Batman Concludes with The Dark Knight Rises

Seven years ago, there was a spike in the pop-cultural “cool” factor of enjoying the Batman. With the release of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, those put off by the silliness and absurdity often associated with comic-book narratives were enraptured by the film’s far more grounded take on the Caped Crusader. When the much anticipated follow-up, The Dark Knight, was released in 2008, that “cool” factor increased tenfold, as did the amount of Joker cosplayers. Four years and far too many “Why so serious”es later, has Nolan delivered a fitting conclusion to his beloved series, or does the trilogy crash and burn in the home stretch?

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For those who have been living under a rock for the past several years, please take a shower. I would imagine it wasn’t the most sanitary domicile. Also, The Dark Knight Rises is the third and final film in Nolan’s Batman trilogy. If you don’t even know who Batman is, why the hell are you even reading this? You have a great deal of pop culture research to do. Be ashamed.

The film stars Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Michael Caine as Alfred, and Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon. Rises adds to the equation Tom Hardy as Bane, Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake, an idealistic young cop who is a fan of the Batman’s work.

SPOILERS FOR THE DARK KNIGHT AND BATMAN BEGINS INCLUDED IN THIS SYNOPSIS. BE WARNED IF YOU’RE ONE OF THE LIKE THREE PEOPLE WHO HASN’T SEEN THEM.

As far as story is concerned, the film picks up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight.  Harvey Dent is still being posthumously revered as a noble hero wrongfully murdered by a rampaging Batman, who is now on the run and nowhere to be found. Bruce Wayne has become a recluse, limping about the shadowy halls of the freshly remodeled Wayne Manor. Before too long, there is hearsay of a masked man called Bane who is coming to Gotham to wreak all sorts of criminal havoc. There’s even talk of him being SO FREAKING CRAZY that Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Shadows excommunicated him. That’s some pretty intense shit. After some nudging from interested parties and some blatant disregard of Alfred’s concerns for his safety, Bruce decides to bring the Batman out of retirement and take on this crazy man with a mask. Hilarity naturally ensues (and by hilarity, of course, I mean really dark stuff with a lot of people getting beaten up and things going terribly wrong).

Also dancing or something.

First off, if you go into this expecting any mention whatsoever of the Joker and what may or may not have happened to him between the previous film and this one, tough luck. No such mention is made out of respect for the phenomenal Heath Ledger, which is probably for the best. HOWEVER, if you go into this expecting a really damn good Batman movie, you will get precisely that.

While not as unpredictably terrifying and enthralling as Heath Ledger’s Joker, Tom Hardy’s Bane is an entertaining villain that establishes some very serious stakes for our tired hero. He’s stronger than ten Batmen, and carries himself with the confidence of a god. His nonchalance in the face of chaos exudes a certainty that everything is always going according to plan; a plan  that ends in wanton destruction. He strides about Gotham like an apocalyptic ringleader, ushering in each phase of his dastardly scheme with eerie cheer.

Batman is actually standing right next to Bane in this shot. Mofo’s huge.

The other performances are uniformly stellar, with all the series regulars giving their best performances so far. Anne Hathaway is delightful as Catwoman (though she’s never explicitly given that nickname), managing to deliver a likable character that uses sexuality as a weapon without it ever feeling overtly exploitative (I’m looking at you, Arkham City).

The action sequences in Rises are easily the best in the series. I was lucky enough to be able to attend a marathon of the entire trilogy, and there is a clear evolution of Nolan’s action prowess as the films progress. The Catwoman fight sequences are choreographed especially well, as the character allows for a quicker, more adaptable style of combat. There’s still a bit of a problem with the close-quarters fights being shot a bit too much in close-up for my taste, but it’s not as intrusive as in the previous films.

Who needs a gun when you have a guy with a gun?

Unfortunately, it’s difficult for me to think about this film without comparing it to The Dark Knight. That film was just such a tremendous triumph, and seeing it at the marathon before Rises reminded me how much I adore it. I find the story of Harvey Dent much more emotionally resonant than any of the stories in this final chapter. There is just so very much being addressed here, seeing as it is the conclusion of a trilogy, that the plot doesn’t have nearly as much room to breathe as Batman’s struggle with Joker. The events in Rises are all dramatic and interesting, and the characters are entertaining and likable, but due to the film’s speedy pacing it just doesn’t land quite as hard as its predecessor.
That said, the ending of this film is tremendous. Nolan’s trilogy really comes together over the course of the film, and it ends on a note ringing with a satisfying sense of finality with just enough of an intriguing question mark about the future of this universe to leave a taste of excitement in your mouth. Speaking of notes, the score is perhaps my favorite of the three and you should pay attention to it if you’re into that sort of thing.

While not without its flaws, The Dark Knight Rises is a fitting conclusion to a justifiably adored series. It’s got action and drama and humor and sexiness and all that stuff the kids are into these days. Nolan presents a fascinating take on a rich mythology with decades of history in a way that is fresh and unique while still doing justice to the spirit of the source material. You know who’s a fan of justice?

The god-damn Batman.

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About Darren Orsetti
Amateur screenwriter. Amateur blogger. Life-long haver of skewed priorities.

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