Trilogies are always tough. One movie may not live up to the hype of the previous one. Usually the first is the best, and others leave us wondering “what was the point?” This was my feeling with a movie like The Matrix, where I felt the 2nd and 3rd movies never lived up to the first one. Of course, you then have movies like Harry Potter, where they work because they’re based on a book series that went on that long, and to do anything condensed would just be a disservice to the fan base.
In comes The Dark Knight Rises, the final installment from brilliant director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. The first question I get from friends and family, “Was it better than The Dark Knight?” In my opinion… No. Does that mean it’s not any good? Of course not! It’s hard to compare the two, because Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker was legendary. Yes, there are many who think it wasn’t that good, or others could’ve done the same or better. But when you think of what Ledger did cinematic-wise before it, and what he did in that role, it’s hard to argue that it was his best work. It was a surprise, and it was a Joker that fit perfectly into Nolan’s Dark Knight World.
So now we have Bane. A surprise pick for the next Batman villain. But if anyone can take surprise picks (Ra’s Al Ghul in Batman Begins) and unknown villains to the general public, and make them into a great character on film, it’s Nolan. Bane is ruthless and pure evil. He has only one agenda, pain. Unlike Joker, Bane has no interest in a lifelong circle of fighting with Batman. He wants him dead, and Gotham destroyed. But, before I go any further, let this be your spoiler warning. If you have not seen the film, and don’t want it to be spoiled, stop reading now. If you don’t mind, then by all means, continue reading.
In this latest film, Bane is shown as the main villain. In reality, he was just the muscle behind the villain. Bane comes into Gotham to fulfill the work that was started in Batman Begins when Ra’s Al Ghul attempted to destroy Gotham City. He is/was a member of The League of Shadows. We begin eight years from where Dark Knight ended. Bruce Wayne has been cooped up in his mansion all this time. Batman is a fugitive because of the lie that he and Gordon created (although it eats at Gordon’s soul to keep this lie going) that he killed Harvey Dent. It’s not until the arrival of Bane, and the arrival of a cat burglar known as Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway, Catwoman but never referred to as Catwoman). Selina breaks into Bruce’s safe and steals his mother’s pearl necklace while also lifting his finger prints for a competitor that wants to take Wayne Enterprises (which is tanking tremendously). Selina has taken the job in order to get a program called Clean Slate that will allow her to wipe out her huge record, and start over. She is someone who wants out and wants a fresh start. Problem is, she got involved with the wrong people.
Bruce, like he did in the previous movie, underestimates his enemy, putting too much trust in Selina, which at first backfires, but later turns out to help him. He also fails to understand how dangerous Bane is, which leads to Alfred quitting and leaving him saying that he won’t stick around to watch Bruce die. When Bruce (Batman) finally faces Bane for the first time, it’s not even close. Bane breaks his back, and them dumps him halfway across the world in a prison pit. A prison from which no man has been able to escape. In order to escape, you have to try to climb out; many have tried, and only one person succeeded, a child who was born and raised in that prison. A child who has become a ruthless person. Bane dropped Bruce off there, and in there he must watch Gotham be taken over. The real threat is a nuclear bomb that will go off in about five months time.
Meanwhile, who I believe is the real hero, is a young cop named Blake (Joseph Gordon Levitt). In a way, he was the reason Bruce decided to come out of hiding. He’s a guy who for a long time has known that Wayne was Batman. He never told anyone. He told Bruce how he figured it out years ago, when Wayne spoke at the orphanage he lived in. He learned to wear a mask to conceal the hurt and pain and anger he had from his parents being murdered. And seeing Bruce, he knew that he was wearing that same mask. He was able to put two and two together. It’s one of the reasons he became a cop. Well, throughout the movie, Blake was involved in everything. From helping commissioner Gordon and Batman, to helping free the entire police force that was trapped underground, he was the mainstay throughout this movie. A hero without the mask.
There is also Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), who plays a specific role in the movie as well. Not only does she become a love interest for Wayne, but she is the one person who can keep Wayne Enterprises alive. That is, until Bane takes over and she is forced to comply, or so we think. She was definitely the main person in this story, as she was the twist. Bruce’s weakness for women played right into her plan.
Miranda Tate’s real name is Talia Al Ghul, and she is the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul. Bane is her protector. Everything that takes place has been perfectly played by her to avenge her father’s death and fulfill his goal of destroying Gotham. Oh, and by the way, the child that escaped that prison, who was believed to have been Bane, was actually her.
So obviously Bruce escapes the prison, and the last 30-45 minutes is an action packed battle. Batman and the entire police force, in a shootout brawl with Bane and his army. Batman exacts his revenge on Bane for a moment, until of course the Talia reveals herself, and stabs Batman. Her plan to detonate the bomb however, doesn’t work, as Gordon was already there and had the signal blocked. So as she leaves to take care of it, Bane is left to finish off Batman, who is saved when Catwoman shoots Bane. Then Catwoman and Batman team up to stop Talia from setting the bomb off, but are too late to neutralize it. In a final show of heroics, Batman straps the nuclear bomb to a hook and airlifts it out over the bay, where everyone sees it goes off with him.
A true ending to an heroic adventure. But is it just an ending, or a beginning as well? You see, although many think Bruce is gone, we are showed in the end that he’s still alive, living in Europe with Selina Kyle. However, Gotham has not been left defenseless. Bruce has left his mansion to the orphanage that Blake was raised in, and we learn that Blake’s birthname was Robin. At the end of the movie, Blake has quit the police force, seemingly to work without rules, and he finds the Batcave. Ummm, did Nolan just hint at the prospect of a Robin/Nightwing movie in the future? I sure hope so.
As I said before, I believe the true hero was Blake, and the ending showed what Nolan had in mind. The ending of a legend, while establishing an heir to Gotham’s protector, was pure brilliance. In truth, the heroes in this film were the ones least expected. Both Levitt and Hathaway excelled in their roles (I am more impressed with Hathaway, as I was skeptical going in, but she sold me as Catwoman). It’s amazing how Nolan can take a third film, and while we all have our eyes on the hero that is Batman, establish a lesser character as the hero. It’s a direct parallel on how God works. He doesn’t lift up the person we all assume is perfect for the role, but instead uses the least of them all. From David to Daniel, there is a long list of unworthy and unexpected people, who came from nothing, and are lifted up to a high position. It’s great to know that we have a God that doesn’t care about where we came from, what family we were born into, but instead, looks to turn our weakness into strength, as long as we have a willing heart.
The Dark Knight Rises was a great ending to the trilogy. Again, is it the best of the three? No, but it’s real close. The story is well told. If I have one real gripe, it’s the occasional muffled sound of Bane’s voice. Other than that, it does live up to the hype. I will not compare it to Avengers, because although they are both based on Comic Book characters, it’s two completely different style of movies, and both are equally excellent for the style that they portrayed. With that said, if you have not seen this movie, go out and see it, as it is a masterpiece of storytelling, action, drama, and suspense.
P.S. Please Nolan, please give us one of these…