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Hi, Bryan Here….
Christopher Nolan’s third and final installment of his Batman franchise ranks as the best film in the series. That’s difficult for me to say, as the first two films were so amazing. Even with Heath Ledger’s iconic and eternal role as the Joker in the previous film, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ far surpasses anything my imagination could have hoped for in film. Movies do not get better than ’The Dark Knight Rises’.
The threats of terrorism, war, chaos, and financial ruin are all too real these days. ’The Dark Knight Rises’ dives into these issues on a massive scale, which makes any film in the Marvel universe look like mere “child’s play” (no reference to a knife-wielding murderous doll). Compared with the other Batman movies, everything is bigger in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and there is so much more at stake. Not one second of this film is wasted, the writing and direction is straight to the point, cohesive, and comes across as totally fulfilling in its 164 minute run-time.
I’m sure you have all seen the trailers for ’The Dark Knight Rises’ and know that our new villain is Bane (Tom Hardy). We meet Bane in the first scene of the film in a scene that competes with the most thrilling of espionage movie to date. Bane is a colossus of a man whose nose and mouth are covered by a device that keeps him alive. His voice is altered to a low menacing voice much like Darth Vader. And because you can’t see Bane’s mouth or nose, Hardy powerfully relies on body language to deliver his character.
Quickly, we see that Bane is vicious and well-connected as he forms his army. He is smarter than everyone, including Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale), which is part of the reason that he is Batman’s most formidable adversary to date. So much so that it is difficult to see that one ordinary man in a cape and cowl that doesn’t use guns can take down Bane and his army. It may seem impossible at first, but Christopher Nolan seamlessly weaves hope back into the story line, revealing that one man can change the world, despite all odds.
The last Batman film came out four years ago, but ’The Dark Knight Rises’ takes place eight years after the last film. Now, Batman is a public enemy, having been blamed for Harvey Dent’s death from the previous film. Furthermore, because of new Gotham City laws, almost all the organized crime has been eliminated in Gotham, and Batman has become much worse than a public enemy. He’s become irrelevant. As Bruce Wayne, he is no longer the millionaire playboy. Instead, he lives as a recluse in his penthouse apartment, and because of a previous injury, he needs a cane to walk. His loyal butler Alfred (Michael Caine) urges his employer and friend to pull himself from his depression. Alfred even prophetically tells Wayne, “…you’re just waiting for things to get bad again.” And it does get bad. Very bad.
Bane and his army attack the Stock Exchange to bring Batman out of hiding. Bane also finds a way to deplete all of Bruce Wayne’s money and ownership interests in Wayne Enterprise. With his identity as Bruce Wayne fully diminished, we see that all that is left is Batman. When Bane and Batman first face off we immediately see that Batman is no match for Bane. Bane is much stronger, quicker, and more vicious than Batman. Bane informs Batman after their fight that his punishment will be much more severe than death and transports Batman to a literal 500-foot hell-hole of a prison, where we assume Bane previously resided.
While Bane and Batman are at the prison, Bane’s army has trapped 98% of Gotham’s police officers underground and has blown every bridge on the island, so that nobody can escape. Bane’s ever-growing army has set out to take random people before a judge or “the people’s court” for a speedy trial that only ends in death. The judge presiding over each case is someone you might recognize. Nobody is safe in Gotham anymore, even a few of your favorite characters have been captured.
One of the best new characters in the film is a smart street cop named John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who grew up in one the Wayne Foundation’s orphanages. While Batman is off in the prison and when Commissioner Gordon is captured, John Blake is the go-to-guy on the now violent streets of Gotham.
This is not a sweet film. Nolan crossed into very dark territory here. Tons of lives are lost, and Batman is outsmarted at every turn. There is not one aspect of cheesiness to this film. Every character and every scene adds more suspense and an imminent feeling of world-wide doom. We all know that this is the last Batman film for a good while– at least done by Bale and Nolan. So anything goes and no characters are safe from impending death.
But the fact that most of this epic $250 million dollar project has been spent making the action sequences look very realistic and not cartoony in any way makes this film flawless. The new vehicles and jets that Batman uses are incredible and ultra-realistic. You’ll find yourself on the verge of tears of joy and screaming ‘Yes’, or clapping loudly when you see Batman in the full costume using his gadgets and vehicles. They spared no expense on the explosions, floods, guns, and vehicles. It’s unbelievable.
This is the best acting Bale has done in the series. He’s an emotional wreck throughout the film, and movie-goers really feel for him. His past brings so much pain in this final act that you can’t help but root for him even more. And when his voice deepens as he wears the cape, it seems less fake, and more of a transformation of what he is going through. Caine made me cry in this film on more than one occasion. His emotional scenes were done perfectly.
Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) also plays an important roll in this movie. She has her own agenda in Gotham and once she meets Bruce Wayne and suspects who he is, she struggles with her allegiances and identity, as she tries to figure out whether she wants to be (or even can be) a better person. Although her deep moral struggle and strength of character was evident in the comic books, it has been missing from the previous film-depictions of Catwoman. Finally, we get Catwoman the way she was meant to be portrayed. Hathaway just knocks the Catwoman character out of the park. I didn’t think she was the perfect fit for the role, but did she prove me wrong. She is sly and deceitful, yet she is very likable and very complex. She also can kick any thug’s ass and it be believable. She was hardcore.
I highly applaud Nolan for sticking to his guns and making a film the way it should be made. As it states in the credits, “This motion picture was shot and finished on film.” That means, nothing was filmed on a digital camera, which is pretty cool.
‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is one of the better films I have had the pleasure to see. And I can safely say that Nolan’s Batman trilogy might be the best trilogy ever to come out. Each film is masterfully crafted to this final act. ’The Dark Knight Rises’ could compete with any film in any genre and could come out as the best. I don’t think I’ll watch any film in the near future that will be as good as ’The Dark Knight Rises’.
- Bryan Kluger