“I am necessary evil.”
Swift shot: I am now officially taking the tea and worshiping at the Nolan altar. I was impressed by The Dark Knight in 2008, but I wasn’t as enthralled as most of my friends. I like Nolan’s work, or rather, I liked Nolan’s work before seeing The Dark Knight Rises . . . now I am a true believer and can honestly say I loved this latest work. Nolan didn’t just get lucky a few times, he is the real deal, he continues to raise the bar on his own work. I don’t know how he is going to rise above The Dark Knight Rises.
The film starts in the middle of nowhere, as a group of mercs has just delivered a controversial Russian scientist to the CIA . . . but the mercs have a bonus for The Agency . . . a couple of gift-wrapped terrorists from Bane’s organization. Thing is, the CIA wasn’t planning on guests, so they concede to let one passenger remain on the plane. The rest of the sequence will be an instant “classic cinema” moment. That opening sequence alone made me think, wow, now this movie officially can’t suck. The coordination needed to make that sequence appear like it was all one steady stream of action must have been almost deific in nature. Who better to pull it off than the auteur-demigod, Nolan? According to my production notes, it actually took the team only two days to shoot that whole sequence. When you see it, you will be impressed. Extremely.
It has been eight years since Gotham was put under a strict law, a kind of three-strikes and you are out law, called the Dent Act – so named after the city’s hero, Harvey Dent. They even have Harvey Dent Day. [If you didn't see The Dark Knight, no worries, Nolan and his team pepper in bits here and there, but really, how many people are walking into Rises without having seen the prior films?] As Batman took the fall for Dent’s demise, and lost the love of his life, Rachel to the Joker and Two-Face, he has gone into seclusion, in exile, both as Batman and as his caricature of Bruce Wayne.
In Rises, for the first time I really never distinguished Wayne from Batman, in each scene I finally felt legitimate angst for Wayne/Batman as one person. I have been a fan of Christian Bale since Empire of the Sun, where I was actually moved to tears by his performance. If you are not familiar with that film, watch it and be astounded. Bale brought more passion to this performance than The Dark Knight, where I really wasn’t as inspired. In Rises, it was no longer just a film, or a paycheck, it was personal, and you could feel it in each scene!
Bruce is lured out of his eight year repast by the seductively cunning Selina Kyle, who is Catwoman, but Nolan brilliantly never has her called that, nor does he give her costumed ears. His ability to marry the real world with the DC world is noteworthy with just that little nuanced detail. Anne Hathaway is not my favorite actress, and when she was first cast as Catwoman I was not thrilled nor bummed, I was indifferent in entirety. Hathaway was remarkable though, as you got to see her physical side in a way I didn’t know she possessed. Let’s face it, she has primarily done chick flick work, but she has finally gotten my attention.
A newcomer onto the trilogy, Joseph-Gordon Levitt (the guy just won’t go away) plays the “hot-headed” police officer John Blake, who provides the noble spirit requisite of these larger-than-life films. He is taken under the tutelage of Commissioner Gordon, again played by the talented Gary Oldman. Again he delivers a command performance.
Michael Caine, as Alfred, brings a heart to the script, where you most identify, as the audience, with how you might actually feel in this world. You would be strong, loyal, but also very protective of your . . . son, essentially. When Alfred has his moments in the film, in classic Caine fashion, he just owns the scene. Morgan Freeman turns in a solid Lucius Fox, and some other cameos appear that I won’t spoil. Marion Cotillard plays Miranda Tate, a board member of the Wayne Foundation who acts as the balance to the sinister Dagget (Ben Mendelsohn) who is driven to bring Bruce to financial ruin. He thinks he is in charge. He is wrong. Bane is in charge.
Tom Hardy is Bane.
It soon becomes apparent that Selina is tied into Bane somehow and Batman rises from the depths to once again save his beloved Gothamites. But, he is outmatched. He is older, out of shape, not as sharp, and while he has all these neat gadgets, will they be enough to defeat Bane and his mercs? This time, as in Batman Begins, the whole city is in peril, as a wonderful gift for mankind becomes an instrument of ultimate destruction.
What makes this film so incredible was the execution, no one was sloppy . . . perhaps Nolan directed them to meet with Bane off the set if they couldn’t handle their shit, I don’t know what he did this time around, but I never felt like I was watching actors. I always felt immersed in the Gotham world. The film has plenty of twists, and a few times I was jotting down inconsistencies in my notes . . . only to have them torn apart at the end. So, pay attention. Remember what Gordon tells Blake, “You are a detective now, you can’t afford to believe in coincidences.”
I think this is another film where the Socialists and the Capitalists will clash, because the Nolans bring to point both facets in the film, both extremes. In the opening act of the film, you will be disgusted by the elite, in the final act, you will be terrified by the lack of order. Ultimately I think the Nolans’ message here is, both extremes need to go. Argue with me if you like, but I think I nailed this one.
So, I wanted to say this film was absolutely perfect, but there were a couple things I didn’t like, personally, I had a hard time hearing some of the lines over the Hans Zimmer scoring and especially Bane’s lines were painful to decipher, but maybe I was alone in that regard. The voice though had an eerie calm quality to it, attached to such a lethal force. Effective.
One other thing I wasn’t thrilled with was how the pivotal shroud over the whole city, and Commissioner Gordon’s soul was the Dent Act, it felt a bit derivative to me, but it did tie everything together. Also, when Batman rises again . . . in the final act, I had to suspend disbelief quite a bit. Everything else though was impeccable.
I am a bit biased to Marvel, so I still consider The Avengers the best film I have ever written about, but I would be a damned idiot to not realize that Rises more than holds muster with those crazy Avengers. God, in a beautiful geek-utopia, could you imagine a Batman-Avengers team-up? I think I would actually spontaneously combust with Nolan and Whedon helming! Two thousand twelve will go down as the year of the Super Hero. Will you remember it as the year you missed seeing The Dark Knight Rises in theaters?