“The Dark Knight Rises,” relevant and relentless, is an audacious brew of favorite Batman themes presented on an epic scale. Much in the way that “The Avengers” presented a more sophisticated superhero story, in terms of being more intricate and geeky, for general audiences, this last installment of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy does heavy duty too as it brings together elements from the previous two films and creates a true superhero epic. That is the take away you should get from this movie, it is epic, epic, epic. It will turn your beloved boxed set collection into an epic, not by default, but by pushing the Batman mythos into hyperdrive.
This is not a Batman movie with a character that is going to resonate far beyond the movie, except for some fun stuff going on with Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. It is this character that has truly given Hathaway her groove thing. She loves being Catwoman and we love her for it. She is so good in her role that it would make sense to give her a movie of her own but that’s not going to happen. Another thing that is not going to happen is someone mistaking Tom Hardy’s performance as the arch-villain Bane, with Heath Ledger’s Joker. It’s just not that kind of performance. We never really go deep into the twisted crevices of Bane’s psyche. However, Hardy provides a performance that is a force of nature and keeps us on the edge of our seats throughout.
Now, having said that we don’t have characters in this movie that will break into the pop culture is true. No doubt, there are no performances at the level of Heath Ledger in this one but the movie is beautifully acted. Everyone turns in a wonderful performance in a movie that is both character and story driven. We have all the heavy hitters giving it their all: Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon; Morgan Freeman as Fox; Michael Caine as Alfred. Then, in that same heroic league, we have Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate; Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Detective John Blake; and Matthew Modine as Deputy Commissioner Foley.
One of the all-time favorite superhero themes is the one about the superhero at a loss, lost somewhere, rumored to be dead. It is at times like these that Earth, or at least the superhero’s home city, is in most peril from the most demented villain who has been lying in wait, just for a moment like this.
We begin the story high above in a private plane. CIA operatives are working over their captors, apparently with no qualms over using whatever means necessary to exact a confession. One hooded prisoner is being dangled out of the plane just before being pistol-whipped when another hooded prisoner speaks up. It is Bane, himself, explaining to the good CIA men that they should prepare to meet their doom. And, before any of the CIA ops can make another wisecrack, Bane shows us what a formidable badass he is.
Not long after that, we see what has become of Bruce Wayne. Too many lost loved ones, too many broken bones, too many broken dreams, have taken their toll. Bruce is now happy to just stay in his room and have perpetual room service. He has so abandoned the cape and cowl and all the righteous heroics that go with it that he can’t even stop Catwoman from stealing a priceless heirloom right from under his nose. But we know that Bruce will get his mojo back. Catwoman, after all, stole the most sacred of family heirlooms, pearls that belonged to Bruce’s mother. He isn’t going to let that stand. And Catwoman, for her part, does not scare easy. She has only begun to mess with Bruce. Before she’s done, she is going to take Bruce to the cleaners and back.
What makes this an epic is Bane’s plot to take over the world, or at least Gotham City. He has cloaked himself in the garb of an Occupy zealot, a champion of the people. While there is no question he is out for blood, he maintains his actions are for the people. Along with a secret weapon, Bane has his way and embarks upon a latter day French Revolution. Bane’s demented actions make for some arresting visuals: collapsing bridges, football stadiums exploding and stock brokers being forced to ride motorcycles down the mean streets of Gotham. The narrative takes us down many unexpected paths.
To sweeten the deal, we find ourselves coming up on some unexpected recurring themes. Both lead to some pleasant surprises. What we ultimately come away with is one of the best, if not the best, look into what makes Bruce Wayne tick. It makes for the perfect ending to a most remarkable trilogy.