Sorry, you will have to give me a minute… while I try to recover from having my mind completely blown by Christopher Nolan’s latest masterpiece, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’…
The moment that the movie ended, I felt, for the first time in a long time, that I had received absolute value for money as a modern cinema goer. Not only did it reach my expectations (yes, ok, so they were low!), the thrilling conclusion to the latest Batman franchise really delivered on every element that only modern film technology, an exceptional cast/crew and quality storywriting can provide.
The very first thought that I had was that what I was watching was REAL. Severely based in reality. I realise what you are thinking, that severely is probably not the word to use here, right? Watching some of the scenes, especially when Bane starts his uprising, with the explosions, the football field, and the bridges start falling around the city, I could not help the memories of watching in horror at my television as people jumped out of the World Trade Centres, float to the surface.(I did not fail to notice the torn up American Flag at the end, signalling more patriotic/nationalistic ideals – why does Gotham have to be in America anyway?) Most of me is thinking, well done Mr Nolan, but there is a tiny part of me that wonders why such a horrific element is what people WANT to see in modern movies. Quite frankly, it’s a little scary, and more than a bit sickening.
It was not just the scenes that were REAL but also the storyline. I know that a lot of people are saying that the most recent Batman movies have been so ‘dark’, ‘gloomy’, and somewhat ‘negative’, and while this is true, I believe that it is a DIRECT reflection of the world that we currently live in. A social commentary if you will, a discourse on the nature of the beast. If you truly look deep inside yourself you will see some of every single one of those characters within yourself. We all have bad times and good, people who love us, who would die for us, we all make mistakes, some of us struggle and end up in a black pit that most people could never dream of escaping from. We all know that sometimes the line between what is right and what is wrong is blurred, and that sometimes, or a lot of the time, we wish that someone would save us from ourselves. This is the story that I took away from ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, and the reason I believe that it is so emotionally and mentally shocking, to the point where it will be the biggest movie of 2012.
Please note that this is not a complete re-cap of the film. This is what I saw, and how I felt.
OK SO, basics… Batman aka Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has locked himself away in Wayne Manor (for 8 years) after the shock of finding out that the woman he loved died before they could be together, and because Batman is public enemy number one, blamed for the murder of Harvey Dent. Enter Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) who steals his mum’s pearls, and his finger prints, for people associated to Bane (Thomas Hardy). Enter, ‘green energy’ businesswoman, Miranda Tait (Marion Cotillard) as Wayne’s love interest, and saviour of his company, when Bane hijacks the stock market and sends him broke. Don’t forget about the forever worried Alfred (Michael Caine), ever industrious Fox (Morgan Freeman), Police Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), and new face Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as rookie cop/Robin. Batman, of course, jumps in to save the day, gets the crap beat out of him by Bane, and thrown in a prison to rot. He goes on a journey of self-discovery, and of course get back to Gotham just in time. He finds out that it is Miranda Tait who is the real bad guy, having been raised in the prison, that Bane is really her helper, and that she is there for revenge for her fathers, Ra’s Al Ghul, death, caused by Bruce Wayne. She rigs a nuke to blow and Batman uses his new alien looking flying machine to take it out over the bay and destroy it. Having been told throughout the movie that there is no auto-pilot, it is assumed that the Batman is dead. In his will he leaves a batcave to Blake, signalling to viewers that he is to be Robin. The well-developed storyline, including the twists at the end, and the intense character build-up, was the best part of this movie. Obviously, it is lot more complicated than this but stay with me…
There were some really cool cameos by:
– LittleFinger/Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) from Game of Thrones, as the main CIA Agent who was interrogating Bane at the very start of the movie on the plane.
– One you may not have picked up on was Teal’c from Stargate SG-1 (Christopher Judge) as Mercenary Assassin #3. He was the guy who almost killed Blake as he was attempting to rescue his fellow officers via the manhole near the bridge (Batman’s second reappearance). Random Fact – He has also been seen in recent True Blood episodes!
– Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) from American Pie was the doctor examining Bruce’s leg
Before saying anything about Batman himself, the stand out character for me in this movie was Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s Butler. As usual, Alfred is the voice of reason. His Florence story: That while Bruce was away for 7 years the first time (Batman Begins), Alfred would go away to Florence for holidays and everyday he would sit in his favourite café. He didn’t want Bruce to come back to Gotham, he hoped that one day, the man sitting at a table across the room would be Bruce, and he would have a family and be happy. That is all he ever wanted for him, as he knew his parents would have wanted. Not the man he had become. I knew that it was coming at the end, and I was happy, not about the fact that Bruce was still alive, but by the fact that Alfred’s story had resolution. (Ok so I was a LITTLE bit relieved that he wasn’t dead!) Alfred standing over Bruce’s grave was too much for me after their conversation about him burning the letter and leaving. I can’t imagine the guilt he would have been feeling at that moment. Alfred saying that he was afraid that Bruce WANTED to fail was one of the biggest lines in that movie for me.
Did you notice the ‘jesus feet’ scene? I first saw it in the trailer, Bruce being dragged along, and put into the prison in the dessert. The religious symbology of this act was astounding. He had been beaten, dragged to his torture chamber, and left to hang in his back brace. Were they trying to say something? I doubt it, but that is what those images triggered for me. It was at this point in the story where there is a flash back to when he first fell down a well and Bruce’s father says the ‘why do we fall’ line. Quite powerful and inspirational.
The second biggest line for me was ‘there can be no despair without hope’, from Bane, explaining to Bruce in the prison that he would have to watch Gotham burn. The fact that he could build himself up from a broken back to a physical peak, then to realise that he had to accept his fear to overcome it, and get out of the ‘hole’ he was thrown into, were VERY powerful concepts. Heroes usually overcome their obstacles, but not in such a soul destroying/enlightened way. Ask anyone who has depression and they will tell you that it is like being in a big black hole that, no matter what you do, you can’t get out. Bruce Wayne did that, AS A MAN, not as Batman. Maybe it will instil hope in those who cannot escape their own mental prisons. It sure inspired me.
I WAS wondering how it was possible that he regained the strength from a broken back in time to escape and get back to Gotham, but then realised that it happened over 3 or 4 months as the bomb counted down. I thought it was odd that the first thing that Batman does when he gets back to Gotham is to go pour petrol on a building THEN go find people to light it (Gordon) THEN fight bad guys *rolls eyes. Priorities Batman…
Seeing Batman fly out over the bay with the bomb, I think my heart may have STOPPED. I was just like, NO FLIPPING WAY did that just happen. And I cried. Not ashamed to say it.
I, like so many people, had been following the evolution of Bane’s voice in pre-production over the past several months, but it was not only for that reason that I was intrigued by this new villain. From the moment I heard his voice on the plane, I WANTED to see him on the screen. However, throughout the movie I noticed that he sounded a lot like a mix between Patrick Stewart, Sean Connery, and Yoda, with the bass, pitch & accent fluctuating to the point where some of what he was saying was completely inaudible. This ruined entire scenes as I had NO idea what he was getting at (this included in the sewer and in the jail). His original backstory was as comprehensive as I felt it needed to be, that he grew up in the prison, and (was assumed until the end) that he was the only one to ever escape, that he was a terrorist for the sake of it, and that people would follow him into anything. The twist that Miranda came back for him when it was she who escaped, that he was her protector, gave him a more human, loving face. The scenes of her reattaching his respirator, after being defeated by Batman, were quite moving. Had Bane been lead down the wrong path all these years by a woman in search of vengance? Probably not, he was in the prison in the first place, right?
The story of how Bane got his respirator was a little confusing. Told by the old prison doctor in the two backstories, I got somewhat mixed up… there was plague in the prison, and his fellow inmates had attacked him, leaving him in constant pain. All I could figure was that it was keeping him alive, which was all I really needed to know before that final battle with Batman (which I felt looked a little like it was filmed at movie world for some reason – actions were stocky and slower then I expected). And for some reason (totally unrelated), it bothered me that all of the members of his mercenary army were dressed the same.
A little more about Miranda Tait… It was a few hours after I walked out of the theatre that I realised that when she and Bruce Wayne had their big love scene she was talking about how when she was a little girl, if they had a first they felt very rich indeed. Speaking, in retrospect, of the prison she grew up in… I think this is going to be one of those movies that is better the second time around!
At first I REALLY hated Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. Every time I see her all I can think of are those terrible ‘Princess Diaries’ movies and ‘The Devil Wears Prada’. First up, if you want to give yourself away, pretend to be a waitress and wear high high heels. WRONG. Ok so I am knit picking, what of it! Over the course of the movie I was thinking to myself, she is NOTHING like Halle Berry or Michelle Pfeiffer, or any other Catwoman I have ever seen. She didn’t move like a cat, her action sequences were sloppy, here general demeanour was lacking for a major character, she didn’t seem to have gadgets, she wasn’t ‘sexy’ and there was no real backstory. Had she just be slotted in to fill another lead female role in a movie inundated with men?
It was somewhere around the 2 hour mark that I realised that she was everything that Catwoman NEEDED to be in this movie. She wasn’t over the top like Halle, and she wasn’t supposed to be comical and borderline psychotic like Michelle. She was strong, independent woman, who knew quite clearly what was happening, what she was doing, and what she needed to do in order to survive.
Catwoman, or Selena Kale, fit perfectly into the all-encompassing mirror of reality that Nolan has created. She questioned herself and made bad decisions, she tried to steal and deal her way, then run away from her problems, but deep down she knew that she had to step up and do the right thing. Ultimately, I FELT so many different emotions toward her character, bringing me to the conclusion that Anne Hathaway was cast as Catwoman for this purpose. I hated her, felt sorry for her situation, laughed with her about her rookie thief of a roomie, and really felt her insecurities when it came to the decisions she was making in regards to Batman. I’m not going to go as far to say she is my new favourite Catwoman, but I firmly believe that her performance/character was a significant component, and the next logical step in superhero film making, based in reality.
Ever since ’10 Thing I Hate About You’ I have loved Joseph Gordon-Levitt (the fact that Heath Ledger was in that movie has not escaped me). Every scene he was in was epic, and he is a fantastic actor to watch. As a fan of ‘V for Vendetta’ I enjoyed the scene where Commissionor Gordan told Blake that he was a detective now, and that he was not allowed to believe in coincidence.
As I am not a huge Batfan, it was about half way through the movie that it dawned on me that Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) was being lined up to be Robin *cough SEQUEL cough*. It was when he had his moment, what he said really struck home with me, something like: ‘Not a lot of people know what it’s like to be angry in your bones. People understand for a while. But never really know. They realise that you can’t change who you really are. Eventually you learn to put on mask. You practice it in the mirror.’ That he saw those same aspects of himself in Bruce Wayne and KNEW he was Batman, and that he had always believed… Not a lot of people know what it is like to deal with a mental illness, but if it could be summed up in a few words, well, that was it.
Gadgets – I did like Catwoman’s ear goggles, practical I thought, but when I first saw the motorbikes wheels flip to turn a corner, I was thinking, WHY!!! Why not just turn the damn corner (yes I realise it was so that he didn’t have to slow down!) But I just didn’t think that it fit in with the realistic style of the rest of the movie. Later, when I saw not only the wheels moving strangely, flipping in odd directions (FLIP!), but the characters riding them going under the bike to turn, I was impressed. I was NOT impressed, however, with the alien spacecraft flying machine that was Fox’s latest invention, ‘The Bat’. The constant whinging about the auto pilot, I could see that it was going to be used for something big at the end, and it was. And it was. OH, and it was the base for a bad car joke. Catwoman: My mother told me not to get into cars with strange men. Batman: This isn’t a car. Ha…ha. :/ definitely not a comedian old Batman. It was also funny when Batman was on the roof, turns around and Catwoman is gone and he says ‘so that’s what that feels like’ – audience lolled.
- I don’t know how I felt about Bane trying to ‘give control of the bomb to the people’, it felt a little too much like what the Joker did.
- When the police officers were released at the end, how did they know that Batman was a good guy when he had been a bad guy for over 8 years? Did Blake give them the heads up?
- While I enjoyed the music, the American anthem was the only real song in the movie.
ANYWAY, rant over.
It had drama, action, horror, terrorism, big name hollywood stars, reality, hi-tech gadgets and vehicle chases, complex characters and storyline, romance, and a decent set up for a sequel. It had a real ‘I did NOT see that coming twist of an ending’, and several other tie ups that left me thinking, yep I knew that was coming, but I’m glad it did. It was an emotional rollercoaster that I will most definitely be riding again.
The Dark Knight Rises 4.75 out of 5 !!
RIP Victims of the Colorado Massacre