The Dark Knight Rises – My Thoughts
My noble brethren have already shared their thoughts on Christopher Nolan’s third and final BATMAN film. Beard Man’s here and Deadgeek’s here. Yes I know it was 3 years ago, but better late than never, right?
Soooo… I had never seen 2012’s Dark Knight Rises until tonight. I’d only seen the previous two a grand total of once, so I wasn’t exactly well versed with the material. On a whim, I decided to watch all three in a row. It was a cinematic treat and make no mistake
So there wasn’t a whole lot of Batman in this Batman film as Beard Man correctly pointed out. I think it sort of worked out for the better for me. The Nerd Arena gang are well aware that in recent years I will cry at just about anything. Especially in the cinema. ‘The magic of the theatre’ you mock me and my tears with. The experience of just being out of the house and watching something loudly on a big screen, and they’re not much wrong. Off the the top of my head I cried three times in Star Trek – Into Darkness, a mediocre film at best; three times during Captain America – Winter Soldier, a much much better film; twice during Ant-Man. The list goes on. But I now cry at home too! And strong, manly tears at that! I embrace it now, as it’s meant I can’t help but get emotionally invested in the films I watch. It’s the human element of Dark Knight Rises that gets to me the most.
Christian Bale is a fantastic actor, and it felt like this was the first Batman film that he got a chance to do any. His performances were great in the previous two, but Batman by his very nature isn’t exactly overwhelming in the expression department. Bale as a broken Bruce Wayne had my feels truly hooked. Watching him and his exchange with the amazing Selina Kyle, cane and all was great. He was everything we don’t expect of Batman. Frail and lost. I’d argue that as much as he didn’t wear the suit much in this one, that we actually see a lot of Batman through Christian Bale. As in even when he’s out of the suit and going through some hard moments like escaping the Pit, we’re watching Batman and not Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne is the disguise this time. Does that make sense? I don’t know how coherent this is right now.
Who would have expected Anne Hathaway to be so good in this role? I’ve enjoyed her in many films, but Catwoman? She is full of sass, and the scene where Bruce confronts her about the pearls and she gives up her innocent act was one she stole. Any time she appears on the screen she makes the scene better. She is a villain with a heart of gold and plays the duality very well.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a pretty big name nowadays, so it wouldn’t be much of a shock to me that he was great in this film. But he was really really great. Again, any time he is on camera he makes the film better. Yes it could be seen as weird that he walks up to Wayne and they just become buddies. But he does a pretty good job of explaining it, with the orphanage story, and the anger and the wearing of a mask. Why would Batman trust him? Maybe he’s a broken man with nothing to fight for any more. The relationship between the two was everything I would ask for in Batman and Robin. There’s a father/son, big brother/little brother thing they do so well. Blake is smart and tenacious, and just generally awesome. Figuring out what’s what, getting Gordon out of the sewer, figuring out the tunnel explosives, and generally being a nuisance for the bad guys. He was brilliant fun to watch.
Talia was a great addition. I’d unfortunately had her identity spoiled, so it did a bit of the sting out of Batman’s stabbing with the ‘slow blade’. But nevertheless her plot I felt was pretty well done. Finishing her father’s work and getting close to Bruce, who as Deadgeek pointed out was well known to the League of Shadows. I’d pretty much thought Bane was the man in charge the whole time, and that he was the child who escaped the Pit. Good swerve. The overall plot was pretty involved, it was a long film to be fair, but I didn’t find it too much. The way Bane’s operation escalated with the stock market raid and its forcing Bruce to reach out to Talia and put her in the position of power I felt was pretty original given the usual plot in superhero and comic type films. The human core of the film wasn’t overwhelmed by the different plot points.
As noted by my colleagues, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman just hugely improve any scene they’re in, but I feel this can’t be overstated. These three chaps in all three films really are some of the best parts. Gordon put his coat around young Bruce Wayne’s shoulders and failing at trying to be reassuring had my crying my eyes out this week. I never really “got over” that, and so I was helplessly emotionally invested in his relationship with Bruce and Batman. Gordon had me crying twice in Dark Knight, first when the officers turn up to tell his wife and they don’t even need to say anything, and again when he turns up alive and she slaps him. There was so much human emotion to those scenes. Again Michael Caine also had my bawling too, particularly in Batman Begins.
I spotted the foreshadowing of Alfred telling Bruce about his fantasy, and didn’t find the closing scene to be as bad as Beard Man does. It made sense for the Batman to die. Bruce Wayne could not live and be the Batman forever, and while at the start of the film he was Batman and nothing, by the end with no Batman he could finally be someone. It’s not a great Batman ending, but for this long-haired girly-man sat here writing this, it was a perfect ending for Bruce Wayne the man. Batman lives on as a symbol, while Bruce gets to finally live. One issue I have with comics is the never-ending nature of their tragedy after tragedy. There’s only so much that can happen to one person, and Spider-Man is much the same in this regard. After decades and decades of tragedy, it gets a bit hard to swallow. Some of the best comics are those with a definite ending, eg. PREACHER, WATCHMEN and many more. What I found satisfying about this films as a contained trilogy was that Batman got to have a happy ending that he would never find in the comics. In comics the characters just keep going and going in perpetual youth, the occasional retcon and seasonal reboot. Christian Bale would never have been able to play Batman forever. As an adaptation of a literary character, I felt the three films told a good story about a man wanting to make a difference.
So now we need to talk about Bane. One of the coolest movie villains played by such a great actor. But he was a bit wank, wasn’t he? I totally did not dig his voice. I picture him in a top hat for some reason. It would have been really weird if he did the gravely voice as well, but still… it was just… wrong. Which is a big shame as Hardy is terrific. It didn’t really hamper me from enjoying him though. Any time Bane comes on screen, something great happens.
While I’m on the subject, I once wrote a not very nice piece on Heath Ledger’s Joker. I should take this opportunity to say after rewatching the Dark Knight, I take it all back. Ledger totally steals the film, and gave such a nuanced performance. These are actors pretending to be something else in front of a camera, but you really feel that Ledger was way more than that. There’s so no such performance in Dark Knight Rises to make it transcend it’s anguished big brother, but it strikes a more hopeful emotional chord. The cops marching on the tanks, the orphans on the bus, it all had my feels invested.
Beard Man had some great examples of where the script wasn’t up to much. One moment that got my choked up was between Batman and Catwoman near the end. She pleads with him just to come with her, “You’ve given them everything!”. “No” he says, “not everything”. That really got me. After learning to not be afraid of death, and then rediscovering it in the Pit and basically saying that Batman was not going to survive, those words gave me chills. So the ending is a bit cheesy, I was glad for it after how bloody grim everything was. After so many hours of The Walking Dead, it’s nice to see a happy ending once in a while.
I give it 7 out of 10