In concluding his game-changing Batman trilogy, the great Christopher Nolan has done the impossible: he’s made his films sustain.
Batman Begins changed everything about the comic book film. It was dark, mysterious, genuine and real. It was also as smart as it was entertaining, a rarity among super hero summer action blockbusters. It’s a very fine film, but, watching it now, it’s clear that Batman Begins is a first, timid step toward changing things. Batman Begins opened the door, and The Dark Knight completely blew it off its hinges.
The Dark Knight Rises begins eight years after The Dark Knight concluded. It finds Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) as a physically disabled, structurally shut-in billionaire slowly losing his fortune. His Batman has laid dormant since the law of public opinion dictated he murdered Harvey Dent years ago. Essentially, Wayne is withering away. That is until a perfect storm of challenges make Wayne and his alter ego, you know, rise.
The villain featured most prominently here is Bane (Tom Hardy), a masked, buffed baddie who aims to give Gotham back to the people by instilling fear in those who run it. Businesswoman Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), pioneer Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), and caretaker Alfred (Michael Caine) all individually help Wayne understand that if he doesn’t take active steps to reignite Wayne Enterprises, his fortune will dwindle away. Lastly, an opportunistic con woman, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), not-so-subtly let’s Wayne (and Batman) know that there are others in the fold willing to do what’s right (though not as graciously as he might do it).
Okay, look, The Dark Knight Rises is two hours and 45 minutes long, and to be honest, a lot of that is spent developing and executing a rather intricate plot. And instead of me dictating it here, have faith in the fact that it is much better experienced as Nolan intended: on screen before your very eyes.
What’s important in a review for a movie as big as this, in my opinion, is to let readers know that the film is a worthy venture. It is deliberate in its length, awesome in its power, lasting in its remorse, and, in short, completely necessary.
Since exploding onto the screen with his go for broke performance as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, Christian Bale has asserted himself as one of our finest living actors. As Batman, he’s displayed the caped crusader’s sensible ferociousness better than anyone before, but it is as Bruce Wayne that the actor truly shines. There’s a moment in this film in which Bale and Caine argue about the importance of (once again) letting the Batman fly. It is one of the best-acted scenes either actor has ever been involved with. Remarkable in its devastation.
Hardy (thrilling in Bronson, exceptional in Inception, flawless in Warrior) proves to be a perfect villain. Bane’s voice, garbled and baritoned through his mask, is a perfect introduction to a man we’re meant to fear from the get-go. Bane’s extended fight with Batman in this film is one of the action highlights from the trilogy. It is never-ending and remarkable.
Everyone else, including the names mentioned above, as well as Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Gary Oldman (both playing cops trying to do what’s right), Matthew Modine (as a slimy officer), and several minor characters from the previous two films, all add complexity and depth to this final installment. Wally Pfister’s lush photography, Hans Zimmer’s ceaseless score, and Lee Smith’s subtle editing contribute wonderfully as well.
Criticisms. From me, none. From others, certainly. But why harp on others’ problems here? I did, however, get much enjoyment from people saying The Dark Knight Rises is too smart (and complicated) for a summer blockbuster. Statements like that make my eyes roll farther then I knew they could. As if the laborious act of thinking is something reserved on screen for Oscar season only. Come on.
Christopher Nolan has made clear from the beginning that The Dark Knight Rises marks his retirement from the Batman franchise. “Batman is going to outlive us all,” he recently told an interviewer. He’s had his way with the character – he attempted (and succeeded) in doing something different, and it’s time to move on. I take solace in that. Batman will be back, sure, but not like this.
There’s no one more opposed to divulging spoilers than myself, so I’m going to be careful here. Careful, but clear. The final 10 minutes of The Dark Knight Rises are the very finest consecutive 10 minutes I have ever seen in a super hero movie. Summer blockbusters aim for the wow. They want to drop your jaw and impress you with their spectacle. But what Nolan has done, here, in concluding his trilogy, is leave us with something ever lasting. I’m perfectly capable of enjoying an otherwise throwaway action blockbuster in the moment. But, unless someone directly asks me about it later, I’m likely to never think of it again.
Well, I’ll be thinking about Nolan’s conclusion to his conclusion for sometime to come. It is, in a word, perfect. He did it right. A-