Note that the Shattered Lens gives multiple viewpoints on films. For more thoughts on The Dark Knight Rises, check out the following:
After four years in the making and tons of hype, it’s hard to walk out of The Dark Knight Rises without some disappointment. Some of us won’t get the story we wanted, but that shouldn’t keep one from viewing it.
The Dark Knight Rises isn’t the strongest Batman film that Christopher Nolan’s made. It’s also not the cerebral tango that The Dark Knight was, but it does present a unique problem for Bruce Wayne and the city of Gotham that left me shocked that they went there. On top of that, the movie gives a sense of closure in such away in that you can almost forgive Nolan for every ambiguous ending he’s given us since Batman Begins.
The Dark Knight Rises takes place about eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, with Gotham City a better place after the creation of the Dent Act. Named after the fallen DA Harvey Dent, the Dent Act allowed for the Gotham Police force to round up most of the major mob bosses, based off the truths hidden by Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Batman (Christian Bale). The Act renders the Batman unnecessary (as he’s also considered a vigilante by the police) and Wayne himself has become a recluse, rarely venturing out of Wayne Manor. He keeps pretty much to himself with only Alfred (Michael Caine) to talk to. Both his body and business are wracked with damage, either by neglect or from the years of abuse.
When a new enemy appears, Wayne decides it’s time for the Batman to reappear, though he receives warnings from Alfred that his ego may be a little too much here. The theme of Batman Begins was Fear. I felt that the theme of The Dark Knight was Chaos. The theme of The Dark Knight Rises for me was more along the lines of Rebirth. Being the Batman, Bruce Wayne believes himself to be unstoppable, but that hubris gets him in more trouble than he plans, and he eventually has to get past that if he’s going to save Gotham and himself from the threat. That’s the rough plot, without giving anything else away.
Of all the characters / actors, I like that Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle is never really named as Catwoman. She may literally be the best Catwoman on-screen from a real world perspective. Truth be told, there was nothing cat-like about her, other than how graceful she was. We know who she is, but in Nolan’s universe, characters are given more solid backgrounds. Without making it a comic character type – like Batman Returns or going over the edge like in Halle Berry’s Catwoman, Hathaway’s Kyle was just right. She seems like she had so much fun working on this, and her scenes really worked well for me. Give this girl her own movie, please.
And then we have Bane. In the strangest role I’ve seen Tom Hardy in since Star Trek Nemesis, his Bane is like someone dressed up wrestler Kevin Nash, and gave him Blofeld’s voice from the Bond Franchise. Where Heath Ledger’s Joker was more about handling things with mind games, Bane’s approach is more in your face. While he lacks the finesse that the Joker had, he’s not the stupid grunting goon you’d come to find in Batman & Robin. This is a calculating villain that takes his crime seriously. He’s not perfect, or used nearly as well as he could, but he’s literally the first bad guy that had me worrying about Batman in every scene they shared. That’s a first.
Between all of the explosions, gunfire and mayhem, the story has to have a heart. The heart of the story comes from Michael Caine, who gives one of his best performances of the series. As someone who’s walked the road with Wayne and is pained by where it’s leading him, their relationship becomes further pushed by both Alfred’s actions in The Dark Knight, and Bruce’s ego on stepping back into the suit. He gives some of the best emotional parts of the story and without him, I don’t think the film would be as powerful. Gary Oldman also adds a sense of heart from the police side of things, as he’s wracked with guilt over having the carry the secret of what really happened to Harvey Dent. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s beat cop was the man on the scene, and for me felt like he was ushering in a new kind of cop in Gotham, one who followed the rules and wasn’t so corruptible (because let’s face it, some of those Dark Knight cops were dirty). Marion Cotillard rounds out the cast as Miranda Tate, who more or less plays the Vicki Vale of the series. Personally, I didn’t see the need for trying to give Wayne a would be love interest, but considering the character was still pained over the loss of Rachel Dawes, it made sense.
On a Cinematography level, Academy Award Winner Wally Pfister gives us some grand shots of Gotham city on a whole, from it’s streets during the evening to the daytime landscapes. Most of it seems larger than life, really. While I have yet to see the film in it’s IMAX format, I can’t imagine it’s not impressive. The editing has also been tightened in what seems like an effort to fix the problems from The Dark Knight.
If the movie has any weak spots, it’s not in the acting, the action or the direction. It’s the writing. The movie gives us an impressive challenge in presenting dangers that affect all of Gotham and that was downright incredible in what was presented, but in hindsight, it all boiled down to almost the same problem that was introduced in Batman Begins, save that its escalated to a higher level. I found that just a little annoying and disappointed, but understood why it went that route. One could say that it’s similar to Return of the Jedi in that you have another Death Star that could cause a problem, but the stakes in taking it out are that much greater. The same applies here. The performances surrounding the issue are greater, but you’re still dealing the same story arc, it felt like.
What ultimately saves the film is the closing. The Legend does indeed end, and in a way that gives some closure in a much shorter amount of time than Return of the King. The last twenty minutes of the film are worth the time it takes to get there. When I try to think of how the story could have been improved, I really can’t come up with anything.
Again, The Dark Knight Rises isn’t the strongest story of the Nolan Franchise – that’s still The Dark Knight – but it’s a better 3rd chapter than many of the ones out there and may end up being my personal favorite overall.