THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
JULY 22, 2012
Expectations and presumptions can kill a film. I went into “The Dark Knight Rises” with neither. Too many people I know walked into the final Christopher Nolan Batman film expecting it to be better than “The Dark Knight.” In my mind, that just wasn’t possible. “The Dark Knight” is a near-perfect film, and Heath Ledger and his out-of-this-world rendition of The Joker were pivotal in making it a huge success. But no one expected perfection walking into that film in 2008; it was a much-welcomed surprise.
“The Dark Knight Rises” is a much deeper and darker Batman film than any previous installments. The darkness is what separates Nolan’s Batman from earlier visions of the hero, yet somehow that becomes a downfall for most viewers in this final film. By creating such a dark, sometimes depressing world surrounding Bruce Wayne and Gotham City, the moments that do introduce hope become much more powerful. Had the film been a complete balance of emotions, this would not have been the case, and the tone would have suffered.
Another common complaint about the film is that the masked crusader hardly ever appears in costume. To that, I respond that Batman is hardly ever needed throughout the film. There are so many exciting characters and pieces of the puzzle explored that throwing Batman in to get screen-time seems unnecessary. When Batman does show up, it means something and has a specific purpose.
All of the main cast hit their marks with perfection. The returning ensemble has helped create a sturdy foundation for the franchise, setting it apart from any previous superhero films. Christian Bale continues a solid run as Bruce Wayne/Batman, remaining completely sincere in his heartfelt moments while producing power and agility in his role as Batman. Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine are so in touch with their characters and their extreme ability to transform into those characters that these films would be just another cog in the superhero genre without their presence.
What would eventually sell this entire film would come down to the newcomers: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, and, of course, Tom Hardy. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, often a comedic actor, shows no sign of that anywhere in his performance as Gotham City Police Officer John Blake. Placing him close to Gary Oldman, yet knowing the identity of Batman, sets him up perfectly in this film. Top that with JGL’s impressive acting abilities, and this becomes one of his best showings to date. Anne Hathaway is often not a favorite actress of mine and remained the one casting choice I questioned before the film. Despite my reservations, Hathaway makes the part of Catwoman/Selina Kyle her own and thoroughly impresses with her ability to “turn it on,” so to speak. She is intelligent, powerful, and highly sexy throughout her entire character arc and helps provide an epic ending to the film. Marion Cotillard also impresses, delivering some much-needed passion in the movie.
Not to discredit Heath Ledger and his performance whatsoever, but The Joker villain is one of the most well-known super-villains in the Batman universe. Although Ledger made the character his own, it is much easier to get that persona off the ground than, say, a lesser-known villain like Bane. Tom Hardy brings an almost unknown Batman villain to A-lister status with a strong performance in only voice and eyes. Despite the backlash towards Bane’s sometimes inaudible voice, his stature, power, and intellect make the film’s central villain much more impressive than given credit. With a different villain than we’re used to, Tom Hardy’s Bane will help “The Dark Knight Rises” stand out for generations.
Even though the fight scenes are few and far between, the present ones resonate throughout the film. Batman and Bane’s first brawl in the sewers is undeniably epic, as is the final confrontation on the steps of city hall. The element that sets this apart from other Batman films is that these two men are equals. Ra’s al Ghul trained both men (however, Bane appears much more potent than Batman), so to see them boxing one another rather than using gadgets and artillery is a welcome shift. That level playing field makes their battles much more intimate, giving them more meaning than if they were shooting at one another.
Christopher Nolan proves himself as one of the most innovative and all-around best writers/directors in the industry today. With a run-time of almost three hours, being able to immerse an audience in a fantasy world without making it feel like three hours (and still wanting more by the end) is a commendable feat. In addition to a remarkable story, Hans Zimmer’s score is worth the theater experience alone, providing one of the best scores since his score in Nolan’s previous film, “Inception.” Bringing it all together are the seamless visual effects, which are bound to get Academy attention around Oscar season.
A masterpiece in storytelling and delivering one of the best third films in a series, “The Dark Knight Rises” finds the perfect way to bring the full franchise circle. Openly Nolan’s last venture into the Batman lore, the film wraps up exquisitely, with the previous 30 minutes containing thoughtful reveals and twists built throughout the film (and unfathomably kept calm during the marketing of the film). All the actors hit their marks, with Bale, Freeman, Caine, and Oldman delivering above-par repeat performances, while Hathaway, Cotillard, Hardy, and Gordon-Levitt blow away expectations and deliver unforgettable performances. Every character has their part to play in the plot, especially in the last act, which will satisfy any level of Batman fan. Though the fights are few and far between, the battles that do exist are epic enough to resonate throughout the entire film. With the continued impressive streak of director Christopher Nolan, the final Batman film holds up and helps mark the capstone of one of the greatest trilogies in cinema history.
July 20, 2012
Characters appearing in comic books published
by DC Comics
Warner Bros. Pictures
(for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language)
Joseph Gordon Levitt