Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises - ***

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Cain, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotilliard, Matthew Modine

Review: The question of Batman has been part of what has made the character so intriguing for generations.  Does Batman have a singular purpose to serve for the city, or is he part of the city?  Does his need go beyond the role that he filled in the events that transpired in ‘The Dark Knight?’  These questions and more are pondered in Christopher Nolan’s final third of his masterful Batman trilogy.

For one reason or another I think that Batman catches the attention of the public more than most (if not all) other heroes and superheroes.  First and foremost, the obvious reason is that he’s just like the rest of us.  He doesn’t have super strength or super speed, he can’t teleport or see through walls, he simply has the will to right the wrongs.  

What Nolan has done is accentuated that fact.  The overall arc of his trilogy hinges on a world without superheroes and whether or not we would need one.  In many ways Batman is the only one capable and best man for the job of protecting Gotham against the likes of villains like Ra’s Al Ghoul, The Joker, and Bane.  Yet, he could also be seen as the very reason for those villains existence.  Such a fact was made explicitly clear in ‘The Dark Knight’ with the Joker’s taunt of Batman “Kill you? What would I do without you?”

The Joker could have been talking for all adversaries at that moment.  They were there to make Batman’s life miserable, to constantly question himself, to repeatedly question his code, and ultimately wonder about his place as Gotham’s protector.  His tragedy is that with each civilian he saves he seemingly loses someone close to him, whether it’s figuratively or literally.

Batman and Spider-Man seem to be the only heroes who find themselves trying to make situations better but only making them worse.  Very few others actually question their existence or self worth.  

Nolan knows full well that this is one of the most intriguing aspects of Batman and Bruce Wayne.  He also knows that the duality of the character is part of what makes him special as well.  Over his three movies Bruce Wayne had to learn how to be Batman until a shift happened and all of the sudden Batman had to learn how to be Bruce Wayne.

The more he had to pretend to be Bruce Wayne, the more he became Batman.  Bruce Wayne could go on living and have a normal life, but Batman only has one end and that is what Nolan’s entire trilogy has been moving towards.

Nolan has shown himself to be fascinated with men who are preoccupied with ideas and obsessions.  Going back through all his movies his protagonists have been people who define themselves by what they do and how well they do it.  

Leonard Shelby in ‘Memento’ couldn’t let go of the nagging memory of his wife’s death.  He tattooed himself with the recollection so he would make sure he could find her killer and bring him to justice.  Will Dormer from ‘Insomnia,’ in what may go down as Al Pacino’s last non-scenery chewing role, was a man obsessed with getting criminals off the streets.  

Robert Angier and Alfred Borden in ‘The Prestige’ were both obsessed with their own issues.  Angier wanted to discover Borden’s secret and pay him back for killing his wife, whereas Borden wanted to have the greatest trick in the entire world.  Cobb in ‘Inception’ only existed for one purpose, to get back to his children and be a father again.  

Certainly all characters in all movies need to have motives, but full on obsession has been the key component to these heroes in all of Nolan’s films.  Obsessions that mask their flaws and make them more apparent at the same time.  Bruce Wayne spends all of his money on being Batman and when his alter-ego is exiled he goes into hiding himself.  Couldn’t Bruce Wayne do more good for the city with his company and wealth?  Wasn’t that his father’s goal?

Wayne’s preoccupation with vengeance and justice has only given him a mask to hide himself from his true responsibilities of helping this city that he is so attached to.  In this final installment Bane speaks of returning Gotham to the people.  Even with the casting out of Batman as a villain and taking the fall for Harvey Dent, the city is still held captive by their need for a hero.  Even eight years later they still celebrate “Harvey Dent day.”

A constant theme running through this final installment is that Gotham is full of heroes that walk the streets every day and don’t need a mask.  In ‘The Dark Knight’ Bruce Wayne said that’s what he wanted Batman to help accomplish, but what Batman did was counterproductive.  

In the case of this movie, Bane is the perfect villain to bring to the forefront.  In terms of Batman villainy, Bane is a relatively new character only being created in the 90’s. Nonetheless, over the years Bane has shown himself to be one of Batman’s most formidable villains, not only because of his strength but his intellect as well.  Nolan uses him well in this film, if not perhaps a little verbosely at times.  

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise in the film is Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman.  A choice I deemed as odd when it was made, reminds me why I should always give Nolan the benefit of the doubt.  She brings just enough sexy to the role to give it life, but still maintains a reality of character that is paramount for the storyline to work.

There are holes in this movie and flaws.  Even at two hours and 45 minutes it can still seem to move to briskly at times.  Having the utmost respect for Nolan I simply did not expect as many plot holes and general lack of focus as was apparent.  This didn’t run rampant through the film, but was apparent.  

Nothing is strong enough to make me not enjoy the movie, but enough to make you know it’s there.  All said, it’s a fitting end to a genre-redefining trilogy.  

This movie is worth your time.
I just think this is a cool poster

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