The Dark Knight Rises is bleak. Everything that could go wrong for the city and its protectors does, and at times it’s difficult to watch. That said, this is my favorite Batman movie.
This is definitely a film inspired by the recession. Bruce Wayne is broke, and the consequences reach beyond Wayne Manor to his charity endeavors. The city’s stock market is attacked, a literal and symbolic assault on the wealthy. Gotham’s 99 percent are ultimately pitted against its 1 percent, with the rich thrown from homes and sentenced to death in ridiculous show trials. This movie was released in the wake of the Occupy Wall Street and TEA Party movements, and it’s hard not to find parallels to both here.
Rises’ main villain is another relative unknown: Bane. Yes, he makes an appearance in Batman & Robin as Poison Ivy’s lackey, but this portrayal is incredibly far from the original comic book version. Bane is an intelligent man, as well as possessing brutal strength. In B&R he is reduced to a strong idiot, but in Rises we finally see the real Bane: a villain who is a match for Batman both in strength and intelligence. In fact, he is the only villain to defeat Batman. This scene is composed so well, that even though you know Batman will eventually win the war, it’s still distressing to see him lose this battle.
We are also introduced to some new, familiar characters. Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman, is probably one of the Batman universe’s most well known villains, but here she isn’t really his foe. She does steal from Bruce and betray Batman, but in the end she becomes a friend, helping him save Gotham. Anne Hathaway is great as Batman’s adversary/confidant, joining the ranks of the best Catwomen. Joseph Gordon-Levitt appears as police officer John Blake, who has better instincts than the entire Gotham police force put together. He also figured out Batman’s real identity when he was still a kid, making him smarter than Commissioner Gordon. (Though to be fair, Gordon’s a lot of shit to deal with since his promotion. I also doubt he really cared who Batman was, anyway.) Blake is one of the comic characters who goes on to become Robin, though thankfully he never dons the mask here.
This movie is a fitting end to a great series. It wraps up the trilogy in a satisfying way, referencing the previous two films while acting as an excellent stand-alone story. I’m hard pressed to pick a favorite, though I lean more towards this one. I enjoy the social commentary, and that Batman has a truly worthy opponent in Bane.
Christopher Nolan’s Batman series really is a comic book film for grown ups. They are dark and violent, and the villains are somewhat terrifying. The third and final installment of his Dark Knight trilogy is no different. The villain Bane (Tom Hardy) is frightening. He is also the first time Batman (Christian Bale) has had to confront someone who is his equal physically. In the previous films, Batman has had to deal with the Scarecrow and Joker who provided significant challenges for the Dark Knight, but if it came down to a one on one fight, Batman should have had no problem taking them down. Bane is completely different. I remember watching Batman’s first confrontation with Bane in theatres and finding it hard to watch. The scene is really well done, but it is hard to watch your favourite be pummelled over and over again by a clearly superior villain. The scene has almost no music, the only sounds you hear are Bane punching while Batman falls down over and over again. It is a quite confronting scene to watch, but makes Batman’s eventual victory during the climax of the film (spoiler alert, Batman wins!!!) all the more satisfying.
Bale is again a solid Batman. He is such a great actor, and I’m glad we were able to see him perform this role three times. His character has become a Howard Hughesesque recluse after the events of the last film where his one love Rachel Dawes perished and Batman took the rap for Harvey Dent’s ‘murder’. He has barely been seen in the public eye for years. Bruce Wayne misses his old life as Batman, but his sacrifice helped clean up the city of Gotham because Dent’s death was used as a catalyst to lock up the criminals and crooked cops that populated Gotham. When Bane invades his city, Wayne uses it as an excuse to bring back Batman, except he has been out of action for 8 years and very much underdone. He is nowhere near ready to take someone with the brute force of Bane. This is very evident the first time they meet when Batman gets beaten over and over again before Bane eventually ‘takes pity’ on Batman by breaking his back and ending the fight once and for all. This role showcases Bale’s versatility more than anything. Over the three films, he has played very different Bruce Waynes. In the first one, he was a headstrong young man trying to do good, then in Dark Knight he is a more seasoned veteran pining for a way out of this life. Then, after Rachel’s death, he becomes an older recluse who is unfit for duty, but pulls the cowl on one more time to save his city.
As with all of Nolan’s Batman films, the cast is fantastic. Gary Oldman is back as Commissioner Gordon. Michael Caine also returns as Alfred the butler, and Morgan Freeman is back as the CEO of Wayne Enterprises and Batman’s toolmake, Lucius Fox. These guys have grown into the roles and now in their third time around, they own them. I can’t imagine anyone else playing these characters now. I’m sure at some stage someone will, but they will have big shoes to fill.
Speaking of big shoes to fill. The new additions to the cast had massive shoes to fill. Tom Hardy had to follow up one of the greatest villain portrayals of all time in Heath Ledger’s Joker. People were somewhat underwhelmed by Hardy’s Bane, but I thought he did a good job. He was constantly compared to Ledger’s Joker, which isn’t fair. Ledger gave a performance that was out of this world, to expect anybody to equal it is not fair on Tom Hardy. Anne Hathaway also joins the cast as Selina Kyle. She is never referred to as Catwoman, but that’s clearly who she is. When Michelle Pfeiffer first played the femme fatale she was universally praised and there was much speculation if Hathaway was up to the task. She is great as Selina. She is really sexy and walks a fine line between good and evil, just as Catwoman always does. I don’t understand the hate for Hathaway. I thought she was sexy and fun. There’s not much more you can ask for from her.
This last film in Nolan’s trilogy wraps things up really nicely. I’m surprised Warner Brothers didn’t insist on an open ending just incase they could convince him or Bale to come back, but Nolan stuck to his guns. The end of the film is wrapped up really nicely and it is a satisfying end to the greatest comic book movie trilogy ever made. After watching all three of them back to back, I really struggle to pick a favourite. They’re all great in their own way.