Director Christopher Nolan brings his acclaimed, groundbreaking take on the 'Batman' legend to its epic conclusion in, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’.
'Rises' picks up 8 years after the tragic events of ‘The Dark Knight’, which left our hero Batman (Christian Bale), a fugitive from the law, after he courageously took the fall for the murderous actions of the crazed and disfigured D.A, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). Hollow and broken Bruce now lives a recluse existence in his mansion, shunning society after the death of his true love Rachael (Maggie Gyllenhaal). As for the people of Gotham, they are enjoying a time of unprecedented law and order, due to the use of a strict law (The Dent Act) that denies known criminals of parole, all of whom now reside in the maximum security prison Black Gate.
Of course the time eventually comes for that peace to be broken, as the mysterious masked psychopath known as Bane (Tom Hardy) sets his sights on Gotham and its people. Through various nefarious plans, he intends to cripple the city and ensnare its entire police force in a deadly underground trap. Can a broken Batman rise to this arduous challenge? Or will the fire engulf the entire city?
After successfully reinventing the idea of what a Batman movie could be with 'Begins' (2005), Nolan took the character to even greater creative heights with its sequel 'TDK'. A movie many critics and fans consider to be the greatest superhero/comic book adaptation of all time. 'TDK', tore down many preconceptions and further advanced the genre, earning the first Oscar for an actor in a comic-book movie, with Heath Ledger 's iconic portrayal of The Joker.
Instead of bowing out while still on top - like many thought he should - Nolan finally agreed to complete his trilogy, except this time under considerable fan pressure. While the movie was in production, every aspect became overtly scrutinized, from casting to costume, every decision met with prejudice. Even after the films completion, 'Rises' became steeped in further controversy, as unseen levels of hostility met those who dared write any negative comments in regards to the film. Resulting in reviewers receiving numerous death threats from angered Bat fans, - most of whom hadn't even seen the movie - as well as inciting the rage of the most dreaded of all Internet trolls, the 'Nolanites'. The final horrible end to all this controversy came on July 20, when a gunman walked into a midnight showing of the film, in a theatre in Aurora Colorado, and opened fire on the audience. He managed to kill 12 people and injure 58, before he was apprehended by police.
Was 'Rises' doomed to controversy regardless of its content? Even without the outward interferences could it mange to break the most dreaded of all movie curses? The superhero trilogy curse. A plague that has infected every hero franchise without exception, since the dawn of the genre. A hex so heinous it brings a pained expression to any comic-book movie fans face, who will instantly start shaking their head in order to rid themselves of remembrance. So far there has yet to by a satisfactory and complete comic-book trilogy, that has not brought an end to the franchise without total humiliation. From the abysmally silly shenanigans of 'Superman 3', the offensive Bat nipples of 'Batman Forever', "I’m the Juggernaut Bitch" of 'X-3' and the ugliest of all hero scars the Peter Parker street strut and final 'emo transformation in 'Spidey 3', cringe! With this legacy of shame looming large, has Nolan managed to avoid these past traps, or has his franchise floundered just like the others?
Before I answer that question, lets first take a look back at what Nolan has achieved with his previous entries in the Batman 'movieverse'. They are two of the greatest and most successful cape and tights movies ever made. Featuring such innovative ideas as plot development and character arcs, elements that are too often forgotten in hero movies. This one-two filmic punch, brought a sophisticated edge to the term blockbuster not seen since the glory days of Spielberg. They weren’t the usual blue tights, tongue in cheek 'Superman/Spiderman' films, no, they were about a real person, with genuine, almost psychotic issues, fighting for justice, in a time of injustice. Sacrificing all his privileges to ensure his city was saved from the criminal organisations that robbed him of his parents. Of course, that’s not to say these were tedious high brow cinematic endeavors, that could only be understood by learned academics. No, that's what worked so well, they managed to bring lightness with the weighty themes. Showing a grown up confident swagger, while still essentially being huge, commercial blockbuster films. It may be hard now to remember, but at the time, both Warner Bros and Nolan were taking a big risk, as this new grounded take could have easily tanked with unappreciated audiences.
I remember reading an interview with Nolan close to the release, he spoke passionately about wanting to make 'Rises' as rich and expansive as possible. He remarked about spending a lot of time watching classics like 'Metropolis' (1927), 'Lawrence of Arabia' (1962) and reading such heavy tomes as 'A Tale of Two Cities', which he felt was a big influence on 'Rises'. So for better or worse we have the most story heavy 'Bat' flick yet, with characters and their arcs, fighting for every ounce of screen time available. This includes the introduction of new villains Bane, Talia Al Ghul, as well as allies like the slinky cat burglar Selina Kyle, Joesph Gordon Levitt as Tim Drake, and not to mention unfinished plot strands on Jim Gordon, Harvey Dent, Lucius fox and of course Bruce Wayne, The Batman himself.
Possibly the most controversial addition to the cast has to be, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, simply named Selina Kyle here. Since the announcement of her involvement, it has generated some of the most hated out-cries from Bat fans. To them, Selina should be a strong, capable woman who can match Batman, both in strength and wit, little did they know Hathaway possessed all these qualities in spades. To her credit she never once buckled under the immense pressure built on the net, instead she kept her mind focused on the unenviable task. As well as the enormous pressure of filling the shoes, whip and claws of the iconic interpretation previously brought to the screen by Michelle Piffer in Tim Burton's fondly remembered, Gothic sequel Batman Returns (1992). This was the performance to beat - lets just forget the Halle Berry incarnation shall we - and many, myself included, never thought the rom-com heavy Hathaway would rise to the challenge, how wrong we were. In fact her performance is so good, so committed, that she is one of the best additions to the franchise. Her Selina is all about others interpretations of her, how men see her as a victim, how Batman sees her as a troubled criminal, while in truth we never see the true woman behind the mask, she remains a mystery and is all the better for it.
As for Cotillard's Miranda Tate, she was never going be anything else than Talia. It's just a pity her screen time is so sparse, like others from Oldman's Gordan there just isn't enough time to properly flesh out her role. This leads off balance leads to one of the worst moments in the film, the cringing rain soaked fire place love scene between her and Bruce. This brought to mind a similar tryst in the godawful 'Daredevil' movie and anything that brings that to mind id never good. Had Tate been closer to Wayne it might have made more of a narrative sense, as it is, it just feels completely uncharacteristic for both them, especially the broken Wayne, who is still mourning over Rachael.
Unfortunately somewhere along the way Bale has found himself out of favour with the people who called themselves fans. Starting with his bored and unengaged turn in 'Terminator 4', which led to the public joke of Bale’s melt down "You want me to trash your lights?". Since then he has struggled to reclaim his once bullet proof acting rep. This was further incised by his rough, barely audible interpretation of the Batman voice that seemed to reach even further inaudible depths in 'The Dark Knight'. Thankfully 'Rises' gives both Bruce and his alter ego the catharsis that has been sorely missing from non Nolan Batman features. Bale's scenes with a visibly shaken Alfred are some of the strongest of the series, giving a hefty dramatic lift to the ending funeral and questionable, open ended reappearance.
You see, Nolan was kind of the instigator of his own downfall, he publicly stated that these new Bat films were a realistic, true to life interpretation of the Batman. He spends a good portion of the first film, detrimentally explaining how Batman acquires each of his fantastical gadgets, and his moulding into the ethereal legend, he becomes. Then, like all good films the sequel had to expand to bigger and more awe inducing sights, it was here that the realism started to slip, and we're treated to reality bothering moments like the sky hook sequence, that’s always seems more Bond than Bat. This is particularly evident in the final 'sonar eyes' scene that ends the film, this sequence I think acted as the final nail in the realism coffin.
Like many, I had been following these movies since the beginning, soaking up every interview, every article, so yeah I remember what Nolan and co said, and I defiantly remember something along the lines of NO ROBIN! That's right, no sidekick, yet here he is, they could have used Jean-Paul Valley or Terry McGinnis, but no, Gordan Levitt is now Robin. Not even Dick Grayson, just plain old Robin, in case by calling him Dick we wouldn’t get it, thanks for pandering Nolan. I’m not against the character in the least and Levitt is one of the best elements in the movie, it's just why go back on your own ideals. It's these kind of cheesy, hokey half ideas that unnerve and grind in what could have been a complete and satisfying end. While there are out right moments of utter cringe like other mentioned trilogies, thankfully the good out weights the bad, but 'Rises' does come dangerously close to failing.