The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
All superheroes are ultimately tragic characters. Most of them lost their parents in terrible circumstances; others lost their entire planet. Oh, Marvel may put a happy spin on things with wise-cracking alcoholic superheroes, but donning a mask and cape and saving hapless women from rapists makes for a lonely life. But few superheroes have fared better from a gritty reboot than the Batman. The adoption of his phobia as his symbol, the filth of the city of Gotham and the excellent decision to omit the placement of underwear over tights have all helped make the gritty reboot a thing. It has fared so well that the Bat Nipples are now forgiven and nearly obscured from memory.
The Dark Knight Rises brings Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy to a close. It began with Bruce Wayne’s childhood trauma of losing his parents, his rise through the ranks of the League of Shadows, him defending Gotham against all manner of evil, whether or not it wanted him to and then saving Gotham again from the clutches of The Joker. The Dark Knight now occupies the place of the superhero movie that was so good that its sequel could never hope to top it (?)
Now everybody wants to know if it was as good as The Dark Knight and there are the inevitable comparisons between The Joker and Bane. This is where most people will fall in two categories: people who have invested so much love and time in TDK that TDKR will be loved regardless and people who have raised their expectations so high that anything short of Greatest Movie Ever Made On the Planet Till Forever More will be loathed. And as much as I believe that a series should be judged in its entirety, everybody knows that the second movie in a trilogy is (sometimes) ALWAYS the best and then there’s the Dreaded Curse of the Third Film. Once you have a bad third film, the entire series is just tainted. Is there anyone who can say “Spiderman Trilogy” or “Matrix Trilogy” without looking nauseated?
Despite having so much riding on this film, Nolan’s Batman series shrugged off that curse and TDKR provided a fitting conclusion to the series. It wasn’t perfect, but then, neither was The Dark Knight. Seriously, what was that ending? Why did Batman have to take the fall for Dent’s death? If they really and truly wanted a martyr, why couldn’t they have just put out a story that the Joker killed him or that he died from septicaemia? In the words of one inimitable Supreme Court advocate, “[because] Batman is a drama queen.”
At the end of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne set aside his Batman persona and let the memory of Harvey Dent’s idealism and Giuliani-ness save the city and clean the streets off the mafia gangs. 8 years after Harvey’s death, Bruce Wayne is no longer Batman; he’s a broken man mourning the loss of his love, Rachel Dawes. But he must once again put on his Batsuit and save the city from a new kind of evil: a deliberate, precise and cold brute of a man, Bane and his ruthless team of sycophants who are intent on finishing Ra’as Al-Ghul’s pet project: destroying Gotham city.
Bane was a fantastic character and Tom Hardy played him so convincingly. Where the Joker was insane and unsettling, Bane is just flat out terrifying. He is insurmountably strong and his brawny physique is complemented by his calm, deliberate and calculated speech. His first fight with Batman was gut-wrenchingly visceral and ups his respect level considerably. Hardy is a fine lesson to actors that you can have your face obscured for an entire film and still manage to be memorable. Unfortunately, the character was let down by a weak ending which took away from all his strengths while adding little to his character. In any case, a weak Bane story line did not ruin the film because he was not as central to this film as the Joker was to the last. Joker’s story arc was to remind Batman that there is a yin to every yang; that there is no Batman without the Joker and no Joker without the Batman.
On the other hand, this film went back to some of the unanswered questions from Batman Begins. Are Batman and Bruce Wayne two different people? Does Gotham need Batman? The Bruce Wayne from the first film was a vengeful man who wanted to clean the streets of Gotham because his parents died at the hands of a common criminal. But the Bruce Wayne we see now, almost a decade later is old and weary. His thirst for vengeance brought him nothing except more loss. His alter ego wasn’t stopping crime as much as it was creating other crazies in masks. While he no longer doubts whether or not Gotham needs a Batman, Bruce finally begins to question his need to be Batman.
As for Catwoman, full disclosure: I cant stand Anne Hathaway. I did my best to be unbiased but have you met a more yawnworthy Catwoman? Oh, I’m glad she wasn’t licked back to life cats or something, but she was just so goddamn boring and without individuality. Even her fight sequences were boring. Apart from one or two good lines, she would’ve been completely lost in the epicness of the film if it wasn’t for the fact that she was wearing a latex suit and was straddling a bike in a way that only Megan Fox could (Transformers). I get that they didn’t want to festishize her like Michelle Pfeiffer but girlfriend’s already got the skintight suit, red lipstick and mask, might as well make her purr her lines. Joseph Gordon-Lewitt on the other hand! Now there’s a side-character who managed to stand out. He wasn’t just the young idealist foil to Gordon/Batman’s jaded veteran: he managed to combine Bruce Wayne’s anger and Commissioner Gordon’s composure and forged a very interesting, earnest character. I can’t wait to see more of Gordon-Lewitt in movies that aren’t 500 Days of Summer.
There were also a few ridiculous things which are to be expected in a film about masked vigilantes like a scene where Batman takes the time to rig up a large-scale pyrotechnic marvel of a Bat symbol while Gotham is being ripped to shreds. Was it awesome? Yes. Was it symbolically relevant to the plot? Sure! Did I cheer and clap like mad when it was lit up? Of course. One merely questions the timing of setting it up, that’s all. And while I enjoyed the nail-biting climax, the cool new gadgets and superb subplots and side-characters like Gordon, the conclusion to Bruce Wayne’s story arc was supremely out of character, unsatisfying and totally unnecessary. You may disagree, but never forget that Conservapedia has now claimed this film as one of its Greatest Conservative Films (apparently because it correctly portrays those Occupy Wall Street hippies as thugs and murderers). Yup, right up there with those other famous conservative classics like Ghostbusters and The Lord of the Rings.
Also, the reboot has been announced.