The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan et. al. take a bow

I knew after TDK cut to the ending credits, in lue with the disastrous news of Heath Ledger’s death, I knew then that this film was not the curtain call for The Bat-Man. I stylize the name as such because this is the story that visionaries Christopher Nolan and David Goyer have been telling us all along, not one about this superhero figure in Gotham who happens to dress as a bat to fight criminals, but one of a man who doubles as an urban legend, who doube doubles as a physical manifestation of the hearts and minds of the people of his city. The Bat-Man is not just the unsung hero, but is the true king of Gotham City. Erm, *knight. In the darkness… of the night.

To the extent of the afformentioned, director Christopher Nolan and crew have pulled of, at very least, an ideal and satisfying swan song to Bruce Wayne’s journey, hinging onto the most crucial aspect of the movies thus far, the character of Bruce Wayne. Bruce’s life has not been easy, even for a billionaire, dealing with self-induced responsibilities post-doning the cape and cowl. Bruce has never been more relatable than in this film, where it is not his physical limitations, but mental vunerability that leads him to the fall before the rise. And even that comes with some uncertainty (oh but we all knew he would rise. Eventually). To that extent, and with clever ties made to the first film, and only specific impactful events taken from the second film, the characterisation of the focal point of these films comes full circle. No, this isn’t Bane’s or Catwoman’s film, much like how in the second it was either the Joker’s film or Harvey Dent’s film. Props to Christian Bale for acting his cock off and making his character drive the emotional rollercoaster that was the third installment, even with the return of the troll-worthy scowl.

“It’s not a treadmill.”

One thing needs to be said. This movie was never meant to top, or at least stand toe-to-toe with The Dark Knight. Really though, what contemporary film can? I knew this when watching TDKR and evidently so did Nolan, as with first impressions I have to say, hands down, this was the funnest movie of the three. “Fun” sound too trivial? OK, this movie was awesome. Like thickshake and fries awesome. Let’s delve into two other key characters. Tom Hardy’s Bane, sans some of the aesthetics and origin pinnings, is a great realisation of the key villain in the Knightfall story arc. Cold and calculating, his quick dispatching of Batman in the first half of the film is what strengthens the weight of the second half. Only one thing ruined this character for me in the film, but I will get to that *later. As a side note, if people have issues with his voice being distorted, fair enough. I thought the distorted and slightly goofy tone of his voice contrasted really well his brutal physicality and added extra impact to sudden acts of violence from this muscled menace. In fact, the best fight scene in the entire trilogy takes place in the mid arc of this film. Try resisting the urge to imitate Bane’s voice post-this. I doubt you can.

Speaking of, the action in this film is no joke. Sure the Avengers had a massive scene at the end of their film. Not to mention the flipping truck in TDK. But for this, you have to think Die Hard meets Batman. It oddly feels like 4.0, especially when Brucey boy’s newest toy, The Bat, is manoeuvring through buildings to dodge stinger missiles. By the way, The Bat is officially the coolest Batman vehicle of ALL-TIME. Neck yourself if you choose the Aventador over it.

Luscious Fox and Commissioner Gordon play their parts in the story with solid resolve. I like how Luscious, an-up-til-now behind the scenes character, was put in a life threatening position. Subtle decisions such as this elevate the overarching stakes of the plot. I found the good Commissioner portrayed here to be reminiscent of his characterisation in the No Man’s Land story arc, dealing with the guilt of truth over Harvey Dent’s murder, yet appeasing this with justification through his role as police commissioner. Newcomers, Selina Kyle and John Blake are portrayed well by Hathaway and Gordon-Levitt respectively. I can’t get over how well the Catwoman dynamic was played out. Seriously pick any story arc of the Batman comic books, and you’ll find this relationship was portrayed with justice. One thing, the whole trusting Catwoman thing was a bit erm. Like, somehow for an instant Bruce Wayne was Mati of the Planeteers, but I guess in the screen-time given, this can be overlooked. It’s kind of cool how Bruce dances with the main antagonists in this film, maybe Nolan paying homage to Nicholson’s Joker, who often enjoyed satirical dancing in mocking humour of his enemies. Hmm that may have been over thinking it.

Anne Hathaway’s hot now. When did this happen?? See Love & Other Drugs for more information.

I will talk about John Blake later too as there are spoilers that ensue.

My main gripes with the film come from a myriad of odd editing choices, including scene cuts that appeared to be very abrupt. For instance Marion Cotillard’s character at the beginning is cut in and out of conversation at a party, in between scenes that seem inconsistent with that one. Why not lengthen this conversation for another 30 seconds instead and then cut to the next scene? By the way, Marion Cotillard is almost, purely eye candy in this film. But she’s a lot less so when she’s pouting, that shxt just looks like kiddy porn. Also this film is very Nolan-esque. There are two elements to this, but what my main point here is, is that this one feels the most like Nolan films outside of the Batman universe e.g. Inception, The Prestige, etc. If you’re use to this by now then that’s fine and this will likely blow your cinematic wad. But definitely, this film had the most moments where characters would roll out the philosophical dialogue, as if it’s a part of every day conversation. Legitimately if this is how people speak every day in Christopher Nolan’s life then I want in. In fact the thought of a one-shot, crossover short film featuring Bruce Wayne, Dom Cobb and Leonard Shelby is uber orgasmic. But to be fair, the dialogue in TDKR is balanced with witty banter, which is also really well scripted (The rooftop scene between Batman and Catwoman being my favourite)

Verdict Pre-Spoiler Section

C’mon man. This film will be the most awesome thing you watch this year, and I mean that in a completely, non-troll, non-expendable *ooooh* way. If you haven’t watched it yet – and I don’t know why this would be the case for anyone – then I would suggest not going into it expecting it to be TDK. Appreciate it as Bruce Wayne’s final outing in a universe that Nolan, Goyer and crew built, and have successfully run for the last 7 years. Hats off and cowls down to you all.

Alright, now that all the Rotten Tomato, Metacritic BS is out of the way, time to mark the fxck out over some extremely geeky shxt. This plays into some of the aforementioned points, but will also enhance the experience for Batman enthusiasts.

1. This film is definitely the most comic book-ey. It utilises elements from the story arcs: No Man’s Land, Knightfall and Death in the Family. Elements from these arcs though were all packaged in this film under the major plot derivative from the pages of Frank Miller’s wildly praised The Dark Knight Returns. Think about it all and it’s freakin’ awesome. Firstly Nolan knows he can’t top The Joker, in the weight of a single villain posing a threat to the Bat. So instead he crafts a story that instead parallels the dissection of Batman/Bruce Wayne and Gotham City as a community, and ultimately the rise of one element relies on the rise of the other. The dissection of Bruce Wayne’s character came in three: Bane’s journey paralleling Bruce’s in canon (right from Begins), yet foiling it contextually, Bruce’s recovery from old age and physical ruin into realising a stronger reason for coming back rather than as an emotional prompt through bitterness, impacted heavily by the loss of Rachel Dawes, which segues into his interaction with Alfred, butler, caretaker and the major emotional catalyst in this film. The obscurity of what Wayne sees as duty and what Alfred sees as truth creates an audience investment in the journey, both historically (from back to Begins) through to the TDKR’s end.

2. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s “Robin” John Blake is a balance of all three: the tragic back story of Dick Grayson, the rough sensibilities of Jason Todd and the deductive acumen and enthusiasm of TIm Drake. Nolan never wanted Robin to be a part of the story, and recently stated that Robin would only work when Batman was no longer needed. By Gawd if his integration wasn’t (geniusly) ripped from the pages of The Dark Knight Returns. Sans the ginger locks, Levitt’s Blake was essential in convincing Bruce that people in Gotham, not only still believed in Batman, but still held the resolve to change the city itself, with or without the billions of dollars. Look, Gordon-Levitt is the it kid right now. The tweens love him and the hipsters fiend him. But dude can act, and I’m glad in Nolan’s choice to, not only cast him, but have his involvement in the film’s plot be fairly substantial.

3. The Gotham Rogues jersey. I need this.

4. What PISSED ME OFF. Like actually! What’s come to be known as the “neutering” of the Bane character in the film’s third arc. I’m all up for Talia Al Ghul and even subtle jabs at the Lazarus Pit, but why incorporate this at the expense of a villain you’ve been building as a criminal mastermind throughout the film’s entire plot? Why not parallel these sub plots and add an extra layer to the story? A big shame, but still doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the film as a whole.

Anyway enough. Go watch it now if you haven’t. Wait, you haven’t? WUD the fxck is wrong with you?!

Images © 2012 Copyright (c) Warner Bros
Images © 2012 Copyright (c) DC Comics

P.S. Where one journey ends…

*Condolensces to the families of the victim’s of the Colorado cinema shooting. It’s not difficult to discern reality and fiction, but the lack of difficulty to obtain firearms, especially by a youth? It’s just common sense to have rules and regulations around that. I hope this case prompts further investigation into the matter on a commercial and legislative level.

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