The Dark Knight Rises, and So Do I: A Movie Review
It has been a while since I’ve touched this blog. I’d say I was busy, but in truth I didn’t have much that I wanted to go to the trouble of saying. However, I just returned from my showing of TDKR, and I have a lot of things to say about it. From here on, there are SPOILERS, and I really think you should just go see the movie yourself before reading this. Also, I’m not going to say anything about the terrible real-life tragedy aside from offering my condolences. This blog is not serious enough to discuss a topic like that.
So, TDKR is the end of the Batman Trilogy, and maybe all of our expectations were a bit too high, but after The Dark Knight, how could you not be excited? And the thing is, TDKR is a great movie, and it certainly does do a good job of ending the series. It’s not as good as The Dark Knight, but that is an excessively high standard. TDKR manages to bring in a host of new characters, throw in Batman lore, and tell an entertaining story, while wrapping things up. I’m just going to try to break it down.
– Bruce Wayne is more of a character in this movie than Batman, and in fact, Batman is very rarely on-screen in this movie. It’s about Bruce Wayne rising back up to be Batman, after he went into retirement at the end of the last movie. Bruce has a good character arc, if a little predictable. He starts out weak and rusty, and Alfred warns him that he’s going to get killed. Bruce faces Bane too soon, and his back is broken (just like in the comics). Bruce then has to fix himself the right way, and trains back up to Batman’s level while also facing his inner demons, and possibly learning to value his own life a bit more in the process. It’s got a lot of bland platitudes and is not particularly original, but it works. Batman isn’t really that complicated anyway, as a character.
– Commissioner Gordon takes a very involved role in this movie, as he is filled with guilt over his lie about Harvey Dent being a hero, and over putting thousands of criminals in jail with the power of the Harvey Dent Act, which is hinted to be too powerful and possibly illegal. Gordon leads a resistance against Bane, and teaches detective John Blake his (somewhat cynical) views on police service. In the end, he once again has to keep a secret, but this time it’s about the true identity of Batman. He conveys a lot of conflicting emotion, and of course Gary Oldman is spot-on. He gets plenty of chances to be an effective character who isn’t Batman, which is something that’s usually absent from these films.
– Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman, though they never say the name) steals the spotlight in every scene she’s in by being an impressive femme fatale (with questionable motives) and by being played by the talented Anne Hathaway. I don’t have much to say about her arc, except that I felt the romance was both rushed and forced, and it was a disservice to her character.
– Bane didn’t get enough screen time, and suffers for it. He was a creepy and imposing villain, and his educated manner of speaking coupled with his brutish behavior and disfiguring mask made for a promising antagonist. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t get to do enough. His fight with Batman is entertaining, and of course he breaks Batman’s back (the only thing he’s really known for in the fandom), but in the end it turns out he was not even the main mastermind. That would be…
– Talia Al Ghul, who is revealed near the end in a plot twist that most Batman fans will see coming. She’s here to fulfill her father’s plan and destroy Gotham, and that’s it. She’s sadly one-note, although they did still manage to sneak in a bit of the Batman/Talia romance from the comics.
– Alfred is still Alfred, albeit a more worried and proactive Alfred. He tries his best to get Bruce to stop being Batman, and to let go of his memories of Rachel, and even tells him the truth about the note he burned in the last movie. I think it was good to have him be more involved with the plot, but this also causes him to be absent for the majority of the film. He gets a very good pay-off at the end though, and I was smiling, even if the scene felt very cheesy.
– John Blake is probably the most important newcomer in this film, and is arguably more of a main character then Bruce Wayne. He spends most of his time uncovering plots just in time for the bad things to happen anyway, but he moves the story along. He has his own character development, as he begins losing faith in the system and is pushed more towards Batman’s point of view. In the end, it is implied that he became a new Batman, or something, but what really chafed me was that his real name was apparently ROBIN. Seriously, I can’t get over this. They could have said his real name was Dick Grayson, or Jason Todd, or Tim Drake, or even Terry McGinnis for all I cared, but for him to actually be named Robin (I’m not sure there was ever a Robin actually NAMED Robin) was weird and unnecessary.
– The Joker is Sir-Not-Appearing-In-This-Film, as they pointedly avoid ever mentioning him, even as every other criminal in Gotham runs free. In contrast, the Scarecrow makes a couple appearances. Now, obviously this is done out of respect for Heath Ledger, but it was a weird hole in the narrative.
The plot is where this movie is weakest. The villains have an overly complicated plan to turn Gotham city into an anarchic state, and cut it off from the rest of the world. Eventually they will destroy it with a nuke. There’s a lot of imagery and ideas thrown around about overpowered police forces, rebellions and chaos, an uneven distribution of wealth and the lower classes’ hate for the rich, and a whole heap of terrorism.
They make sure to destroy a football stadium and American flags, and while the villains purportedly hate Gotham, you can substitute in “America” for it every time and it would make perfect sense. I’m not saying that this movie is making any claims either way about how America reacts or terrorism or not, but it was definitely a major theme in the movie, even though the word is not said a single solitary time. Even with all these elements, though, the movie doesn’t end up with any kind of real message or identity, which is a little disappointing.
What it all boils down to is a plot to destroy Gotham slowly in order to break its spirit. In the end, however, Gotham rebels against Bane, is saved by Batman, and rises back up, which is perfectly in line with this movie’s thematic motif. In fact, they made certain to apply this “rising back up” motif to to everyone they could, including Batman (and Bruce Wayne), Catwoman, Commissioner Gordon, side character Foley, Gotham City itself, the police force, the prison complex, and even to an orphanage that had fallen on hard times. It’s everywhere, but I appreciated the consistency, and who doesn’t love a well-made comeback story? Unfortunately, the consistent theme doesn’t make up for the lack of a clear objective, story-wise. It doesn’t feel like anything was really accomplished, overall. The narrative was just a bit too spread out.
The end of this movie wraps up everything. The League of Shadows is gone; both its remaining members dead. Batman sacrifices himself to save Gotham, giving it a hero to look up to once again. Gordon is able to work with a clear conscience. Bruce and Selina apparently live together and are happy, and Alfred knows this, which is all he wanted. Bruce’s estate is used for an orphanage, and John Blake becomes the new hero. Every character is resolved in a satisfying way, and the trilogy is over. This movie was a bit less entertaining than the last two, the villain didn’t get enough screen time, and some parts could have been trimmed down, but overall I found it to be very enjoyable.
I am glad that there are no more movies to come from this continuity, because I don’t think the stakes could have been raised any higher in a meaningful way. Batman pretty much just protects Gotham, and this time Gotham almost got nuked. That’s about as far as you can go, given the material. Anyways, it’s all over now, with a surprisingly happy ending (I really believed Batman was going to die there, in the end). It’s been a good 3 movies, and we have a new Superman movie to look forward to, hopefully it won’t be awful!
So now I’m back! It felt good to write this, and I hope you enjoyed my take on things. Thanks for reading.