Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman
In an underground prison, in an unknown location (Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India), a group of exiled prisoners shout, “Deh-Shay, Deh-Shay, Bah Sah Rah. Bah Sah Rah!”, whenever a prisoner dares to climb a deadly circular structure to their freedom. Conveniently resembling the well Master Wayne fell into as a child, Bruce Wayne inspects the dangerous escape route and asks a fellow prisoner what the chanting prisoners are saying. The hooded exiles were shouting “RISE!” I was shouting “AWESOME!” And as the final installment of Christopher Nolan’s rebooted Batman trilogy reached the light of day on Imax theaters all over the world, The Dark Knight Rises rose to the challenge of completing a trilogy without making us rue the day someone decided to make a sequel/threequel of a perfectly good film (COUGH Matrix…).
It’s been eight years since Batman’s last face-off with evil, as The Dark Knight capped off with the Caped Crusader letting Two-Face Harvey Dent remain Gotham’s hero, while taking on all the blame. Growing a beard of pity, and working a walking stick, Bruce Wayne crawls deeper into his cave of mourning and isolation in The Dark Knight Rises until a cat-thief (played with impressive conviction by Anne Hathaway) steals his family jewels and leads him to an intrigue that takes us all the way back to Batman Begins. Catwoman warns Master Wayne that a storm is coming – and in the form of a super muscly and rather eloquent terrorist, the supervillain Bane most certainly brings a storm over Gotham on an apocalyptic scale.
While The Dark Knight Rises has sparked a lot of debate on the political side of things (9/11, terrorism, Occupy Wall St, America’s electoral campaigns, and the film being overtly right-wing), I personally joined the ranks of die-hard Batman fans who dove into the film’s narrative with unbridled enthusiasm. Because while deconstructing the film from a political stance does offer food for thought POST-movie, I’ll bet most people were focusing on a helluva lot of other things whilst watching Batman and Nolan pull out swanky new toys. At least, I was anyway.
For starters, can we just marvel at the quality of the film?! I don’t mean the movie… I’m talking about the 72 whopping minutes of Imax footage that make details ten times the size and resolution of what we see in regular theaters. Reserving the Imax moments for the big action scenes, Nolan masterfully handles chases, fist fights, and shoot-outs so that they don’t simply entertain or thrill, but rather, engross the audience. The opening scene is a perfect example. And in giving its big story the big picture that it deserves, The Dark Knight Rises manages to make 3D look hokey, proving that not all blockbusters have to be all spectacle and no brain.
The Dark Knight Rises also digs deeper into the demons of Bruce Wayne, whilst introducing new charismatic characters that ooze screen presence in more ways than one. While it was inevitable that an unfair point of comparison would be set up between Heath Ledger’s Joker and Tom Hardy’s Bane, the ensemble cast of the third and final film work more effectively in telling a story that is much bigger in scale and scope than the last. Rather than focusing on the intricacies of a villain as complex as The Joker, Bane’s ominous presence and hard-hitting impact on Gotham has a very different, yet equally compelling role in the threads of plot that tie an end to Nolan’s Batman. Bane’s terrorism serves to raise questions and brain-scratching ideas about the ambivalence of good and evil, which plagued Harvey Dent, and Batman himself – bringing full circle ideas that had planted their seeds earlier in the trilogy. Working within structures of justice and order, that have their own seedy underbelly of corruption, Batman then stands in between the radical representations of evil as embodied in Bane and his uprising, and figures of greed and wealth who are disguised by their citizen status in Gotham. Then there are those who uphold ideals of heroism like the young detective, John Blake (Gordon-Levitt), and those who see the imbalance of privilege in Gotham, but also feel unsettled by the violent chaos that ensues when those structures are attacked – as seen in the character of Catwoman.
From whichever angle viewers decide to discuss Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises, there is enough conversation material to last us until someone dares to climb to Nolan’s heights and create another Batman reboot. But with the breadth of thought and visual excitement that Nolan has been able to fit over three films, I’d say that climb is one risky and deadly exercise. I’ll be waiting with the other Batman fans shouting “Deh-Shay, Deh-Shay, Bah Sah Rah. Bah Sah Rah!”