Acclaimed director Christopher Nolan concludes his Batman film trilogy with an absolute triumph. Needless to say, I loved The Dark Knight Rises. It’s simply one of the best superhero movies ever made and more importantly a satisfying way to finish a Batman film series.
By this, what is meant is that The Dark Knight Rises gives a finality to the Batman story that has not been seen in comics except perhaps for certain aspects of Frank Miller’s classic The Dark Knight Returns. In fact, Batfans will notice many similarities to The Dark Knight Returns at least in broader sense. That includes the idea of a retired Batman/Bruce Wayne (played by Christian Bale) making a comeback when his beloved city of Gotham is imperiled, then he gets defeated the first time out before regrouping and coming back to take out the foe that pummeled him the first time out.
Christopher Nolan’s film also utilizes aspects of the great “Knightfall” storyline where the villain Bane defeats Batman by wearing him out then crippling him. Bane may not seem an imposing or interesting foe to the larger public because the only film exposure non-comic book fans had of him was that awful Batman And Robin movie. But true fans will see the spirit of who Bane is in The Dark Knight Rises. Tom Hardy who plays the masked villain deserves a lot of credit for the way he made Bane such a distinct villain. Not only did he physically pump up his body impressively to resemble the muscle-bound foe but because parts of his face are covered, Hardy created a memorable voice villain. Bane’s voice has a deep cadence that makes him sound like an older man or officer used to ordering troops around. How does he compare to Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight? Well, as great as Hardy is in Nolan’s third Batman film, Ledger created not only one of the greatest comic book villains on film but one of the greatest film villains of all time. Plus, viewers were able to see Ledger’s face and see more emotion than with Hardy.
As with all comic book adaptations, changes were made in The Dark Knight Rises. This was done with Bane regarding his origin. In this film, his background is tied to Batman, Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson from Batman Begins returns to play him) and Ra’s’ daughter Talia (Marion Cotillard). Viewers will see a link between all four characters and see how their shared experiences transformed them into separate ways.
But Bane isn’t the only standout in The Dark Knight Rises. Other memorable characters include Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine).
Although Selina isn’t called Catwoman and her feline aspects aren’t as exaggerated as with previous film incarnations of Catwoman, the character works in context of the film. Some may wonder during the film why so much screen time is spent on Blake, a young cop and ally of Batman, but he provides the film’s most pleasant surprise at the end; his arc was a real crowd pleaser. Fox is in many ways the head or brains of the Batman franchise. It should be pointed out that Alfred, Bruce’s loyal butler, is the heart and soul of the Batman franchise. He warns Bruce not to confront Bane simply because Alfred fears Bane. He knows that Bruce isn’t a match for the hulking villain. This leads to a very emotional argument where Alfred tells him that Bruce has another option in his life that doesn’t have anything to do with darkness. Bruce can have a shot at a happy life, but the superhero won’t hear of it since he feels bound to fight Bane. At that point, having a happy life is an abstract notion. It isn’t until Selina comes into the picture that having a happy life seems possible, so she serves as a sort of catalyst. Sure Marvel’s The Avengers was the greatest and most exciting superhero movie ever made, but The Dark Knight Rises has a deeper emotional core.
And what great battles are featured in the film! Nolan pulls out everything here. The Gotham police, the National Guard, and even the air force come out to confront Bane and his army. It was all thrilling to watch. As were all the cool gadgets and vehicles Batman uses like The Bat, the new interpretation of the batwing flying craft. The Bat was an amazing sight, sort of like a flying tank with VTOL capability and well armed. Batman also uses a type of EMP gun which helped him travel stealthily throughout Gotham, it was ingenious!
Christopher Nolan created an effective bookend to his Batman movies. Whereas The Dark Knight seemed like a crime thriller, his third film feels more like a superhero film. The end of Batman in this film means so many things in the context of Nolan’s Batman world, and The Dark Knight Returns provides multiple, satisfying resolutions. Anyone who is worrying about the third film curse can relax because he doesn’t let the fans down with this sendoff.