Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight,” proved that a superhero movie could be a critical acclaim and commercial success. I noted in my review that it’s a spine-tingling spectacle. Aside from “The Avengers,” “The Dark Knight Rises” is the most anticipated movie event of the year. A lot is riding on the final installment of the franchise.

The story picks up eight years after the murder of Harvey Dent, the late District Attorney (aka Two-Face) of Gotham City. Police Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) still could not bring himself to tell the truth about what happened all those years ago, except stating that Harvey’s death wasn’t for a naught. Organized crimes were obliterated under the Dent Act.

Having taken the fall for Harvey’s death and unable to prevent the death of the woman he loved, Rachel Dawes, at the hand of the Joker, Batman hasn’t been seen in Gotham since then. An older and crippled Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), is now a recluse. He has isolated himself in the Wayne manor, and is only accompanied by his loyal butler and confidante, Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine). Not only has he retreated from being the caped crusader, he has also abandoned Wayne Enterprise.

Bruce seems to be destined living in this state, even as Alfred emotionally pleads with him to move on. That is, until a visionary criminal, Bane (Tom Hardy, “Inception“), first seen in a jaw-dropping mid-air escape, emerges and terrorizes the city. A resourceful rookie police, John Blake (Joseph Gordon Levitt, “Looper“), with an unexpected connection to Bruce, challenges him to return. At the same time, a masked jewel thief, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway, “One Day“), slinks her way all over town in a black leather outfit with night vision goggles and spike heels as Catwoman. She tightly walks the rope between right and wrong. On the corporate side, Bruce faces Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard, “Midnight in Paris“), a board member of Wayne Enterprise, who also serves as his love interest.

The gritty Gotham is not stylized here. Gotham looks like a real, 21st century city. The film explores current economic and social themes, mirroring Occupy Wall Street, and its potential implications in these anxious times. Bane’s strategy is basically to divide and conquer, and it works. It plunges the society into mass chaos.

Bane holds the city hostage by staging a set of explosions and turning a fusion reactor, intended as a source for clean energy, into a nuclear bomb. He commands his underground army of mercenaries, frees up inmates, traps police officers underground, supports putting the rich on trials without due process and sends them into exile or to their death.

With the city he loves under siege, Bruce could have abandoned it, considering how they have turned their back on Batman. Yet he rises above and gives everything he has. Bale’s agonizing scenes in the secretive prison deep beneath the earth are incredibly powerful. An encounter with an aging prisoner makes Bruce realize how to best utilize his anger and fear to climb out and break free. And once out, he fires up and inspires people to fight for a chance of survival.

On the gizmos side, Batwing (or simply known as the “Bat”), a jet plane, makes its appearance here and it’s way cool. Even the Batcycle is more than a cool-looking motorcycle. The wheels have an effective 360 degree turn when the vehicle turns corners.

Seeing Bale, Caine and Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox) together again for the last time was bittersweet. Bale is a gifted actor capable of diverse roles, but he will always be remembered best as Batman. Caine’s exchange with Bale about not wanting to bury another member of the Wayne family is very heartfelt. Levitt, initially thought of playing as a minor role, is a solid character and ends up being a significant one in the story. Hathaway is sleek, playful and dangerous. Her Catwoman is as realistic as it could be. Freeman is like an old friend, providing a steady, supporting hand. Hardy, while not as memorable as Heath Ledger’s Joker, is physically imposing and poses a credible threat. Cotillard is just fine as a wildcard. Along with Bane, her character’s surprising backstory provides a welcome twist and emotional punch.

Minor quibbles about the film include plot holes and occasionally choppy scenes, jumping in time and place. You’ll also have to remember about the League of Shadows from the first installment, or be familiar with the comics because it’s not explained as clearly in the film. The league’s main purpose is to “restore environmental balance” by wiping out some of the population, which includes corruption. In this case, the Dent Act, based on a lie, has incarcerated inmates without the possibility of parole. The wealthy continues living large and leaves little for the rest.

It’s hard to imagine how TDKR (or the inevitable reboot for that matter) would top TDK; it didn’t. With the depth of the story, complexity and dynamics of the characters, TDK is stunningly brilliant. The intimate focus of the twisted relationships and the Joker’s haunting performance carry a disturbing feel that stays with you long after. However, TDKR holds its own. The best way to describe it is that it’s different. At 2 hours and 45 minutes, it’s still gripping. But because it’s created in a much grander scale and it covers a larger ground, it doesn’t have the same level of intensity as TDK.

Director Christopher Nolan has created a perfect trilogy. “Batman Begins” drills deep into the core of Bruce Wayne’s character, background, and development. “The Dark Knight” focuses on the relationships and impact on Batman. “The Dark Knight Rises” ties up loose ends and brings closure to Bruce, Batman, the city and the people he cares about. Bruce Wayne has always been a troubled soul and darker superhero, so it’s good to see him in a good place in the end.

“The Dark Knight Rises” provides a satisfying ending to the superhero saga. The legend may end, but it leaves a lasting legacy.

Copyright (c) 2012. Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a business manager, foreign language translator, travel/lifestyle writer and film columnist. She can be reached at indotransserv@gmail.com. Nathalia owns a movies blog, The MovieMaven (http://sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: http://twitter.com/the_moviemaven

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