The Dark Knight Rises (Movie Review)

Title: The Dark Knight Rises
Director: Christopher Nolan
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Starring: Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Excellence: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Summary in a Sentence: An excellent conclusion to the Christopher Nolan trilogy featuring the well-known comic book hero, featuring some surprisingly counterrevolutionary themes

I went to see this film a few weeks ago with my father and was rather surprised at how good it was. Not because I expected it to be bad -- I thought that the other films in the trilogy were also very well done -- but because it exceeded any reasonable expectations I could have for a mainstream film.

The film takes place eight years after The Dark Knight (2008); "a new terrorist leader, Bane, overwhelms Gotham's finest, and the Dark Knight resurfaces to protect a city that has branded him an enemy" (per IMDB). As with the previous Christopher Nolan installments, the film has a dark ambience, but not a bleak one. There is plenty of hope that good will triumph over the evil that threatens to overwhelm everything. The acting is excellent and the plot has plenty of twists and turns. It boils down to a very well-done good versus evil plot.

But what really surprised and interested me, was the heavy use of French Revolution tactics and rhetoric on the part of Bane in his terrorism of Gotham. The storming of Blackgate Penitentiary and release of the criminals therein was a clear reference to the storming of the Bastille, complete with Bane spouting rhetoric worthy of the Tennis Court Oath: "We take Gotham from the corrupt! The rich! The oppressors of generations who have kept you down with myths of opportunity, and we give it back to you... the people. Gotham is yours. None shall interfere. Do as you please. Start by storming Blackgate, and freeing the oppressed!"

The thing that makes it interesting, too, is that it's not totally black-and-white, and takes into account some of the complexities of reality, such that Blackgate, while housing heinous criminals, does so thanks to legislation that violates basic civil liberties. The film does an excellent job of showing the gross excesses of a French Revolution approach to things while acknowledging that the status quo frequently has problems as well. There is more that could be said as the anti-revolutionary tone of the film fascinates me no end.

It's definitely worth seeing, even if you're not specifically a Batman/comic fan as it's simply a good film.


Stephen said...

For another take on Bane's speech:


Sophia's Favorite said...

I think you mean only if you're not a Batman/comic fan. After the first two, I doubt I'm even going to bother with this one. Ras al-Ghul is not an ambiguous European after "absolute justice", he's a Syrian eco-terrorist out to reduce the world's population to its 14th-century level (out of nostalgia for his youth—he's also supposed to be immortal, and 700 years old).

The Joker, similarly, would not set up convoluted plans with bombs on barges, in order to make some philosophical point—he would blow up barges to set up a punchline. You certainly wouldn't find him spouting a pro-wrestling catchphrase; his best incarnations don't even laugh the same way twice. Also, he's supposed to have white skin and green hair; only his lips are makeup.

Nolan is running scared of letting comic book movies be set in a comic book world. And he doesn't get Batman, specifically—the ending of Dark Knight, where he lies about Harvey Dent "so the people have hope", is completely wrong. As I said on my blog, this is Bruce. He'd say, "Do you see an S on my chest, Jim? You want hope, move to Metropolis." (It's even worse than the ending from the first film—aside from how Bruce has never distinguished between killing someone and deliberately letting them die, a train crash would only temporarily kill Ras—there should've been a scene after the credits of the Society of Shadows gathering around a green-glowing subterranean spring. A figure emerges, cackling diabolically, and attacks one of them. After a moment, the figure suddenly freezes, releases the man he's attacked, and straightens—then we see his face: Ras al-Ghul, the Demon's Head.)

Nicholas D.C. Wansbutter said...

Well, the only Batman comics I ever read were my dad's "Legends of the Dark Knight", so I'm definitely not that learned in Batman lore. But the portrayal of Bruce Wayne/Batman seemed fairly consistent with those comics.

Anyhow, aren't there all kinds of reboots and different incarnations of the different villain in the comics themselves?

Sophia's Favorite said...

Not really. Joker's been the same guy at least since the mid-90s (when Mark Hamill's quintessential portrayal, in the animated series, made them revamp the character), and Ras al-Ghul's been the same dude since he showed up in 1971—14 years before the Crisis on Infinite Earths (and Ras was in the Earth-2 continuity that became the basis of the consolidated DC setting, so the Crisis didn't much change him). Bane hasn't been around long enough to get rebooted, but, apart from the universally reviled Schumacher movie, he's always been the same evil genius pro-wrestler. Only, he's usually a mercenary motivated by consummate professionalism.

Christopher Nolan may have a handle on the superficial Batman—the "playboy secretly a crime-fighter" thing bats shares with Zorro and the Scarlet Pimpernel—but he doesn't understand what makes the character unique. Namely, Bruce's towering, tormented intellect.

That, and Christian Bale's Bat-voice. It's ridiculous, especially by comparison with Kevin Conroy, who voiced him in the animated series; Conroy can do such completely different, yet both believable, voices for Bruce and Batman that he was hired on the spot.

This movie, by the bye, is largely using the premise of "Knightfall", the arc where Bane was introduced.

M.R. Zapp said...

I also found the French revolution elements to be the most intriguing part of the film, and my favorite part was at the memorial where the detective (I'm blanking on the name) says the line from Tale of Two Cities - very, very neat. Good review, I agree with it all.

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