On Friday, July 20, 2012, it all ended. By ‘it’ I mean Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. And by ‘end’ I mean he’s done with it. And to prove he’s done with it, the exceptional director has done everything he can to ensure no one could possibly, ever, in any way, make a continuation of his series.
Too bad he lives in la-la-land.
Hollywood always finds a way. Leave the slimmest thread, the tiniest shred of hope, and they will find a way. Hell, they’ve created whole franchises from less.
The Dark Knight Rises picks up 8 years after the end of The Dark Knight. As I’m sure you recall, the end of that film left Batman a vigilante killer, branded with the murder of his former friend, Harvey Dent. Apparently, that horrible episode in Gotham’s history left the city relatively crime free for a number of years. But peace and tranquility often disguise darker undercurrents. And as much as the new and old characters of TDKR miss The Batman, they are grateful for the relative peace and harmony in their fair city.
But a deeply disturbed and potent force is at work just beneath the city’s surface, literally. It is lead by a hulking brute named Bane (Tom Hardy), whose bulging cueball head is covered by a grotesque mask (a stark contrast to Batman’s own mask, which only reveals the mouth). And once Bane and his army of underlings unleash their reign of terror upon Gotham, everyone is crying out for the vigilante’s return.
This simple structural element reveals a harsh fact about not only this film, but the entire series; The Dark Knight Rises is certainly one of the bleakest and most despairing of superhero films ever. Nolan and writer-brother Christopher, along with writing partner David Goyer, have outdone themselves in the creation of Bane, a wholly terrifying villain whose acts will point out the physical vulnerability of a hero we often take for granted, but who is just as human under that cape as the rest of us. In this way, Nolan and Company have made us forget all about Heath Ledger and his mesmerizingly psychotic villainous character. Taking it one step further, the presence of a character like Bane weaves itself into the very fabric of the world presented to us on screen, and foretells of a much darker destiny than any presented in the series before.
In TDKR, Batman finds himself shaken, broken, and clinging tenuously to any shred of hope he may once have had. There are forces of good at work in this world of Gotham – Patrolman John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman), Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), and even Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). But they are shaded as much more realistic human beings with elements of grey in their lives. Bruce Wayne has carved out a very stark delineation between the real and the surreal. He must live or die according to those guidelines.
Running nearly 3 hours, The Dark Knight Rises is a relentlessly hypnotic and dazzling thrill ride which has us at its mercy. And, in its mercy, the film does not feel like 3 hours of your life have passed slowly, but rather flashed perhaps all too quickly, leaving us hungry for more, eager for the next installment. The film resounds with so many truths in contemporary life, and to provide us with a heroic character – or characters – who might rise up against such abusive and disdainful evils which burden the common man is the kind of escape we all need these days. It is an outstanding film by any measure, regardless of the genre, and many of us will be chanting for more long after the screen has faded to its final darkness.