'The Dark Knight Rises'

The final chapter in Christopher Nolan's trilogy is his grimmest, bleakest and bravest.

The Dark Knight Rises is the powerful, percussive, and profound grand finale of the comic-book inspired crime saga that began with 2005’s stunning franchise reboot Batman Begins and continued with 2008’s equally stunning The Dark Knight. Expectations surrounding this third installment have been deliriously high. In a move that is sure to be debated endlessly among Batman-lovers everywhere, Nolan has allowed his trilogy to evolve away from the some of the very elements that endeared many fans to the first two installments. He doesn’t attempt to exceed our expectations, but rather, succeed them. With The Dark Knight Rises, he has saved his most troubling and fascinating trick for last.

You’ll forgive me for not discussing the story in any real detail. Most people I know have been desperately avoiding spoilers and have therefore become quite furious when movie reviewers blow even the smallest details. Rest assured, Jonathan and Christopher Nolan’s nearly-three hour story is massive and complicated, an inch away from convoluted and easily the most ambitious of the trilogy. The movie pits Batman (a graver, tighter Christian Bale) against a pitiless terrorist named Bane (a hulking, masked Tom Hardy) in an all-out battle of wills for Gotham City. Mixed in are all of the surviving familiar faces from the first two movies, and a fresh crop of new ones including Anne Hathaway as Selena Kyle/Catwoman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a rugged and resourceful cop, and Marion Cotillard as businesswoman Miranda Tate.

Christopher Nolan hasn’t directed a sloppy movie in his entire career, and as expected The Dark Knight Rises is extremely well-made. This is the series’ largest collection of actors yet, and there’s not a weak link in the bunch. Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in particular bring surprising appeal and believability to highly demanding roles. Director of photography Wally Pfister and production designers Nathan Crowley and Kevin Kavanaugh, all Batman veterans, present their third fully realized iteration of Gotham City: narrower streets, an abundance of concrete, less Chicago and more Manhattan. As in the preceding films, indeed as in all of Christopher Nolan’s work, the special effects are an immaculate mixture of bombastic practical effects and detailed digital wizardry. At times Hans Zimmer’s pounding score drowns out the dialogue, and some of the dialogue that is heard falls a little flat. But with so much going on and with so many crackling performances and with so many gargantuan action set pieces, it’s easy to forgive a lame line or two (or five). What people may find harder to forgive at first, and yet what truly separates and elevates The Dark Knight Rises as the series’ most daring achievement, is the movie’s relentlessly somber tone.

what truly separates and elevates 'The Dark Knight Rises' as the series’ most daring achievement, is the movie’s relentlessly somber tone.

My guess is that the most common complaint lodged against The Dark Knight Rises will be that it’s not as much fun as its predecessor. Where some may be hoping for the The Dark Knight Enhanced, Director Christopher Nolan has given us instead something bleaker and more disturbing. Nolan seems almost conspicuously unconcerned with oohs and ahhs this time around. There are few of the adrenaline-inducing scene entrances that Batman so liberally enjoyed in the first two movies. By the time we reach the film’s bustling climax, Batman is doing most of his work in broad daylight, where his stature and theatricality are noticably diminished. Even surrounded by his technology, he has never seemed more human and tired. Rises replaces the malevolent joy of the Joker and revelatory kick of Batman’s gadget-laden capers with a grueling and protracted mini-apocalypse.

But why so serious? Because at its heart, The Dark Knight Rises is not a good guy vs. bad guy superhero movie, but a potent and philosophical urban war film in which a huge cast of characters struggles for dominance, relief, meaning, and redemption. Rises is both morality tale and mortality tale; it’s an immense, entertaining, and exhausting meditation on the tensions between freedom and security, and the near suicidal efforts necessary to achieve both. If this all sounds pretty weighty, well, it is. War is hell, even in Gotham City.

I for one am thrilled that Christopher Nolan fulfills the grim promise of the Batman story taken seriously. In all of the gravity, there’s something really rich going on here, an idea just below the surface that the world can’t be fixed, but it can be saved. One man can be struck down by evil and then he can rise, and in so rising bring tremendous good. To borrow from Commissioner Gordon’s spoken epilogue near the end of the second film: The Dark Knight Rises is not the movie we wanted, it’s the movie we needed. It’s better than a conclusion; it’s The Dark Knight fulfilled.

9 Comments

85,538

Not a grumpy dwarf reviewed…

*SPOILERS*I, for one, was hugely disappointed. Whether it was the Yoda voice, the meandering plot that tried to include too much of the comics (Bane's storyline, and Dark Knight Returns), or some awful editing decisions (first 10mins especially), I think this was just too epic for even Nolan to pull off.
5/10 isn't a bad score, and there was definitely much to love in the movie. But the saccarine-sweet ending and the unrealistic character motivations (Cottilard? Hathaway?) hurt it badly.

Aaron

2

Aaron reviewed…

Kick me if I'm stupid, but isn't the opening
score a direct borrow from the Lord Of The Ringstrilogy?

While the epic and action elements were
kept in tasteful balance, I was surprised by the dominant focus on, and
development of, the characters. The entire tone and plot seemed anchored in
what should be the true focal point of war: people. How individuals interact
with relationships and ethical judgments is often shadowed by the overarching
conflict. Not so in The Dark Night Rises. Instead, the conflict was personified
in the characters. This gave the film an all-too-real feeling as I became personally
involved with a story of hearts and souls rather than a passive observing of an
action flick. It pushed me into real life spaces as I considered the cost of
war and the value of peace. It was heavy, provoking, and necessary.

85,538

Srvia1787 reviewed…

This is the best review of The Dark Knight rises I've read. I agree wholeheartedly that this was indeed not the Batman movie we wanted but the one we needed. There's one significant element of this story that people have overlooked. In TDKR Bruce Wayne actually heals from his pain and past. Despite being a fan of Batman and the storylines found in the comics it has struck me again and again that Bruce has never been allowed to heal and Batman has never been allowed to die. His is the irreparable pain. The pain from which it is impossible to move on. This has become central to the Batman mythos. However, as a Christian, I can't help but struggle with this immensely. I congratulate Christopher Nolan for doing the impossible and (even if he doesn't realize it) witnessing to the hope that "all things are possible with God."

85,538

Sonnet reviewed…

Great review. I completely agree. The film is darkly intense with great acting, gadgets, and scenery, but the best part is that it is fully redemptive. Well done all the way around.

85,538

Angelo Gulina reviewed…

I was able to watch it just yesterday, in Italy.
I agree with the conclusion this review draws.
I should say Nolan's Dark Knight has some messianic profile to me and in some sense this is obvious for the ones who can really understand how history evolves and has evolved around all the themes Nolan tried to engage in this movie.

Beside all this, I was mostly fascinated by the dialogue, where Alfred asks Wayne to do it in another way than the Batman way. I think this opens a sort of parallel path for us, in which we could find the way to be the persons our world needs us to be. Not by being batmans or superheroes (idols), but by being what we are, human and mor(t)al, and willing to move our world to a new state of being.

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