedness” into his own mission to save the world without the confines of the law… And then Bruce gave him the Batcave. Fuck yes.
    3. Bane. I actually loved his distorted, aquarium-filter voice as it added to his WTF factor. Where I felt like it might be kind of cool to pick the mind of the Joker and figure out his motivations, I would want nothing to do with Bane. He is a pure, inhuman, breaking-people machine. No one knows where he comes from, his accent is hard to place, and he doesn’t have an ulterior motive. You’re just like… Batman, WTF. STOP HIM.
    4. The symbolism. So much. Bruce is at rock bottom and is thrown literally into a rock bottom. Bane blowing a literally collapsing hole under Wayne Enterprises. Everyone at the masked ball wearing a mask, except for Bruce (and Miranda!) because THAT IS THEIR MASK. Blake in the Batcave on a rising platform, followed by “THE DARK KNIGHT RISES”. 😀

    Things that were not so awesome:
    1. Miranda Tate. If only Nolan has established some kind of longstanding attraction between Miranda and Bruce early on. If only they had more than a one-scene stand before she revealed her identity. It just wasn’t as much of a dismay when she double-crossed him and monologued absurdly about her childhood as the city fell apart outside.
    2. Selina Kyle’s burglar outfit. Perhaps it is genuinely her style to always have fire engine red lipstick on and Cat Ear Goggles that she only puts on when Anne Hathaway needs a stunt double. And maybe she prefers her hair down and swinging around behind her wtf. I just felt that, for an accomplished burglar and occasional crime lord mercenary, she would wear something a little more utility oriented. But I suppose this Catwoman’s style was a little more on the theatrical side anyway, what with her dramatic kisses and spiked heels and one-liners. I guess. But why wouldn’t you put your hair up for combat? Ugh.

    Things that would have been awesome:
    1. If Selina Kyle used a Catvoice. “GRRAWWWWWWWWHERE’S THE TRIGGER?!? *hiss*”

  4. What if Christopher Nolan was just screwing with us the entire time, making us think these films were all about Batman when they were actually BATMANCEPTION? It was all a dream.

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