In The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan crafts a studio’s fantasy film, a fanboy’s wet dream and a movie fans summer indulgence.
Dark Knight is one of those films that has to be seen multiple times. Yes, that’s the case because it’s so purely enjoyable, but also because Nolan, who wrote the movie along with his brother, have assembled a trilogy’s perfect third film.
He packs it with subject matter with multiple themes working with subtlety all without sounding preachy and providing insight into this nation’s current state of affairs.
Terrorism. Class warfare. Fear. The topics reverberate and resonate throughout the movie with ease as Nolan never gives away his endgame, which, ultimately, is to make the audience think.
Many will consider Rises a piece of eye candy and they wouldn’t be wrong, but upon exit from the theater there’s little doubt that more than a few folks will return to mentally revisit what they’ve absorbed on the screen.
Reading my Facebook stream today an acquaintance referred to the comic book movie genre as something just too silly for him to indulge. Call it cultural elitism or snobbery, but Nolan disabuses that notions and shows what the material can be when given the right character and the right situations. For him, Batman (played once again by Christian Bale) appears to be that for him.
Not only does it provide a wealth of thematic material for him to mine for story, but it provides a complicated character in Bruce Wayne-Batman. And for the first time in this trilogy, Bale is allowed to spread his wings and show exactly who Wayne and his alter ego can be.
While the first was a setup story and the second a showcase for Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning turn, Bale carries The Dark Knight Rises easily, creating a memorable portrayal of a man who would be considered insane because of his overwhelming desire to dress in an armored bat-like suit and protect his hometown of Gotham City. Perhaps the assessment would not be that far off.
Nolan’s story takes us eight years beyond what happened with The Joker in The Dark Knight. Batman hasn’t donned the cape and cowl since and Wayne is a virtual recluse much to the chagrin of his butler Alfred (the superb Michael Caine). Alfred wants him to live his life as Wayne, but it isn’t until a maid at one of his charity functions, Selena Kyle (Anne Hathaway) lifts a valued piece of jewelry that his curiosity is piqued.
Add to the mix the arrival of a sadistic mercenary named Bane (Tom Hardy) and not only are Wayne’s eyebrows raised, but so are Batman’s. As he gets at the heart of what’s going on he quickly learns that Bane could likely be the deadliest challenge he faces.
It’s within that challenge that Nolan offers observations about how working class everyday folks are treated while others get rich off their toils without sharing in the benefits via livable wages and just everyday consideration.
But sometimes he can overwhelm the audience with all of this as ambition occasionally gets the best of the film. That will be of no matter to Batman fans, however.
For those looking for The Avengers, do so elsewhere. Nolan’s Batman has always been about dark reality, successfully exploring the psyche of a man whose responds to the murder of his parents by becoming a masked vigilante.
Nolan brought that study full circle as Rises possesses the most emotional depth of any of the three, especially when it comes to the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Alfred.
The film will have its detractors, especially given its length and Nolan’s juggling of such an intricate plot, but The Dark Knight Rises is a cut above anything we’ve seen done with comic book films on film.
Movie: The Dark Knight Rises
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christopher Nolan, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldham, Tom Hardy.
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rated: PG-13 (scenes of intense violence)
Running time: 165 minutes
George’s rating: 4-of-5 stars
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com