MOVIE REVIEW: “The Dark Knight Rises” an epic ending to a trilogy of tragedy
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times … for Gotham City, that is.
“The Dark Knight Rises,” the closing chapter of Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed Batman Trilogy, wears a mask, like Bruce Wayne himself, to hide it’s true face – that of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.” If you understand that going in, the film becomes a lot more intriguingly thoughtful. Either way, it’s still an epic last hurrah.
The first two installments (especially Heath’s Ledgers iconic Joker) left quite a legacy for its ending to live up to. And while this movie’s still a great finish, certain elements felt sloppy compared to it’s near-perfect superhero noir parents.
The story is set eight years after the death of Harvey Dent. Bruce (Christian Bale), devastated by the death of Rachel Dawes, has retired the cowl, leaving poor Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) to bear their tragic Two-Face secret alone. The mob is finished. Gotham is at peace. But a cane-sporting Bruce sulks in his mansion … for eight straight years.
His faithful butler Alfred (Michael Caine) and charming armorer Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) pine for boring Bruce to make a comeback, which he finally does. But this slow and somewhat disappointing beginning seemed unnecessary to the plot. It also rushed moments that could have been explored more.
Batman already felt broken on the inside long before his outside broke too.
The film boasts a brilliant but crowded new cast. There’s rookie cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), feisty Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), mysterious Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), both lovely ladies competing as romantic-interests for our hero, and the new villain, Bane (Tom Hardy).
Bane, the heir of Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson), commands an intimidating presence as a terrorist mastermind. As you watch his rise to power, literally holding all of Gotham hostage and turning the broken city into a no-man’s-land of lawless violence and desperate poverty, you really feel the horrifying weight of what is at stake. Seeing Bane’s thugs turn Gotham citizens against each other in a French-Revolution-style “court” of slaughter is chilling.
Although the plot sometimes feels clunky and, at points, too conveniently progressive, the film’s strength lies in its emotional build to the intense and dramatic final battle of Gotham. Batman does indeed, as the title says, rise to the occasion and give us the hero Gotham both needs and deserves. The finale moments are a nail-biting, secret-revealing and punch-packing whirlwind of urban warfare and pure chaos at last.
And only a Sydney Carton can end it.
Like Batman himself, this film was intelligent, powerful, imperfect and at times, felt lost. But it also learned the lesson of the previous films, tying in well to the overall arch of Batman’s tragic legend.
Heath Ledger’s death stirred interest in “The Dark Knight.” Sadly, this film too will be marked by tragedy. In a situation that mirrored a Batman villain with chilling irony, a Colorado gunman entered a theater wearing a gas mask and opened fire, reportedly killing 12 and injuring dozens more. Batman could not save the day, but thankfully, real heroes in the form of police and health-responders did.
If we learn anything from the closing chapter of Batman and from the tragic shooting spree that will forever mark it, let us choose to live in the spirit of the defining word of the film.
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