(US - 2012)
Personal note: my thoughts go out to the victims of the Aurora, CO tragedy and their families and friends.
Christopher Nolan continues to cement his place as the most visionary commercial filmmaker of his generation with THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, the conclusion of the trilogy that began with BATMAN BEGINS (2005) and THE DARK KNIGHT (2008). Both of those films functioned fine as stand-alone works, but the allusions and callbacks that RISES makes to its predecessors show fully-realized arcs and themes that only become apparent after seeing the third film. What Nolan ends up with is an epic trilogy of staggering scope and ambitious vision, and one that rivals STAR WARS in terms of cultural and cinematic significance. Is THE DARK KNIGHT RISES better than THE DARK KNIGHT? I don't know. It lacks a villain as colorful as Heath Ledger's Joker, but that's an impossible act to top, so RISES wisely doesn't even try. But THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is a more ambitious film, and a much deeper one, with more topical themes of politics and class warfare in addition to eternal ones like good and evil. It's also a film about redemption, and not just for the tarnished image of Batman throughout Gotham City. It enriches the earlier films (especially BATMAN BEGINS), while existing on its own as both profound and incredibly entertaining, though dark, bleak, and deadly serious, with not much in the way of even the incidental bits of humor in the first two films. Comparisons with THE AVENGERS are inevitable. THE AVENGERS doesn't have the level of drama that RISES has and that wasn't its purpose. But both films stand as sterling examples of how to do a smart summer crowd-pleaser without pandering to the lowest common denominator.
|Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne|
|Tom Hardy as Bane|
|Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle|
|Michael Caine as Alfred|
|Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox and Marian Cotillard as Miranda Tate|
Hardy makes a physically imposing villain, even if most of his face is obscured for about 98% of his screen time and his voice post-synched and obviously tweaked (his dialogue has clearly been re-recorded since the first trailer some months back, when it was impossible to understand anything he was saying--now he sounds like a strange hybrid of Robert Shaw and Dr. Evil). Bane and his followers want to take the city back from the fatcats, and as played in the film, they're very much the manifestation of how right-wing talk radio imagined the Occupy Wall Street movement. Those aren't the only political jabs the film takes--notice how Gotham's mayor (a returning Nestor Carbonell, who seems to have eased up on the guyliner just a bit) tells ambitious Deputy Commissioner Foley (Matthew Modine) that Gordon's on his way out. "The man's a hero," Foley says. The Mayor: "Yeah, but that was wartime. This is peacetime." No matter how effectively he does his job, Gordon is a reminder of past problems, and just like Bane's people underground, there's no place for him in the perfect-on-the-surface Gotham.
|Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake and Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon|
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES methodically builds towards its epic climax, with numerous twists and revelations, some expected, some not. I'm sure people can nitpick (yeah, I know...cops trapped underground for three months and none of them have beards), but Nolan has capped off this mammoth saga in grand fashion. Is it dark, bleak, and unpleasant? Yeah, but popular culture reflects its time and environment, and these are dark and unsure times. I'm sure these will age just fine over the years, but no other franchise has succeeded in mirroring its era as effectively as Nolan has done with this trilogy. Individually, they're great films. Collectively, the story is a masterpiece.
|Director/co-writer Christopher Nolan|