The Dark Knight Rises: an intellectually satisfying finale

(WARNING: Spoilers ahead. It is highly recommended that you watch The Dark Knight Rises first before reading any further.)

Succeeding groundbreaking film The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises serves as the definitive end of critically-acclaimed director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. After the late Heath Ledger’s stunning performance as The Joker in the last film, coupled with a beautifully weaved plot, it is only natural that expectations for the trilogy’s finale are astronomically high. And from an individual’s perspective, I’d say The Dark Knight Rises met my personal expectations quite well.

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Similar to its preceding films, the Dark Knight Rises is not your typical superhero movie. In fact, this movie is as close to being human as cinematically possible. There were no flashy battles between the protagonist and the villain while the crowd ogles and cheers in the background. There were no generic catchphrases from the major characters and the formulaic plots that for so long pervaded the structure of superhero stories. Needless to say, this film, together with its predecessors, is aimed at a more mature audience rather than children holding their Batman action figures while masquerading as their favorite Caped Crusader (although I’m open to the possibility for the existence of kids fully appreciating the movie).

The Plot

Nolan certainly hasn’t lost his touch, as The Dark Knight Rises lived up to its expectations, plot-wise, by providing an intellectually stimulating story of perfect pacing, which will give you the leisure of figuring things out and marveling at how things fall into place in the end. The story was centered primarily on Batman’s psychological dilemma, as the ghosts of the League of Shadows have finally caught up with him in the form of Bane and Talia al Ghul, both of whom are keen on exacting revenge on the Dark Knight. The scheme involves the destruction of Gotham City the Batman has dedicated his life on protecting in accordance with Ra’s al Ghul’s objective (the primary antagonist at Batman Begins), and so as to break Batman’s spirit for good.

The progression of the antagonism towards Bruce Wayne’s being is smartly laid out. The sabotage of Wayne Enterprise’s investments in the stock market… Batman being forced to turn over his leadership to business partner Miranda Tate (who is actually Talia al Ghul in disguise), leaving Gotham City (in collaboration with Bane) in the mercy of avengers with a nuclear bomb… Batman’s ordeal in a secluded dungeon with little to no hope of escape so as to experience despair and later the will to live… and the non-cliché action armed with high-tech gizmos Batman is known for, the dark plot about a single man’s internal conflicts that put his identity on the edge and his personal journey to self-redemption (which, poetically, seemed to have cost him his life) fulfills the purpose of Nolan’s final Batman flick; to stimulate the mind to the fullest.

The ending was expertly executed as well. As if to provide a quasi-cliffhanger, it would seem that as Bruce Wayne finally fulfils his butler’s wishes by living a life of tranquility, the ever-present mission of protecting Gotham City will be perpetuated by none other than Batman’s iconic sidekick. Nothing could be more awesome.

And let us not forget the thought-provoking poetry of Bruce’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth, the hardened crime-fighting veteran James Gordon, the calm and collected Lucius Fox, as well as Selina Kyle (Catwoman) who spiced up the serious nature of the film as Bruce’s complex love interest, completing the aromatic blend of emotions and thoughts that could be derived from this film.

Deep and philosophical, The Dark Knight Rises compliments the personality of the Caped Crusader, which is all too complex, intriguing, and ultimately human. It also provides us with things to think about, mainly political, like inequality (Catwoman’s justification for larceny), justice (mob courts as a gauge of justice) and sacrifice (the reason for Batman’s vigilante-ism). Truly, this is something not every superhero flick can sufficiently deliver. For this, I send my thanks to Mr. Nolan for providing us with a satisfying conclusion to a memorable trilogy.

The Cast

The awesome plot is matched by an awesome cast. It might be a slight problem for Nolan fans to fully separate the involvement of most actors in the movie Inception (an equally good film) from that in The Dark Knight Rises, but it won’t offset their commendable acting.

To start off, Christian Bale did a good job in portraying Batman for the last time. People might remark that Bale didn’t really shine in the early parts of the movie, but that’s exactly what makes it good acting. Batman was supposed to lay low after his decision to take the blame for Harvey Dent’s sins. The fact that his acting emits an aura of lowliness and to-a-fault simplicity is consistent with how Bruce Wayne is supposed to be in the beginning of the film.

Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman were very good supporting actors in the film; not too flashy but still conspicuous. I also like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal of John Blake as a strong-willed and idealistic policeman which perfectly fits the description of a sidekick and soon-to-be-successor of Gotham’s vigilante tradition. Meanwhile, Marion Cotillard delivered a memorable Talia al Ghul by emitting a stern, cold personality, and of course, by betraying Batman’s trust.

I hardly recognized Tom Hardy playing as Bane (can’t put my finger into it, but it might be because of the mask and the bald head), but I think he acted his part well. An intellectual-sounding Bane with a talent for rhetoric might sound a little peculiar, given his bulky physique, but Bane was nevertheless a fine villain for the plot of the last film in the Batman trilogy. It could be argued that the Joker is the more memorable villain, but it can also be said that the antagonistic elements in The Dark Knight Rises is evenly distributed between Bane, Talia, and the overall atmosphere of the movie, while the Joker nearly personified the entirety of Batman’s woes in the last film, with Two-Face becoming more of a tragic villain/anti-hero.

Finally, we have Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. She clearly deviates from the wild, feline anti-hero actresses Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry gave off (which in turn can be a source of criticism from observers) but I actually like her style. To me, Hathaway provided a new style of portraying Catwoman; the classy and elegant style. It can be argued that Hathaway hardly resembled a cat, for which Catwoman was named after, but the catlike cleverness is still there, and it’s good enough for me. Besides, having a new approach for Catwoman’s portrayal to me is a sniff of fresh air. Hathaway’s costume might not be revealing, but then, one doesn’t have to wear sexily to be sexy.

Dissent from the Left

All in all, as can be easily deduced in this article, I treat this film in high regard in every aspect. Then again, distaste for the film has sprouted. Some received negatively the overly serious nature of the film and its alleged lack of emotional impact, but what caught my attention is not aesthetic criticism, but the political criticism of the film.

I was kind of expecting this to happen, specifically from the Left, after seeing the early part of the film’s climax; Bane taking over Gotham to destroy it under the pretext of liberating the people and giving them power, which the Left strongly espouses. The way their ideals were portrayed in the film just doesn’t still well with their egos. A wealthy businessman saving a whole city from destruction, and indirectly from the rule of mob apparently isn’t exactly what leftists accept as good. This led to some Marxist writers to condemn The Dark Knight Rises, as it is allegedly anti-populist and pro-one-percent.

The only problem of course is that The Dark Knight Rises is what could be described as an anti-revolutionary, anti-populist, conservative film.

(Source: Link)

The Dark Knight Rises is a film extolling the virtues of the 1% that tries to explain why working people can’t run society and why a fascist police state is actually a good idea.

The Dark Knight Rises is Hollywood’s rebuke of the Occupy Wall Street Movement and the growing discontent with the market system increasingly felt by working Americans. In Nolan’s universe, there’s no difference between protest and terrorism. Ironically, in a world of Obama’s ‘kill list’ and the National Defense Authorization Act, this may be the most realistic aspect of his film.

(Source: Link)

Personally, I find these sentiments amusing. In the same way that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull demonizes Russians, to conclude that The Dark Knight Rises is a campaign to downplay citizen activism would be quite ridiculous. It just so happened that the plot is best built with a false revolution; it’s convenient in the perspective of the villain, since no one in the populace would suspect that they’re only pawns in the bigger picture, while keeping the police at bay.

The backlash this film received from leftists for allegedly perverting their advocacy, together with the resurgence of the tiresome 1% versus the 99% rhetoric (what has become of the Occupy movement, anyway?) reminds me of Christian fundamentalists lashing out at people for allegedly using their faith in vain works and stuff.

Besides, if anything, the villain’s scheme is actually a fitting critique of revolutionary mob rule. Whether the critique is intentional or not on Nolan’s behalf is beyond me, but the critique stands nonetheless. Kangaroo courts and social anarchy are but typical and expected results of mob rule. A group of people seizing power, replacing the rule of law; how will they establish a judicial system to maintain justice? It’s either they don’t, or they hold pseudo-courts where the gauge of justice is nothing more than the bias of those who seized power.

The mock court that sentenced Gordon to “death by exile” is an accurate representation of mob justice. Leftists are keen on differentiating mob rule from dictatorship of the proletariat (working class), a key tenet of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, but what is really the difference? A mob rule is dictatorship of the citizenry, or the mob, most of which is composed of the working class. A proletariat dictatorship is simply what it is; a dictatorship, where the law is whatever the ruling class (in this case, the working class) says, which will inevitably lead to infringement of rights. What brings proletariat dictatorship to a higher moral ground if it’s simply a dictatorship, subject to a timeless tenet “absolute power corrupts absolutely”?

Regardless of intention, mob rule descends into anarchy, as the norm of justice and order is the bias of those in power, and not a form of Constitution that applies to all regardless of state in life. Benevolent dictatorship is an oxymoron. If anything, The Dark Knight Rises depicted socialism or communism as seen by leftists quite well. It just so happened that the “leader” is explicitly antagonistic.

Then again, if we think about it, the fact that a single movie has stimulated such intellectual controversies only serves as proof of TDKR’s thought-provoking nature. Christopher Nolan was able to turn the story of a timeless comic icon into a pleasant mental exercise for today’s thinking population. If you’re looking for more brain food the likes of Inception can provide, The Dark Knight Rises is the perfect movie to check out.

Frankly, we need more of this in the Philippines!






13 Replies to “The Dark Knight Rises: an intellectually satisfying finale”

    1. Another problem is that many leftists fail to consider the alternative explanation to Batman’s authoritarian tendencies; that this is but a manifestation of his inner conflicts in his desire to protect Gotham City.

      Leftists are quick to condemn Batman as a supporter of the elite minority (the 1% according to many activists, although the statistics are well likely skewed and sensationalized), when in fact it is very well probable that Batman’s psyche is nothing but a plot element to make him seem more human, which makes Batman comics very good reads.

      Some of them just can’t separate literature and art from propaganda (which they’re really good at).

      1. Leftists never read comics. Do they? 😛 Just asking.

        The important aspect of Batman is that he’s a vigilante, dedicated himself to fight crime using his own resources. Yes, he’s human, but he can be considered as a superhuman if you ask me.

        Superheroes are measured by their human attributes, not their powers and abilities.

        1. Indeed. And as a human being, Batman is subject to his personal demons, which is why he messes up at times. The fact that comic writers took the time to give Batman this level of complexity is truly impressive.

          And the fact that leftists overlook this simple fact is truly troubling.

  1. i remember when my gf was glorifying avengers, and i’m like yeah sure its a pretty “fun” movie. Family oriented sabi nga nila. then nagtanong sa akin why Nolan’s version and trilogy of batman is one my favorites. and i simply said watch it.

    and yeah surprised siya sa mature-content and politically driven plot line nya. Anyways hats off to Nolan, maybe this trilogy comes second to his best movie in my opinion (The Memento, hey guys watch that one if you are a fan of Nolan). But making a superhero story into this “thing”..? yeah, right. nice one.

  2. I can’t say for words but TDKR is a great film on its own. I’ve watched it in theater and it was a thrilling experience from beginning to end. But as a comic book fan myself, I prefer ‘The Avengers’ more because it’s like an actual comic book being put on film and the public loved what that film delivers: how the fantastic world of comics can be so wonderful. In other words, if Nolan’s Batman films are the best Batman interpretation to date, then ‘The Avengers’ is the purest COMIC BOOK FILM to date But that will be another topic. 😛

    Arche, I agree on the political themes Nolan represent here. Bane is awesome in its own right, especially on how he blackmailed the people and how he freed the criminals in his speech. TDKR focuses on the War on Terror while this film focuses on the Occupy movement. But I can’t blame Nolan for his flaws and inconsistencies because he was more grounded on the ‘realism’ aspect and his focus is more on themes. What it cringes me is most people mouthed that every superhero movie should be like Nolan’s Batman films. But I tend to disagree. Why? Because Batman is a comic book character. Nolan had an interest in Bats because he’s human and that’s it.

    Still, I love this movie since it brings a satisfying conclusion to his trilogy. But one thing is for sure: DC’s Batman is much better than Nolan’s take. And that comes from the mind of a comic book fan.

    And please Nolan, even you’re a producer, don’t make Supes into a dark, brooding character. It ruins his character. A LOT.

    1. Well, I don’t think TDKR and the Avengers can be accurately compared. It’d be like comparing apples and oranges. They are both good in their own ways. Nolan attempted to make his film closer to reality, while the Avengers aimed to give cinematic life to a timeless Marvel classic. They succeeded in their respective objectives. They’re both awesome flicks.

      Nolan does have its flaws, as all human beings. Now that I think about it, it felt like Nolan wasn’t able to fully incorporate Catwoman’s own dilemma in the course of the story. The “Clean Slate” was more of an plot appendage than a crucial element, rendering her quite detached from the audience as far as “sympathy” is concerned. This is only my opinion, of course.

      Well, it doesn’t really matter, anyway, all thanks to Anne Hathaway (hey, it rhymed!). 🙂

      I’m inclined to agree with you in saying that not all superheroes should be Nolan-ish in nature. Even though I like his style, I still encourage diversity in films.

      As far as I know, Nolan will only produce Man of Steel.

      1. I’ve seen the teaser for Man of Steel and it really holds high promise. But Nolan and Goyer wrote the story while Zack Snyder will serve as director. But when fans who attended the SDCC and they saw the teaser, many of them were blown away. A viewer commented that “It feels like this wasn’t directed by Snyder.”

        Still, I’ll keep my fingers crossed on this. Still hoping that they would never go to the darker route because Superman is not actually someone like Batman. Just to remind to everyone that the New 52 Supes is more like an angsty emo douche (SuperANGSTman :P) Superman is more like a shining beacon of hope.

        Still, my expectations for Man of Steel is up. 😀

  3. You know Arche,
    I never understood why certain groups go to so much trouble into injecting all sorts of allusions and hidden meanings. I mean, why can’t they just sit back, relax, and enjoy it for what it is, something that is meant to simply entertain, and perhaps stir a few brain cells in the process?

    I remember that the film 300 was interpreted as a demonization against Iranians, who are also known as Persians by the way. Frankly, though, it has come to my mind that certain activist groups here may use TDKR in some way, shape or form to give credence to their “advocacies”.

    But yeah, TDKR is an entertaining film, and not as much a headscratcher as its predecessor 😛

    1. Paranoia… or simply KSP. Or it could be both? 😛

      If everyone’s going to be touchy about how an idea is being depicted, then we might as well have no entertainment industry at all. People should just take everything with a grain of salt and an open mind.

  4. Kingsley would go on to play the Mandarin in “Iron Man 3”
    this summer. It used to be the two difficult and high-priced to develop
    a assortment like this. While not a direct sequel, Marvel did publish a five issue “Contest of Champions II” in 1999 which was written by
    Chris Claremont which also involved a similar theme of heroes battling heroes.

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