(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 Nolanâ€™s Batman trilogy. After the late Heath Ledgerâ€™s stunning performance as The Joker in the last film, coupled with a beautifully weaved plot, it is only natural that expectations for the trilogyâ€™s finale are astronomically high. And from an individualâ€™s perspective, Iâ€™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 Iâ€™m open to the possibility for the existence of kids fully appreciating the movie).
Nolan certainly hasnâ€™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 Batmanâ€™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 Raâ€™s al Ghulâ€™s objective (the primary antagonist at Batman Begins), and so as to break Batmanâ€™s spirit for good.
The progression of the antagonism towards Bruce Wayneâ€™s being is smartly laid out. The sabotage of Wayne Enterpriseâ€™s investments in the stock marketâ€¦ 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 bombâ€¦ Batmanâ€™s ordeal in a secluded dungeon with little to no hope of escape so as to experience despair and later the will to liveâ€¦ and the non-clichÃ© action armed with high-tech gizmos Batman is known for, the dark plot about a single manâ€™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 Nolanâ€™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 butlerâ€™s wishes by living a life of tranquility, the ever-present mission of protecting Gotham City will be perpetuated by none other than Batmanâ€™s iconic sidekick. Nothing could be more awesome.
And let us not forget the thought-provoking poetry of Bruceâ€™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 Bruceâ€™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 (Catwomanâ€™s justification for larceny), justice (mob courts as a gauge of justice) and sacrifice (the reason for Batmanâ€™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 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 wonâ€™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 didnâ€™t really shine in the early parts of the movie, but thatâ€™s exactly what makes it good acting. Batman was supposed to lay low after his decision to take the blame for Harvey Dentâ€™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-Levittâ€™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 Gothamâ€™s vigilante tradition. Meanwhile, Marion Cotillard delivered a memorable Talia al Ghul by emitting a stern, cold personality, and of course, by betraying Batmanâ€™s trust.
I hardly recognized Tom Hardy playing as Bane (canâ€™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 Batmanâ€™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 itâ€™s good enough for me. Besides, having a new approach for Catwomanâ€™s portrayal to me is a sniff of fresh air. Hathawayâ€™s costume might not be revealing, but then, one doesnâ€™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 filmâ€™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 doesnâ€™t still well with their egos. A wealthy businessman saving a whole city from destruction, and indirectly from the rule of mob apparently isnâ€™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.
The Dark Knight Rises is a film extolling the virtues of the 1% that tries to explain why working people canâ€™t run society and why a fascist police state is actually a good idea.
The Dark Knight Rises is Hollywoodâ€™s rebuke of the Occupy Wall Street Movement and the growing discontent with the market system increasingly felt by working Americans. In Nolanâ€™s universe, thereâ€™s no difference between protest and terrorism. Ironically, in a world of Obamaâ€™s â€˜kill listâ€™ and the National Defense Authorization Act, this may be the most realistic aspect of his film.
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; itâ€™s convenient in the perspective of the villain, since no one in the populace would suspect that theyâ€™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 villainâ€™s scheme is actually a fitting critique of revolutionary mob rule. Whether the critique is intentional or not on Nolanâ€™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? Itâ€™s either they donâ€™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 â€œdeath by exileâ€ 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 itâ€™s simply a dictatorship, subject to a timeless tenet â€œabsolute power corrupts absolutelyâ€?
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 â€œleaderâ€ 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 TDKRâ€™s thought-provoking nature. Christopher Nolan was able to turn the story of a timeless comic icon into a pleasant mental exercise for todayâ€™s thinking population. If youâ€™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!