"Superheroes fill a gap in the pop culture psyche, similar to the role of Greek mythology. There isn`t really anything else that does the job in modern terms. For me, Batman is the one that can most clearly be taken seriously." -Christopher Nolan
The time is 3:23am and I have just settled in after finally, succeeding 4 years of waiting in anticipation, I procure the chance to experience the epic conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Since a while back, I had promised myself to blog about this film regardless of how I would feel about it. At the moment, I am compelled to scribble my thoughts immediately and embed my ideas on my blog while the memory of the experience is fresh and vivid. This, quite simply, cannot wait for tomorrow. The Dark Knight has risen… and so must I.
Christopher Nolan once said (and I am merely paraphrasing here): “I don’t make films to entertain, I make films to send a message”. With all due respect Mr. Nolan, you were simply shooting for the stars with this one (which isn’t a bad thing). He sent a message, most definitely. But along with that message, he gave us an experience with a certain intimacy that only Batman could provide. I have long regarded Batman to be my favorite superhero and this film only fueled that affirmation. The sheer beauty of this blockbuster masterpiece was enough to move me to tears towards the end. Tears caused not by the emotions the film sought to evoke, but tears caused by the sense of humility that inhibits you when you witness something that transcends the natural levels of beauty. The storyline, script, and character development in the film is like watching poetry in motion. It didn’t feel forced, leaving me at the edge of my seat for all 162 minutes. All this coupled with mind-blowing acting and astonishing musical scoring by Hans Zimmer, The Dark Knight Rises rose to the top of the list of my all-time favorite films leaving V for Vendetta, Watchmen, Fight Club, The Dark Knight and Batman Begins in its trail. Christopher Nolan’s visionary genius is evident in this film and I most definitely endorse it. But in order to fully appreciate this film, I offer this simple piece of advice: Don’t go to the cinemas expecting a typical superhero movie filled with action-packed scenes and heart-stopping effects that Spidey’s web-slinging and Ironman’s flying provide. The “Spiderman” or “Avengers” brand of superhero films doesn’t even come close to the exquisite experience that The Dark Knight Rises will give you. It’s in a class of its own and my only regret is that it is highly improbable that any film will give me this kind of euphoria again.
In all fairness, the only reason I believe TDKR has completely trumped its predecessors in terms of plot quality and downright awesomeness is because of the cunningly impressive character development. The lives and journeys of these characters all come into place in a way that completely blows your mind but at the same time, doesn’t feel forced. It is, in a way, a natural weave of a rather complicated web. TDKR gives you a sense of closure with the story and this is why I also think that Nolan’s Batman Trilogy is the best movie franchise to ever graze the face of the earth.
Perhaps the character that audiences will most connect with on an emotional level. In this film, Michael Caine delivers another heart-warming performance portraying the superhero world’s favorite butler. In any series-concluding film, it is integral that characters’ life-purpose and motivations are revealed. In TDKR, it is shown that Alfred’s relationship with Bruce Wayne goes beyond that of a butler’s duty to his master. Alfred’s emotional attachment to Bruce was evident in his show of defiance at the idea of Mr. Wayne giving life to his alter-ego. And I have to say that Alfred’s apologetic conversation with the tombstones of Bruce’s parents showed that he saw himself as more than just The Dark Knight’s servant, but his guardian.
James Gordon’s character in TDKR, I felt, was overshadowed by Officer Blake’s emergence in the story. Considering the circumstances and Blake’s vital role in the plot, I believe that it was perfectly acceptable that Nolan chose for Gordon not to compete with Blake’s character for the limelight. But nevertheless, Gordon remained to be that trustworthy cop that Batman fans have grown to love and as usual, Gary Oldman’s acting prowess goes without saying. One scene worthy of a mention is when Batman discreetly reveals his secret identity to Gordon. Gordon had asked Batman who he really was because he felt Gotham deserved to know the real identity of the hero who would inevitably sacrifice himself to save the city. I am unsure of how the dialogue EXACTLY took place so please bear with the inaccuracies of this recantation. Batman’s reply went something like this: “Anyone can be a hero. Even a man who put a coat around a young boy’s shoulders to let him know the world hadn’t ended.” ”… this was a reference to when Gordon had comforted a young Bruce Wayne following the tragic death of his parents.
Along with Commissioner Gordon, Mr. Fox’s character in TDKR is rather uninteresting. Other than his contribution of Batman’s new toy, his role flails in comparison to the others on the level of vitality. But hey, it’s Morgan Freeman we’re talking about. He makes any movie he’s in simply better.
Catwoman’s participation in Nolan’s trilogy is one I honestly did not expect from the get-go. And considering Anne Hathaway’s track record, I felt uneasy about casting her to play this role. Cast all those doubts out your nearest window. Anne was perfect. She deserves high praise for her performance. She fully embodied what Catwoman should truly be: A perfect balance of bad-ass… and sexy. I feel that the vision Nolan had for this character was one that perfectly coincided with the theme of the film. It was about overcoming the pain of a dark past and rising to the occasion. And Catwoman did just that, just as Batman expected her to do.
Miranda Tate/Talia Al Ghul:
This is a perfect example of Nolan’s trademark for making stories come full-circle. Ofcourse we hadn’t heard the last of Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Shadows. I had had my suspicions about Miranda Tate’s secret identity of being Talia Al Ghul for a while but that didn’t fail to make Nolan’s surprise any less surprising. How perfect the way Nolan connected the characters of Talia Al Ghul and Bane. Talia’s vital role in fueling Bane’s motives could not have played out any better. I must admit that Marion Cotillard’s acting wasn’t exactly what I would consider stellar. Although considering the brilliance of her colleagues, possibly, her performance was merely overshadowed.
Officer Robin “John” Blake:
What was I thinking? A Batman story is never complete without Robin. I was dead-set on the idea that Robin would never surface in any of Nolan’s films, but this filmmaker just happened to have one more trick up his sleeve. Despite the fact that he isn’t revealed to be “Robin” until the latter parts of the movie, the character fulfilled its purpose in the typical “Robin” fashion by aiding Batman but only from the sidelines. His fulfillment of the symbolic “Rise” theme of the film was shown when he had taken the challenge of inheriting the thought-to-be-dead Bruce Wayne’s batcave. What does he do with this inheritance? In the comics, it is Dick Grayson who takes up Batman’s mantle when Bruce decides to retire. Could John Blake be Nolan’s Dick Grayson? Well, like any other Nolan film that leaves you hanging, it’s up to you to decide.
Dare I say it? I do. Bane is my favorite Batman villain, not The Joker. Yes, the Joker presented himself in a manner that no other conceivable villain ever has. That’s what made him special. His complexity and insidiousness were fueled by his lack of a motivation. And that’s what separated him from Bane. It was Bane’s motivation that made him a more interesting villain. Bane lived for an idea and it was evident from the beginning in the scene on the plane when Bane threatens the interrogator by saying: “It doesn’t matter who we are, what matters is our plan”. Bane knew that it wasn’t about him. It was about the cause that drove him. In the comics, Bane is the only villain to ever really defeat Batman AND discover his true identity. It was in the “Knightfall” graphic novel where Bane and Batman first meet at Wayne manor and things go horribly wrong for our Dark Knight when Bane defeats him in battle and breaks his back leaving him paralyzed. I was elated to see them replicate the scene in the film for it was undoubtedly an epic moment in comic history. The Joker may have had the complexity and unpredictability that made him an interesting villain. But Bane possessed the skills, both physically and mentally, to give Batman a challenge like no other villain could. And that, for me, makes him the perfect antagonist. Not to mention, Tom Hardy gave, in my opinion, an Oscar-worthy performance. Despite having more than half of his face covered for the entire duration of the movie, as a viewer, you experience every emotion as if you were Bane himself. He exemplified the true essence of Bane: a physical powerhouse with the brains and eloquence to match it. Bravo.
Bruce Wayne/Batman/The Dark Knight:
This is it. Where do I begin? What words can I use to analyze our hero? Our Dark Knight? Well, I think it would be fitting to first start with analyzing the idea that is Batman. You see, that’s what makes Batman so special. The Batman is more than just a person with unbelievable strength, cunning wit, and seemingly infinite monetary resources. The Batman is an IDEA. And that message has been reiterated numerous times throughout the trilogy. Bruce claims that the mask was merely a means of protecting those close to him. But we all know that the mask was so much more than that. Bruce chose to become Batman because he knew he couldn’t fight crime and injustice as a mere person. A person is corruptible, a person is vulnerable, a person can fail, a person can be killed. But Ra’s Al Ghul articulated it perfectly in Batman Begins when he said “If you make yourself more than just a man, and devote yourself to an ideal, then you become something else entirely… Legend”. And that is exactly what Batman is: A Legend. And Bruce’s devotion to that ideal is what brought Gotham out of its misery. “Anybody can be Batman”, he says. And it showed in TDKR, Catwoman was Batman, John Blake was Batman, Commissioner Gordon was Batman, the policemen who stood up to Bane’s army were Batman. Batman is all about rising beyond your limitations as a human and transforming yourself into the embodiment of an idea. In this film, we saw more scenes of Bruce Wayne than of Batman. I believe this was so we could see more of the fire that kept the idea burning and in turn, it made us savor the rare appearances of the idea itself. To a regular person, the Batman is just another superhero and The Dark Knight Rises is just another superhero movie. But that’s why he’s a mere regular person, because he only saw a man in a mask. I saw an idea.
To sum it all up, the film served its purpose. I liken it to the scene wherein they unveil the statue of Batman in Gotham to remind its citizens of everything that Batman stood for. A simple reminder that we can find greatness within ourselves and rise from our darkness and stand tall in the face of adversity; that in our own little ways, we can all be Batman.
The Dark Knight has risen… and so must we.