How will Christopher Nolan follow up the genius that was The Dark Knight? This has been quite possibly the most asked question in the movie world since the end credits of that film began rolling way back in July 2008. Four years and another critically acclaimed hit in between (Inception), we finally get a chance to answer that question.
Best. Batman. Movie. Ev…- wait, timeout. Before I can make that particular distinction about this film, I’m going to need to see it again. Not saying that the project couldn’t be enjoyed by only seeing it once but more so explaining that a franchise of this caliber with a director of this level of engaging story-telling needs to be experienced more than once in order to fully gather its essence of sheer awesome.
I might need to see it a third time, heck I might need to see it together at the same time while its’ 2008 predecessor is also being played. No, that won’t work. I’m a man of many talents, like Mr. Bruce Wanye, but being able to watch two movies at once (without the aid of commercial breaks and the “previous channel” button on the remote) is not easy. As with all of Mr. Nolan’s movie-offspring, you’re going to need to pay attention to this film. Not so much in the same magnitude of say an Inception or even a Memento but if you’re a Bat-fan, such as myself, you’re going to want to soak in every little detailed nook and cranny. Honestly, I admit I’ve probably watched The Dark Knight about 69 times (no, I didn’t choose that number at random) and still find something new almost every viewing. As a director, Nolan is just that much in his films as are the actors that he casts for them.
Ok, stop rambling Sean, and..here..we..go. As many of you who have lost the self-control of stopping yourself from perusing every crevice of the internet since the announcement that Nolan had begun working on this movie already know, the story picks up 8 Batman-less and nearly crime-free years after the second film. Gotham is in a state of peace and the Batman has been branded for Harvey Dent/Two-Face’s crimes. The only person that knows the truth is one Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman). During that time, the billionaire known as Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has also not been seen. How the citizens of Gotham aren’t able to put 2-and-2 together, I will never know. But in any case both he and Batman are thought to be almost extinct, until they are forced to return that is. Side note: I would like to know with all political not-so-under tones of this film, how is Mayor Anthony Garcia (Nestor Carbonell) still in office after 8 years? I thought you got two terms max. I suppose the DC/Nolan Universe thinks otherwise. Just thought I’d throw that in there for good measure.
Of course we can’t have a film where we see nothing but Bruce Wayne feeling sorry for himself over the loss of his love Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal) while his British butler, Alfred (Michael Caine), tries to usher him back into the world. So our new antagonist is introduced, very early in the film to be exact (you already know this if you saw the prologue this past December). The mercenary known as Bane (Tom Hardy) is on a mission and what a mission it is. A mission a little reminiscent to that of the very first ploy to destroy Mr. Wayne’s beloved Gotham City by one Ra’s Al Ghul (Liam Neeson). Everyone wants to see Gotham fall for some reason. I might consider moving if I lived there. After a very memorable mid-air escape sequence, Bane makes his way to Gotham to set his plan into action and ultimately end The Dark Knight’s career.
But that’s not all Bruce has to deal with on his journey to reintroduce himself to the world. Along the way he is challenged with reestablishing himself within his company which has been running without him mostly thanks to Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), engaging in and building a professional relationship with a Ms. Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), repairing a partner/friend-ship with a now more solemn Commissioner Gordon and trying to figure out the methods and goals of a one Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). Who would have thought for a man so in secret, so self-exiled, that he would have so many people seeking his attention? Maybe next time he decides to go underground for so long, he’ll create a Facebook page to stay connected. When Bane finally makes his presence known in Gotham, Wayne dusts off the cobwebs from the old cape and cowl and dons them once again, much to the dislike of Alfred Pennyworth.
You would think that with all the characters, all of the sub-plots, all of the mega-stars contained in this film, it would pose a hassle to follow. That is not the case. Nolan masterfully crafts a story that flows smoothly across the movie screen that not only entertains but also challenges the viewer’s mind. No, not like Inception did but more in the way that you may feel like you know what’s going to happen next. But then when that next thing happens, you realize that you actually don’t know shit. Of course there are parts of the film, like every movie, where you’re going to say to yourself, “I saw that coming”, but for the most part not too many of those occur in this one.
Many of the stars seem to bring their A-game performances in this one. Joseph-Gordon Levitt as Officer John Blake I would say is one of the stand outs. Not too over the top but he makes his presence felt as Commissioner Gordon’s eventual right hand man who grew up looking up to the Batman. Now he’s doing everything he can to keep the streets of Gotham clean as one of its’ Finest. Gary Oldman is another one, although still playing the well-seasoned and determined cop who became Police Commissioner, you can tell he’s troubled in this one. He has the look and feel of a police officer who’s probably on the verge of the end his career but can’t bring himself to call it quits just yet with unfinished business still not handled. That business being the non-truth of Batman being a cold blooded killer.
Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman is well…Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Nothing too special to denote that would be any different from his previous two performances. This Bruce/Bat is probably the most vulnerable that we’ve seen so far however. The most “human”. The audience is reminded that he is just a man after all, not Superman. Just someone probably much like you or me who loves their city. Only difference is he is willing to take it upon himself to save it time and time again, oh and he’s also rich. Tom Hardy is all muscle and a fierce presence onscreen. Ruthless and unwavering in his portrayal of Bane. No need for any comparisons to Heath Ledger’s Joker. It wouldn’t be fair and they are two different characters after all. Bane, although also willing to go far lengths to see the end of Gotham, seems a little more controlled in his execution. Controlled, not really the word I would have thought to use after seeing that first image of Hardy as Bane released what feels like forever ago. Oh, and yes, you will have absolutely no problem understanding his voice. It kind of feels like it is being broadcasted with surround sound and I don’t mean because of the theater speakers.
Of all of these however, my favorite performance has to go to Michael Caine. Yes, I said it, Michael freaking Caine is still one of more quality actors out there. Alfred delivers some of the best and probably most stay-worthy dialogue within the film. His interaction with Bruce grows on its already established father-like connection that the two of them have. When he speaks, you can almost feel the emotion and near desperation the he has attempting to get his younger master to keep the Bat-suit buried.
Of course there are the many cameos. We already know about some of the Pittsburgh Steelers casted as the fictional Gotham Rogues. But I won’t reveal any more names on that list for those of you who haven’t seen the film just yet. With yet another story and screenplay penned from the minds of David S. Goyer, Chris and Jonathan Nolan, it’s not all filled with nothing but serious. There are a handful of light-hearted moments that will yank a chuckle or two from you unexpectedly while you’re trying so hard to maintain that all business mind set of the Batman and the eventual dire state of Gotham City.
The action. It’s good. Not anything much unlike what we’ve all come to know and very much love from the Nolan but still very good. The prologue/opening sequence can probably be best compared to the flipping of a semi in The Dark Knight. Batman of course returns with all of his special toys and a few new ones. Anne Hathaway is very much the fighter, and looks good doing it. Labeled quite the most important action/fight sequence of the film was already placed on the one that takes place between our hero and our villain. Those of you familiar with the Batman Universe know that Bane is known as the “Man who broke the Bat”. Without giving too much away about it, I will say this, we see Batman at his most mortal of states during his encounters with Bane. No easy disarming or rendering him unconscious as with all of the other street thugs that Bats has taken on before. With no music score in the background to soundtrack this fight, you feel the realness of it, the very serious tone that it has. It screams pay attention! This is one of those moments in Batman history that was made famous in the comics. Now it’s unfolding in live action before your eyes.
So we return to the initial question. Is The Dark Knight Rises a better film than that of the very epic The Dark Knight? Sadly, I cannot answer that question. This next statement just might confuse the lot of you even further; but truthfully I feel that it might even be a crime to compare the two. I know, I know, they are sequels in a trilogy. They are directly connected to one another as is Batman Begins. But after seeing this film, I do not think Nolan was trying to outdo the last Batman film. I don’t think he was trying to outdo any of the Batman films (a pretty easy task however if you think back to Joel Schumacher’s chances). I merely think that he was trying to put a close worthy enough on a franchise that has been substantially filled with story depth as it has been entertaining.
Does it live up to the mega-ultra-completely-out-of-this-world-slap-your-mother-in-the-face hype that everyone has placed on it since last year? I’m not sure any film can. But this one quite possibly comes the closest. The bigger and most important question in my opinion is this: Does it provide an ending that we can all be proud of? The answer: As difficult as it is in general to end any franchise that has created not only popularity but sheer respect from fan-boys to fellow filmmakers but then throw in the fact that it’s Batman…I say yes. Yes, it does. I personally think the last few moments of the film are some of the greatest pre-post credits minutes to wrap up not just a film but a mega-franchise that we’ve been exposed to in a while. Good luck to the next crew that tackles the Batman character. You definitely have your work cut out for you. I give The Dark Knight Rises “4.5 epic reimagining’s of Bob Kane’s character out of 5”.
“Speak of the Devil,…and he will appear”