Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises
By Matthew Huntley
July 27, 2012
With The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan’s much-lauded Batman trilogy ends on an entertaining and satisfying note, although not exactly a challenging one. Because Batman Begins and The Dark Knight set such high standards and took the superhero movie in a direction that forced critics and audiences to reconsider just how impactful, complex and tragic a movie based on a comic book could be, the expectations for this third film are probably unreasonable. Many have the right to expect a masterpiece, and while the film doesn’t quite live up to that coveted level, fans can rest assured knowing this is still a superlative action drama with well-drawn characters.
The story takes place eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, in which the maniacal Joker (Heath Ledger) tried to expose Batman’s true identity and prove that anyone, when pushed toward devastation and loss, is capable of being corrupted by evil. It ended with Gotham City’s presumed savior and golden boy, District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), after having been transformed into the hideous Two-Face, devolving into the very criminal he sought to rid the city of, thus proving the Joker’s point. Only Batman (Christian Bale) and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) knew the truth and decided it would be in the city and people’s best interest for Dent to continue to be held in high regard, to remain Gotham’s “White Knight.” Meanwhile, Batman volunteered to take the fall by becoming the man people could blame for Dent’s crimes, hence the Dark Knight. To him, it was for the greater good.
Since then, “the” Batman has not been seen, nor has his alter ego, Bruce Wayne. Older, limping and arthritic, Bruce has become a recluse, hiding out in the east wing of Wayne Manor. He’s been ignoring Wayne Enterprises and spends his days walking around in a bathrobe with a cane. Only his beloved butler, Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine), sees him. That changes when the slinky Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a master jewel thief posing as a maid, makes her way into the mansion. (We of course know Selina as Catwoman but the movie never provides her that moniker.)
Selina makes it seem like all she wants is Bruce’s mother’s pearls, but what she’s really after is Wayne’s fingerprints. She’s cut a deal with one of Wayne Enterprises’ chief competitors, a slimy fellow named Dagget (Ben Mendelsohn), who in turn is linked to the monstrous Bane (Tom Hardy), a master killer who wears a metal contraption on his face that resembles a gas mask, which supposedly helps him breathe. I don’t know what’s more disturbing about Bane - his appearance or his voice. He’s tall, muscular and bruised, yet his manner of speaking is ironically charming and intelligent. It almost makes you forget he could suffocate you or break your neck in a matter of seconds. For these and other reasons, I’d go so far as to say that Hardy’s Bane has just as strong a screen presence as Ledger’s Joker. He’s a tough, scary and domineering force to be reckoned with, brutish and unapologetic. When he swings his fists, we feel it; and when he talks, we listen intently.
What Dagget and Bane want with Bruce’s fingerprints, I leave you to discover, but as the film develops, we learn Bane is an ex-communicated member of the League of Shadows, the same group that trained Bruce to channel his anger and fear in Batman Begins. You’ll recall it was the leader of the League of Shadows, Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson), who sought to destroy Gotham City because he believed it was the League’s inherent duty to restore balance to a city that lost itself to crime and injustice. We all know Batman thwarted Ra’s al Ghul’s plans and now Bane is attempting to carry them out again by rigging the city with explosives and detonating an atomic bomb.