National Batman Day comes to a close with “The Dark Knight Rises”. The final chapter of Nolan’s Batman trilogy is the biggest and boldest of the bunch. Eight years after the Joker’s destructive crimes, Batman is forced to resurrect from the shadows and combat a relentless mercenary named Bane. To save Gotham, he must enlist the help of Selina Kyle and the police force that hates him in order to stop Bane’s plan. Can Bruce overcome his greatest challenge yet?
Any film coming on the heels of “The Dark Knight” will have its work cut out for it. I’ve always believed “The Dark Knight Rises” to be an incredible film on its own merit. The movie is very different in tone and aesthetic, where most of it takes place during the day. The story is also more action packed and carries a larger conflict; mirroring “Batman Begins” in this way. I like that the trilogy comes full circle as it ties together the League of Shadows storyline while including the Joker’s ramifications on the city. If Nolan had told a story similar to “The Dark Knight” it would feel repetitive. So the premise really works for me.
Much like the rest of the trilogy, the performances anchor the film. Bale brings a sense of finality to the character where Bruce’s arc feels complete. His broken demeanor at the beginning of the film makes for a compelling resurgence by the end. When we see him in the Batsuit for the first time riding through the street tunnels, I still get chills. So good! Tom Hardy is also phenomenal as Bane. I remember being skeptical when seeing his appearance for the first time. But his physical intimidation and booming voice won me over instantly. Hardy conveys lots of emotion through his eyes and body movements since most of his face is covered. He’s now one of my favorite Batman villains! But we can’t forget about Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. She conveys the sleek, smart persona very well. I loved her interactions with Batman. It is probably my favorite on-screen dynamic between the two. Oldman and Caine also deliver. Alfred feels the most human here, where he truly seems like Bruce’s family rather than just a butler. We see how much he truly cares for Bruce during some very emotional interactions. Oldman’s morally conflicted Gordon makes sense as he feels responsible for letting Batman take the fall of Harvey’s crimes. He is forced to confront this guilt and make things right by assisting Batman once again. Each arc is complete and every character’s resolution feels earned. Character development like this doesn’t happen often.
I also find that “Rises” is the most fun film in the series. There are plenty of good action sequences, ranging from the opening plane attack, Batman’s police chase, and the fights between him and Bane. So many scenes triggered a silly grin across my face as I felt the heroic weight of Batman in full force. Hearing Hans Zimmer’s score roar as Batman approaches the screen still hits like it was the first time. Seeing him getting stronger throughout the film and overcome the trials he faces make him feel larger than life. Nolan balances this nicely by keeping it grounded but lets Batman earn the ”super” in superhero. But the most wonderful feeling that Nolan provides is a sense of finality. We don’t get teased with a possible sequel or how it might tie into another universe. All ends are buttoned up and the audience is left wanting more, but in the best way possible. I wish more movies knew how to do this.
Although “The Dark Knight Rises” isn’t perfect, I believe it gets too much flack. The flaws pointed out generally don’t resonate with me and don’t impact my enjoyment of the film. Some may argue that there are time gaps that don’t make sense in tandem with the story being told. I will admit when Gordon lights the flare and omits a large Bat Signal feels strange. How would Batman have time to do that with a time sensitive nuclear explosion approaching? These events mainly happen in the third act of the film when Bruce returns to Gotham and the timing of the events feel blurred. It makes sense, but for some reason it always tracked fine with me. Bane’s dialogue feels muzzled at times due to the mask he was wearing. Most of it was fine but sharpening the sound up might have been helpful.
Batman’s final outing comes as a resounding success. “Rises” manages to conjure a bold story, fitting arcs, and a conclusion that is incredibly satisfying. I will always shout its praises as one of the most epic superhero movies ever made. The film creates an identity of its own and stands apart from “The Dark Knight” nicely. Give it a fresh watch and I’m sure the unique approach will be satisfying. Yes, the fire does indeed rise!