Catwoman: You don’t owe these people anymore. You’ve already given them everything.
Batman: Not everything.
At the beginning of The Dark Knight Rises, it does seem as if Batman has given everything he has to the city of Gotham. After allowing Batman to take the fall for Harvey Dent’s murder, Bruce Wayne has retired as Batman. Obviously, since no one knows Bruce Wayne’s alter ego, he has never been charged with murder, and yet, he might as well be living in a prison. He lives totally alone, sequestered in the East Wing of his house, drawing ire and gossip, as well as allusions to Howard Hughes. He is wallowing in his own depression, in part due to a lie told to him by Alfred, at the end of The Dark Knight. Alfred knows that Rachael, who was killed by The Joker, was planning on marrying Harvey Dent instead of Bruce Wayne, because she felt that Bruce Wayne could never live without his Batman persona. Alfred, fearing that the truth would crush Bruce, chose to hide this from him.
At the same time, his partner in crime (Commissioner Gordon) fighting is also suffering this strained peace in Gotham City. Gordon is forced to perpetrate the lie that Batman killed the noble Harvey Dent, even though Harvey tried to kill Gordon’s son. Gordon has kept the peace but has sadly lost his family, with his wife taking their children to Cleveland. (Dear God, not Cleveland! Anywhere but Cleveland!) The mayor has also used the myth of Harvey Dent, the white knight, to pass the Harvey Dent law, which enables law enforcement to better prosecute crime. The peace also appears to be somewhat uneasy, with most people in the city disbelieving the myth of the white knight, Harvey Dent, and still hope that Batman will return to Gotham City.
It is into this world that Bane appears. Bane is probably an unfamiliar character to most casual Batman fans, though some people may remember him from the Batman film that dare not speak its name, where he was largely played for laughs. However, Bane in the comic books is a very scary figure, crippling Batman at one point. (I know this because I have a younger brother.) Bane appears first as a mercenary, a gun for hire. However, he eventually shakes off this role, and assumes a far more terrifying role in the movie.
I find, as I reflect more upon the character of Bane, that he is far more dimensional than he first appears. The audience does not fully know who he is until the end of the movie, and when I discovered the truth, I found myself looking back at him in the movie in a very different light. Less surprising, but still just as entertaining is Catwoman, although she is never named as such in the movie. Catwoman is a criminal who feels trapped in her life, much as Bruce is trapped in his life. She is the classic femme fatale, and Anne Hathaway does a fine job. I need to stop underestimating her, and thinking that she can’t do something.
The plot of The Dark Knight Rises is on par with Batman Begins, but somewhat less compelling than The Dark Knight. I found that the final movie of the trilogy actually draws far more on the first film than the second, and in a way, it’s strange. The Dark Knight now seems to be a bit out of steps with the other films. Much of this is due to the fact that The Joker is never even mentioned in The Dark Knight Rises. This is perhaps not surprising, since Christopher Nolan was no doubt handicapped by the unfortunate death of Heath Ledger. However, to not even mention the role and influence of The Joker in this movie seems strange, especially since the events of the first film feature so prominently. Christopher Nolan said that he considers his films triplets, not a trilogy, in other words, each film should be able to stand on its own. However, the fact that the third movie relies so heavily on the first movie undermines this premise. I’m not sure that a person who has never seen Batman Begins will fully understand what is going on in this movie. That is a problem.
What unites all three films is the tone and style of shooting, gritty, realistic, dark. My brother and I talked about how one of the great things about Christopher Nolan is he does not rely too heavily on CGI, he is willing to actually DO stunts, rather than simply create them in the computer. This further adds to the realistic tone of the movie. However, the realistic, dark tone pervades the whole film, as it does all of the other films. Stripped of all of the camp of the 60’s series and the latter Shumacher disasters, Batman is an uncomfortable world, as it should be. As Batman and many other characters point out, Batman is not a hero.
In fact, Batman is actually separated from Gotham City for an extended period of time in the film. I was actually happy to see this, because a large part of the series is the question of whether or not Gotham deserves saving. To me, the answer is, “Yes!” While Batman is away, unable to help the city, Commissioner Gordon and young Detective Blake work to restore order and justice to the city. We see a priest caring for orphan children in the city, trying to save their lives. Selena Kyle also proves capable of goodness at times. Perhaps most movingly of all, a cowardly police officer takes an opportunity to do the right thing, and inspired by Batman, he acts heroically! Is everyone in Gotham City good? No, and I would have found such a suggestion incredibly sappy and ridiculous. As it is, the scene with the heroic cop was a little bit cheesy, but my friend and I didn’t care one bit! Here’s how I see it: in the book of Genesis, God tells Abraham that, for the sake of ten righteous men, he would spare the city of Sodom and Gomorrah. There are far more than ten righteous men in the city of Gotham, and even the questionable ones can still be pleasant surprises.
None of this is to say that The Dark Knight Rises is the perfect film. The romance in this film, as in both of the previous films, are at best half baked, closer to uncooked. I find that annoying, and somewhat patronizing. It’s almost as if action directors are thinking “Oh no! Women won’t sit through this movie unless there’s kissing in it!” How absurd. I’d rather see a movie with no romance than with a crappy, stupid, paint by numbers romance. There’s also parts of the movie that seem incredibly implausible. However, I find those implausibilities easier to deal with, and advise everyone to follow the advice of MST3K: “repeat to yourself ‘It’s just a show, I should really just relax.'”
So, go and see the Dark Knight Rises. It’s a fitting ending to Christopher Nolan’s wonderful vision of Batman, dark, scary, gritty, realistic, but at the same time, positive and hopeful. I feel a little bit like a college instructor of mine, who said that Samuel Beckett’s plays, in her opinion, were very optimistic and happy. I think she was on drugs. But at the same time, I definitely think that Christopher Nolan’s Batman is incredibly positive, and hopeful, if you know where to look, and if you have the right perspective. 🙂