The Dark Knight Rises: The Kotaku Review

To make a film about a character like Batman is to reckon with the notion that all of the good stories have been told.

70 years of publishing history -- not to mention comics, novels, cartoons and video games -- swirls through the Caped Crusader's cloak. With all of that comes a fan base that can quote Bruce Wayne's various sagas chapter and verse. The Dark Knight Rises triumphs by working what those diehards crave to see on the silver screen into an intense, super-sized action drama that's not afraid to grapple with ideology.

Dark Knight Rises starts eight years after Nolan's last Bat-film and finds a reclusive Bruce Wayne brooding in his ancestral home after the events of The Dark Knight. The Batsuit has lain unworn for almost a decade and it seems like Wayne's sacrifices might actually have won Gotham City new hope for its future.

But then mercenary terrorist Bane comes to Gotham with destruction in mind, shattering economic, political and architectural infrastructures to cripple the once crime-ridden metropolis. As a diminished Bruce Wayne gears himself up to take down a foe that appears to be stronger and more zealous than Batman, he's also tracking down a larcenous femme fatale targeting Gotham's wealthy power brokers.

Nolan -- working off of a screenplay from his brother Jonathan based on a story by David Goyer -- lays down heavy fan service references as if he knows that part of his audience wants movies made from nothing but source material. The air of finality from The Dark Knight Returns, the lyricism of Birth of the Demon and the hopelessness of Knightfall all get woven in the movie to excellent effect. Flashbacks to the first two Bat-movies let Nolan mine the twisty recursive tropes of monthly superhero comics while revealing a larger vision that lays in wait for audiences to discover.

But for all the fan service and reverence in The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan also folds in a few plot beats that might rile hardcore Bat-fans. Unlike Burton and Schumacher, Nolan has always seated his take on Batman in a world that tries to mirror the one we live in. So, his Batman doesn't quite have the dysfunctional psychology to make him see a war on crime as never-ending. He's not immune to emotional yearnings either, like so many iterations before him. In fact, one of the movie's recurring ideas is what Bruce Wayne owes himself and the price Batman pays for safeguarding a city.

Nolan also gets some depth from exploring ideas that Batman has struggled with in comic form. Batman needs a recipe of social stratification, fatalism and moral relativism necessary to even exist all. Certain moments in the film poke at questions that follow these givens. What does it mean when a billionaire decides to fight crime? Isn't Batman just upholding a status quo that is itself unfair? Is there another kind of justice that can be achieved without wearing a cape and a mask? The destruction that happens in Gotham feels like a direct consequence of those questions, making Bruce Wayne an even more tragic figure than before.

That tragedy seems to live inside of Bale's face. The film's lead seems paradoxically confident playing Batman at his lowest ebb. You'll believe that he's broken and ready to sacrifice himself one more time. As strategic strongman Bane, Tom Hardy brings dark, rumbling amusement and a white-hot fervor. He's not going to make anybody forget about Heath Ledger's Joker. Nevertheless, Hardy makes Bane into a hypnotic menace using frightening muscularity and snarling detachment as raw materials. And I liked his weird accent, too.

Yet, it's Anne Hathaway who steals every scene she's in. Her turn as Catwoman adds a subversive, mischievous glee to Gotham's dour gloom and she seems like she's having an immense amount of fun. A callback to the campy 1960's Batman? Maybe, but even if it isn't, Hathaway's performance adds just the right touch of balance to Hardy and Bale's burning machismo.

The camerawork feels like an evolution from Nolan's previous outings with the DC Comics icon. The action stays away from the obfuscating quick cuts so common in superhero movies. There's grinding physical and psychological pain in this film and Nolan lets the camera linger long enough to make sure your eyes won't miss it.

A major character in The Dark Knight Rises has a line about structures becoming shackles. It's hard not to read that as meta-commentary. What makes this film so enjoyable is the sense you get of Nolan playing with the space between formula and freedom. He knows what the fans know and teases them with that telepathic link, pulling them all the while into taut metaphorical reflections on human nature. You're not only getting the Passion of the Bat.

You also get chilling scenes of class warfare, economic collapse and shoddy due process. The Dark Knight Rises finishes an operatic cycle of myth-making where a familiar story becomes re-imagined for new times and layered with increased resonance.


Comments

    Watched it last knight sick movie. Tom Hardy is such a beast in it!
    It wasnt as good as dark knight but still awesome.

    It's my favourite of the trilogy, was doubting it could top The Dark Knight but it managed to. The final minutes of the film are some of the most intense that i've ever seen, with a rush of different emotions.

    Bane was great as well, haven't really read the comics but he's like a combination of the Joker's smarts and Batman's strength, even more so. A frightening villain.

    I think it was a great film and only hamstrung by loss of Heath Ledger as Joker, there's a point in the 2nd or 3rd act that would be a perfect excuse for him to appear and I would have liked to see the interactions between him and Bane to see if they were on the same page.
    Along similar lines its a pity two-face was absent aswell as I think his character was good and it wouldn't have been to much of a stretch to have him reappear and maybe have a redemption.
    The only bit I didn't like was a scene right near the end that was a lot like one in another recently released big super-hero movie, but I would assume Dark knight rises would have wrapped up filming by the time of its release.
    It certainly wrapped things up nicely but left room for a sequel or at least a spin-off.

      It would have been cool to see the Joker again, but I think with Two Face, he had to be out of the picture to tie in with the whole 'Batman as hero' conclusion... The whole idea was that the city had lost Harvey Dent as their hero when Bane read Gordon's letter, and with the unveiling of the Batman statue, he was replaced/vindicated.

    unfortunatley harvey dent has a terminal case of dead so he could never appear again.

      Having watched Dark Knight again recently I noticed that Dents one good eye is closed when He is lying on the ground after the fall, dead peoples eyes are open and I assume the bad eye had its eyelid burned off.
      Also with Sal Maromi snd bats himself I thought there some inconsistency about deaths from falls, I thought it was quite feasible to have as Gothams dirty little secret looked up in Arkham or something.

        I think you will find thats not entirely true. my granddads were definitely closed

    Great film. It had high expectations to live up to and it pulled it off. I'm not one for hyperbole, but it was a rollercoaster of emotions at times. Not just a great super hero movie, but a great movie.

    Incidentally the movie heavily borrows from NO MANS LAND as well in the 2nd and 3rd act.

    IT'S HAPPENING AGAIN. When Dark Knight came out, I saw it, I liked it, but I just didn't understand the worldwide circlejerk surrounding it. It was a good movie. Not great, good. Maybe half an hour too long.

    And now it's happening again. This time it wasn't even a good movie, it was an okay movie, and yet people are still nerdgasming left and right over it. I literally saw the ending coming 30 minutes into the movie, it was more predictable than Avatar and it had some truly cringe-worthy moments. I mean, I already couldn't take Batman seriously (that voice is ridiculous), and now I couldn't take the main villain seriously. The Joker was menacing. Bane just made me want to laugh. Dat voice.

    (SPOILERS) Some plot points seemed to pop up for the sake of it. What the hell was up with the "romance" between Wayne and Tate? They meet twice and start making out for no reason and suddenly they're in love. Then they don't speak for the next 90 minutes of the movie, and it's never mentioned or alluded to. What was the point of that? To give the plot twist of her betrayal more impact? Ugh. Felt so forced.

    This is the best summary I can give this movie is that it's a terribly written film in the hands of a very good director. I feel like I'm going nuts. I JUST DON'T GET IT! AAARGH!

      SPOILERS

      With regards to Tate, I'm sure it was implied (or outright mentioned, I can't remember very well) that she and Bruce had been working together on that clean energy project for a while before the events of the movie. It's not much, but it's something.

      And as for them being in love, I'm not sure that's accurate. Bruce may have cared for her; he was concerned about her safety, and told her he was sorry he couldn't get her out (or something to that effect) when he returned to Gotham. Tate was just playing a long con.

        SPOILERS

        that's correct. Miranda Tate had been in support of the clean energy project for several years and at the beginning of the film I do believe she requests to see Bruce Wayne while he is locked up in his manor, so I have a feeling they would have met before. As for being 'in love' no I don't think they were in love, may have been heat of the moment, Tate manipulating Wayne, but I didn't see much of it as it just looked like a fling with a pretty girl as seen in the previous two films. This is also not to mention it sticks loosely to the canon of the relationship between Talia and Bruce.

          SPOILERS SPOILERS, MASSIVE SPOILERS

          Tate is conning him, basically. I'm fairly sure it's implied they've not actually met before, or at least not recently - she's been trying to meet him for years, but he's been a shut-in.

          Every part of her plan is built around getting him to fall for her, just so it hurts all the more when she betrays him. She goes to see him after Alfred leaves - knowing that he'll be hurt and wanting company - so that he trusts her for the next part of her plan: she orchestrates his bankruptcy so that he'll be vulnerable, at the same time playing him so he gives her control over the energy device that she plans to use as a weapon. It's a meticulously thought-out plan, and the sex is an important part of it.

          And yes, you saw the ending coming. The ending is obvious because it's an epic, and epics always have that sense of tragic inevitability. The point isn't "what's going to happen", it's "watch this happen".

            [spoilers]

            not only that. but everyone was forcing them together. Fox and Alfred were trying to hook up Bruce with Tate.

            and about the ending. all i kept thinking was "this is the Prestige", Alfred wont be fooled twice by the same trick!

    (SPOILERS)

    It was kind of funny seeing Crane make his appearance as a "judge". He certainly has been jumping from job to job in each movie. First he was a doctor, then a drug dealer, now a "judge"?? haha.

      *Spoiler*
      I've seen it twice now and agree it's probably the weakest of the 3 movies, but still enjoyable. A MASSIVE plot hole I noticed the second time around - When Bruce gets back into Gotham and gets captured, Talia/Tate see he's back and he leaves her there to get sentenced with Gordan when he gets captured. Before she can go out onto the ice, Bane says "Bring her over here to me" and we see Tate/Talia get pulled over towards Bane. The next time we see Bane is after Batman sets the bridge on fire, and he goes "WHAT, IMPOSSIBLE!! GET THE GIRL, HE'LL COME FOR HER" - You think since Tatelia and Bane were in on the plan, she would've mentioned to him during that hour or two when they were off camera together - oh btw Bruce is back. Heads up.

        SPOILER

        It seems that Tate/Talia didn't want anyone except Bane to know that she was really the head honcho, which would make perfect sense, and if we really read into it, it could be assumed that there was just no way to communicate the message to Bane without blowing her cover. It isn't too much of a stretch to assume that Bane would not have been left alone with a prisoner, from one of the guards' point of view, so it's highly likely she would not have been able to communicate it in any way.

        I took bigger issue with the fact that the drivers of these giant trucks, potentially filled with a nuclear weapon, wouldn't notice a bunch of cops jumping on the back or Oldman opening the hatch or the bouncing it would have made for him to jump on it or didn't see it in the rear view. Had they been doing their job and protecting their truck, there would not have been any chance of deactivating the bomb in the first place

    I thought the film was very good, but not as good as The Dark Knight.

    That said, Catwoman was brilliantly portrayed. The sex appeal was more classy and understated relative to Michelle Pfeiffer's version, but the result was still insanely compelling and very hot. I didn't think Anne Hathaway could do the slinky femme-fatale thing, and she did... brilliantly... even her walk just oozed sex appeal.

    The ending also gave us both closure and hope for the future.

    It wasn't The Dark Knight, but it was still a great film.

Join the discussion!