Seven years after the rampage of the Joker and the tragedy of the fall of Harvey Dent, the mayor and Commissioner Gordon have kept Dent’s secret but experienced a period of peace. Even without the help of Batman, the streets have calmed, except for the occasional small heist by an unknown cat burglar. Bruce Wayne has become a recluse while still suffering over the loss of Rachel and nursing an array of physical injuries. His company, Wayne Enterprises, has fallen on bad times reduced production and failed investments. Unfortunately for the city of Gotham, a storm is coming in the form of the mercenary Bane, a former student of Ra’s Al Ghul and escapee of the “Hell on Earth” prison. When Bane threatens to paralyze Gotham, Batman returns to help protect it but encounters both the force of Bane’s army and the anger of a city rallied against him. With his broken body and broken spirit, Bruce finds himself having to crawl out of his own despair and the same pit that Bane rose from to return Gotham from the grip of evil.
Starring: Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne), Gary Oldman (Commissioner Gordon), Tom Hardy (Bane), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Off. John Blake), Anne Hathaway (Selina Kyle), Marion Cotillard (Miranda Tate), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), Michael Caine (Alfred Pennyworth), Matthew Modine (Deputy Commissioner Foley), Alon Aboutboul (Dr. Pavel), Ben Mendelsohn (Daggett), Burn Gorman (Stryver), Daniel Sunjata (Capt. Jones), Nestor Carbonell (Mayor), Juno Temple (Jen), Uri Gavriel (Blind Prisoner), Cillian Murphy (Dr. Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow), Liam Neeson (Ra’s Al Ghul)
This final installment of the series takes a somber tone as Christian Bale represents his character as broken and battling with fear. The voice is still raspy in the Batman suit, but he keeps the consistency of Bruce’s solo mentality. Oldman continues to play an important role as he exhibits his obsession with justice, particularly through how his character drove away his family due to his work. Tom Hardy’s voice may initially catch viewers off-guard, but his screen presence is menacing. Gordon-Levitt, Hathaway and Cotillard all slide into the cast in ways that add to the mystery and suspense of the film.
Christopher Nolan’s final venture into the world of Batman started with a scene as thrilling as the bank heist from The Dark Knight. Bane’s capture and escape introduces his character as much more sinister and intelligent than most other versions of his portrayal. While on his way to Gotham to continue what Ra’s Al Ghul started with the city’s destruction, Bruce has a mountain of issues he is facing. Between his despair over Rachel, his company’s failures and Batman’s tarnished reputation, he has all but given up on everything, locking himself in Wayne manor and refusing to interact with the public. After Selina Kyle breaks into his private safe, stealing both his mother’s pearl necklace and his fingerprints, Bruce begins to inquire into her activities. A failed attempt to raid the sewers leaves Gordon bedridden in the hospital and convinces Bruce to come out of retirement, much to the dismay of Alfred. An attack on the stock market by Bane’s thugs leaves Wayne Enterprises in jeopardy, forcing Bruce to take a risk with his clean energy project with Miranda Tate at the helm of his board. Using Selina Kyle to get close to Bane, Batman fails to stop his plans and winds up in “Hell on Earth.” Bane cripples the city and holds it hostage with the means to end it all. Bruce realizes that he has more inner turmoil that is holding him back and has to rise up to do the seemingly impossible.
While the first film focuses on his struggles with his parents’ deaths and the second film captures his inner struggles between his commitment to justice, desire for a life with Rachel and dreams of a world that does not need Batman, this third film dives deep into Bruce’s limitations and sacrifices. While he has seemingly abandoned Batman while holed up in his mansion, his Batcave would say otherwise and the threats posed by Bane pull him out of retirement. He is not in the same physical shape he used to be and therefore is no match for Bane when they first meet. Losing faith in his own abilities, he temporarily gives up and lets Gotham fall into the hands of another psychopath. When he finally pulls himself out of his own pit of despair, he realizes the lengths he will have to go to take back a city that is seemingly lost from a creature that is seemingly invulnerable. His possible sacrifice actually could mean the end of Batman. This third film also marks the first time that Gotham has to truly stand up for itself, pushing the city’s police force and its citizens to wage an all-out war on Bane’s army of thugs and criminals.
Another way to look at the progression of the films is fear to chaos to destruction. While the toxins brought out people’s fears in Batman Begins and the Joker induced chaos throughout Gotham in The Dark Knight, Bane introduces actual destruction to Gotham and its people. Shutting off the city from the rest of the world, threatening its demise if anyone interfered and allowing Gotham’s criminal and lower class to destroy itself through class warfare accomplished a level of all three themes that neither of the previous villains were able to achieve. Bane also reintroduced chaos when he revealed the truth about Harvey and by using Gordon’s own words. With destruction also comes pain, as seen through a number of the film’s characters. Gordon has given all he has to his job and in the process been abandoned by his family. Bruce’s decision to accept the blame for Harvey Dent and despair over Rachel all but destroyed the existence of Batman and his confidence to restore peace in Gotham. After a failed attempt, even the US government gives up on Gotham, preventing anyone from leaving to save themselves.
Even with all of the negative themes, there is one that provides the necessary essence of good to move toward a hopeful conclusion from the chaos. Faith surrounds many of the characters. The most obvious example has to be the “Hell on Earth” climb, which included the leap of faith. While only a single child had ever made the leap, Bruce had to remain hopeful that he too could make it. Bane’s court offered only two options: death or exile. The concept of exile included crossing an icy lake that was all but impossible to survive. Gordon and his men had to believe that they would either make it or be saved before falling to an icy grave. John Blake’s attempt to save the orphans led to his faith in others’ to value life and hope that they would let the children have a chance to escape. Batman eventually has to put faith into Selina Kyle to truly be his partner, even after her earlier betrayal. The entire film starts with Gordon’s and the mayor’s faiths in the Dent legacy, even though it was built on a lie.
After analyzing the film even further, there are some interesting similarities to real world events. Harvey Dent’s death was treated in very much the same way as 9/11, including the creation of the Dent Act (aka Patriot Act) in an effort to protect Gotham’s citizens. With a fear of the public learning about the true Harvey Dent, there are some similarities to the conspiracy theories of the American government’s own involvement/knowledge in the attacks of 9/11. Bane’s attack on the stock market closely equates to the Occupy Wall Street movement, just with much more excessive force.
Taking a step back at the quality of the film, there is definitely a deep, complex story that is well supported by compelling action sequences and suspenseful moments. While the film could not live up to the bone-chilling villainous performances of The Dark Knight or even the gripping soundtrack that accompanied its action, Tom Hardy’s performance as Bane proved to be a great villain to surround the film. The couple of elements that seemed off were more in the editing and character development. There were several moments in the film where the scenes seemed to end abruptly, including the frayed cuts between soundtracks. As far as the character development, some if it was necessary (such as the background of Miranda Tate), but elements like Bruce’s almost instantaneous relationship with Miranda seemed out of place. All of this was minor in the grand scheme of the film and will probably be touched up when it is translated to Blu ray.
The Dark Knights Rises was a very worthy final chapter in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. The suspense, chaos and destruction were raised to both a midpoint shocker and final act set of surprises that will leave fans satisfied with the story’s conclusion.
Dan’s Rating: 4.5/5