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There are few experiences that can leave one emotionally drained and satisfied, like having sex while you and your partner are on fire. For everyone else, there’s Batman.
Few film trilogies are considered great, despite Hollywood’s repeated and embarrassing attempts to jump start new franchises every goddamn fortnight. But while there’s no shortage of screw-ups, series like Back to the Future, Start Wars (original, not that prequel garbage), Toy Story, and Lord of the Rings are exceedingly rare. Those rare trilogies that told a sweeping story across multiple movies and did it amazingly well. Now you can add a new trilogy to that list: Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Series.
The Dark Knight Rises is the satisfying conclusion to the Batman story that began in 2005 with Batman Begins and continued in 2008 with The Dark Knight. Once again, Christopher Nolan (my savior) takes the reign for a Batman movie for the final time, as he puts together a fantastic cast with a great story that ends the journey for Bruce Wayne. And seeing as how I’m running out of ways to say “end” and how the trailers keep reminding us that this is a “conclusion”, you can probably surmise this is something way different than what we are used to.
“What I’m trying to say is, I WILL BREAK YOU”
Ever since Superman showed up on the movie scene, comic book films rarely seem conclusive. Much like their source material, each film is a self-contained story that leaves plot points or characters available to return in a subsequent installment. Granted this format of storytelling leads to all sort of problems, especially if you’ve been keeping up with comics in the past decade or so. For those of you who are not comic readers, allow me to neatly sum up superhero comics now: they never FUCKING end. It’s a broad statement to be sure, but there’s plenty of truth to it. Characters live on and on and on and on to infinity and beyond. There’s hardly any resolution to anything that happens to comic characters and now their film counterparts are going through similar motions. And that’s why Rises is so different.
This is truly a bookend to a story that featured the same core cast (well mostly) and director detailing the rise, growth and fall of a superhero. And the fall, the hero’s end, is perhaps the most interesting. Without wishing to spoil anything, this is the end of the line for Bruce Wayne and the quest he began in 2005 to avenge the death of his parents. But all the themes from Batman Begins return to bring a sense of accomplishment both for the mission of Batman and the triumph of Christopher Nolan along with his cast.
“It ain’t no thang”
Twelve years have passed since the events of The Dark Knight, and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a hermit from the city of Gotham and Batman has not been seen in years. Because of the dark secret both Batman and Commissioner Gordon (Gary “The Man” Oldman) carry as a result of the Two-Face’s actions, the police have become well armed and several laws were passed to prevent organized crime members from getting back on the streets. But a new threat arrives with the enigmatic and intimidating Bane (Tom Hardy), who has special plans for Gotham and Bruce Wayne. And that’s all you’re getting from me, lest I get messaged with SPOILER WARNINGS!
The performances across the board are stunning. Christian Bale doesn’t don the Batman mask as much as he used to in the other two movies (more on that later) so you follow him in his Bruce Wayne persona as you find him broken physically, emotionally, mentally, and just plain financially broke. To convey such anguish and frustration would be a daunting task for any actor, but Bale rises (sorry) to the challenge.
Mr. Bale would like to thank the Academy before he roundhouse kicks you
Equally great are fantastic small scenes featuring Oldman as Gordon, and Michael Caine going for broke with four emotionally heavy sequences. Joining them is the rising star (I really can’t help myself, somebody do something) Joseph Gordon-Lewitt, AKA the kid from3rd Rock from the Sun. That’s mean, because he’s been kicking ass in several movies likeHesher, Brick, and Nolan’s own Inception. He plays an entirely new character for the film that never existed in the comics, a cop named John Blake. He walks away with many a great action scenes that will surely show any action director this guy has the chops for stunts and carrying tough drama.
So what about the big bad? Bane. Oh boy. I really dug the hell out of Bane. Tom Hardy creates the unholy love child between Heath Ledger’s Joker and Darth Fucking Vader. He’s ingenious, a master tactician, and worse of all, he commands every scene he’s in. Due to Hardy wearing a mask, Bane’s dialogue is dubbed over with Hardy’s voice, but it’s dubbed over the soundtrack as well. This gives an impression of Bane being everywhere and anywhere at once. But his great moments shine when he calmly and effectively destroys Batman systematically, and it’s practically horrifying to watch.
Michelle Pfeiffer, eat your heart out
But it’s really Anne Hathaway who steals the show as Selina Kyle, AKA Catwoman. And allow me to say that this is the best version of the character that has ever been done in any medium, be it film, video game, or television. Hatheway is a clever, capable fighter who is equally brilliant in escaping from tough situations while still pushing her own agenda throughout the film.
Cinematography is glorious. See this film in IMAX anyway you can. The loud battle sequences that sprawl across the entire city are simply glorious to behold. The final 45 minutes of this nearly 3 hour epic are the best part with a bombastic last confrontation between the heroes and villains.
“What did you say?!” “I said you momma’s so fat!” “What?!”
The story is a powerful one, but it’s not without its flaws. There are two moments where characters aren’t behaving the way you would think they would upon receiving certain information. And while I spent a good paragraph gushing over Bane, he still lacks the force of nature and charisma that Heath Ledger brought in The Dark Knight. But make no mistake, Bane is still the best kind of villain for Batman to have faced for his last hurrah because he’s the Anti-Batman. He’s the physical and intellectual equal to Batman, and sometimes superior to him. It helps raise the stakes throughout the entire movie as it draws to it’s spellbinding climax.
I felt like shedding a tear at the end of the movie. Both out of sadness and joy. Sad that Christopher Nolan and his wonderful cast will no longer return to Gotham City even after they gave three go-for-broke films that have truly changed the world of cinema. Don’t believe me? After The Dark Knight was snubbed by the Oscars in 2008, the Academy changed its policies the following year to admit even more movies in the Best Picture category. A policy that would have certainly brought the film into the category. I have no doubt that this film will trigger a different, but no less significant reaction from Hollywood.
I promised myself I wouldn’t cry
But I am still joyful, because I saw a fantastic conclusion to a character that is very near and dear to my heart. What’s more, the film carries an important theme different than the other two. Because as low as we can fall, as much as all hope would seem lost, we can still rise (no apologies there) above our weaknesses and accomplish our goals. The Dark Knight Rises is officially my favorite film of the summer. Go forth, and ascend with Batman.
BETTER THAN SEX!!