Written by: Jonathan Nolan & Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy
Following up a masterpiece comes with its difficulties because reaching those heights again sets an unfair standard. An unfortunate circumstance The Dark Knight Rises needed to take on. Even with the glaring faults it displays, along with some shaky political messaging embedded within it, the grand and ambitious storytelling at play deserves its recognition. It becomes easy to ignore some faults when the heights reach an astronomically great level.
Following the demise of Dent and the quelling of Joker, Gotham City has now reached a time of peace with criminals locked up, which has seen the recent quietness from Batman (Christian Bale). After a new villain by the name of Bane (Tom Hardy) makes his way onto the scene, he brings a level of viciousness and power to face off with Batman.
After crafting literally the greatest comic book movie ever made in The Dark Knight, expectations for a follow up needed to be adjusted accordingly, which will heavily help anyone watching this capper to a tremendous trilogy. While it stands as the most inferior of the three, considering the quality in discussion, it still stands as its own feat. Following the aftermath of the last showed a new type of Gotham on the horizon, one where peace might actually exist. Of course, it’s short-lived with the arrival of Bane; a character who may give some viewers a hard time in discerning what he says but proves to be a worthy adversary to the caped crusader. As mysterious as any villain this hero must take on, the messaging behind this character becomes quite clear, the people must revolt against their oppressors. A message some might find to be much more agreeable than the film believed would occur.
Bane, as a character, never reaches the heights of the Joker, but he still manages to challenge Batman in his way of thinking. Only in this instance Batman literally has to fight him head-on in combat, which proves to be a tough matchup considering the size and strength of the villain. Bane does not necessarily want to create chaos, but rather show the smaller people what can occur when they gather together to incite change. This commentary runs throughout the entire film, including the conversations shared by Bruce and Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). The film lands in a firm position of this struggle where you see two sides literally charging towards one another, which may sour the tongue if you disagree ideologically with the side Batman fights alongside. It does not serve as a criticism of the film, but the presence of this overarching theme certainly says plenty about the thinking of Christopher Nolan and how he sees Batman fitting into this world. For me, it opened my eyes to see this character for what he truly stands for and really clicked everything into place. Whether I liked the result or not remains immaterial, because the film outlines it succinctly and clearly.
Certain parts of the story certainly get messy, including some plot holes and jumps in logic, but this film has so much to get through that there’s no time to worry about how some characters get from here to there. It becomes far more important to feel the emotional weight this film carries. Out of all three within the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises truly gets at the heart of the character of Bruce and what his relationship with Alfred means. Hints of it get dropped in the previous films but the emotional connection and love between these two flow in a way unlike any other in such a beautifully gratifying manner. Certainly, Michael Caine’s best outing as the supporting character, as he gets more to do and does not waste it.
The ambitiousness of this film takes away from the grounded nature of the previous movie, which makes it respectful to see the filmmakers tried to go in a different direction. Much like in Batman Begins, some strange machine with the power to do some heinous things to the people of Gotham gets introduced. Instead, a weapon meant for good can be utilized to harm the very people it hoped to assist, which funnily enough parallels the caped crusader in some ways. Similarly, this film humbles Bruce in a way he never had before. In previous installments, he could always match up well with his foes, but Bane completely annihilates him in both a physical and mental way. Bruce begins to show his age here when attempting to take on this burly man, which allows for reflection he never anticipated to take on as he reigned supreme over Gotham’s villains. The Dark Knight Rises proves to have just enough gas to truly wrap up this story with several callbacks to the preceding films.
Sensationally sloppy but very enjoyable in just trying to decipher what Bane tried to say, The Dark Knight Rises has so much to admire. The stakes get larger in a more cartoonish way, but the themes and philosophical battles remain just as potent. It caps off an all-time great trilogy of films that changed the way the world saw comic book films. By far the lengthiest, but still utilizes its time exceptionally well, audiences can expect to get lost in the story and how much Gotham can shift when a truly charismatic and influential person walks through and gives people hope.