The Dark Knight Rises is a great, dark twisted action film about the rise of a fallen hero. It is a worthy end to the epic Nolan trilogy, and put into context as the third act of a single story, it’s a fantastic achievement in cinema.
The character of Batman on the big screen has ever been subject to extreme interpretation. While the Batman of the 1960’s television series was camp and colourful, he was perfectly at home in the theatrical gloom of Tim Burton’s films. Joel Schumacher did his thing, perhaps best left forgotten. But every venture played on different riffs of the malleable icon.
Seven years ago, Christopher Nolan dramatically changed the formula again, with the most intelligent, realistic and relevant onscreen take of the character yet. Batman Begins changed the game for comics-based films in general; a real-world slant and the incorporation of moral and political themes (as well as superb acting, direction and script) made this a better class of superhero film.
Nolan’s Gotham is representative of a society driven into the ground by crime and crooked politics, sickened by poverty and greed. Batman is born as the remedy.
In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne reinvented himself as a symbol to fight injustice. In The Dark Knight he pinned his hopes on Harvey Dent to save Gotham from within the political system. When Dent fell from grace, Batman’s reputation was sacrificed because it was what the city needed from him. The third film begins with Batman being called out of retirement, and once again Bruce’s motivations to wear (or not to wear) the mask are explored and called into question.
The Dark Knight Rises is a fusion of the first two films, yet manages to stand on it’s own uniquely as well. While many of the threads from the previous film are followed up and tied together, there are also some notable firsts. For starters, the female characters are given much more to do, and some of the best moments are provided by the leading ladies. Also for a change of pace, new central villain Bane is not only a psychological opponent but also physically outmatches Batman, and the fight-scenes are so visceral that it almost hurts to watch them.
Bane’s mask makes a neat parallel to the cowl; in the opening sequence he declares that nobody cared who he was until he put on the mask (which does in fact physically sustain him). The transformative power of the mask as a second, possibly live-saving chance certainly plays into Bruce’s own complicated relationship with how he sees his true face, and whether or not being Batman has damned or saved him.
The performances are stellar, with excellent-as-ever returns from staple characters like Jim Gordon and Lucius Fox, and all of the newcomers bringing their best to the table. The human drama between Bruce and his faithful butler Alfred has always been the heart of these films and it remains genuinely touching to the end.
If you haven’t seen it yet, do it now. If you haven’t heard anything about it or read a review, make sure you don’t until afterward. The less you know, the more satisfying those big moments (and there are some very big moments) will be. The Dark Knight Rises is fine send-off to some of the best superhero films you’ll ever be likely to see.