You can debate the meaning of The Dark Knight rises until your gums bleed. You can philosophize deeply about the subculture surrounding Batman in Christopher Nolan’s films if you so choose. You may even question the politics of The Dark Knight series and find Nolan’s vision an Ann Rayndian dream or a Freudian nightmare depending on your affiliation, but critics be damned, pundits be damned, this humble columnist be damned you can not simply sit out and not be drawn in by the massive tidal wave that is the Dark Knight Trilogy. Christopher Nolan has in essence created the greatest cinematic achievement since Star Wars first hit theaters in 1977.
All of this is not to say you must love The Dark Knight Rises (although count me in that category) or the trilogy as a whole. You are more than entitled to dislike Nolan’s vision of Batman, his politics (Politics he is increasingly coy about if you read the Rolling Stone interview), or the sheer length and scope of his Batman trilogy, but unlike any other film or film franchise in recent memory this epic is too big to just be ignored.
I don’t wish to do a full review of The Dark Knight Rises in this column because I want to make some broader points but I must explain the new film before going forward. The Dark Knight Rises is the third and final film in Nolan’s Batman trilogy. It concludes the story of Batman as well as any story can conclude such a major character. The new film takes place eight years after the last film and it has been eight peaceful years for the people of Gotham, many of whom are happy to see Batman out of the picture. But a few people, including a cat burglar named Salina Kyle, and a young detective named Blake are more than anxious to see Batman return and sense that something truly evil is coming.
That something is Bane, a no-name baddy that wears a strange mask to cover his face and talks with a hyper-realized, almost theatrical baritone. He is articulate, direct, and completely uncompromising, and for those that think Tom Hardy’s performance doesn’t measure up to the late Heath Ledger’s in The Dark Knight, think again. Bane, as played by Hardy, is as evil and menacing a creation ever put on screen. There is no doubting from his first scene to his last that Bane means the complete destruction of Gotham City. Whereas the Joker was a sociopath capable of evil on a large scale he was still an isolated, and crazed individual. Bane is more Osama Bin Laden; well prepared, and well funded.
Bane’s plan to destroy Gotham is two-fold: Destroy the infrastructure and then destroy the city. Bane achieves his goals through a series of lies and manipulations that culminate in the destruction of the stock market, the justice system, and the major buildings and access routes in-and-out of Gotham.
The one man who can stand in his way is Batman, who after years of silence reluctantly puts on his cape and cowl again (He is also given a new toy called “the bat” that is simply awesome) but only to discover that an older, more vulnerable Bruce Wayne is no match for the physical superiority of Bane. Bane kicks the shit out of Batman, and leaves him to die in a hole, a hole that plays metaphorically into the films title.
I will not give away the ending but lets’ just say when the Dark Knight does rise it is one of the most riveting final thirty minutes to a film you will ever see.
Nolan has crafted an extraordinary vision here. In this film he tackles such significant modern day problems like the rising populist movement in young america, a need for clean energy, the manipulation of markets by the rich and powerful, and the need to live life with a certain degree of fear and respect for all that you are and should be.
But most importantly Chris Nolan doesn’t tell you what to think. Their are many questions open to debate and great arguments to be made about what this film means, and what this trilogy means, but by leaving so much of it open-ended Nolan has impacted his franchise with profound and thought provoking ideas. Audiences can enjoy these films for their eye-popping effects but still have time to discuss them over coffee.
It is not that I think The Dark Knight Rises is the best movie in 30 years or that any film in this series is. But I am hard-pressed to think of any movie that has had or will have a bigger cultural impact since the holy trilogy known as Star Wars. The Dark Knight Rises may or may not be the greatest superhero movie ever made, but taken as a whole this trilogy is the greatest collection of superhero movies ever made and among the most enjoyable movie franchises ever put on the map.
What Christopher Nolan has accomplished is magnificent. His trilogy is above the fray, above common critique because like this film’s main character this series is simply, well, legendary,