July 23, 2012


Designed by Ben Whitesell
Well, it's over. The final film in Christopher Nolan's Bat-trilogy is here, wrapping it all up. Sort of.

Two warnings before you read any further: I'm gonna get all SPOILERY up in here and this is less a "review" and more a grab-bag of thoughts on the film and trilogy as a whole.

And one final thought before I get further into the "review" or whatever I'm going to call it of the film itself. As we are all aware, someone made the horrific decision to fire upon and kill 14 people at a midnight showing of Rises in Aurora, Colorado. I'm going to try and keep my own thoughts and opinions about this frightening incident out of this post, as I frankly don't think this is the proper forum for me to be talking about it and I don't know that I'm even qualified to offer an opinion past the obvious horror and sadness. Honestly, what can I even offer that a multitude of other, better, writers haven't already? Instead this post will be solely focussed on the film itself and my thoughts on same.

With that said, on with the grab-bag.

The reason for it being more a grab-bag, more a series of impressions and thoughts than a well-rounded review? Well, to be honest, I'm still trying to figure out exactly what I thought of the film. I came out of the two-and-a-half plus hours with a shrug of the shoulders and a vague feeling of "that's it?"

Let's get all the plot guff out of the way first shall we? 8 years on from The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne is a hobbling recluse and the Batman has disappeared. However, ol' Brucie ventures out of the mansion when a slinky, seductive cat-burglar by the name of Selina Kyle swipes his mother's pearls. And just as Bruce is coming out of his self-imposed exile, a new villain arrives on the Gotham scene: Tom Hardy's massive and masked Bane. He's in town to follow through on Liam Neeson's plot to destroy Gotham from Batman Begins, with an overly complicated plot designed to net him a fusion-powered nuclear reactor or something. Which, after breaking Batman and tossing him down a hole, he sets on the looooongest countdown in history. Seriously, the bomb has a 5 month countdown. Why? Who the hell knows?

That 5 month countdown is really just a convenient plot device to allow Batman time to heal. Bane makes some mention of the wait being to allow the citizens of Gotham to hope for a saviour but... you never see a regular Gothamite or their reaction and the intangible idea of hope never coalesces in any meaningful fashion.

With Nolan's previous Bat-films, he has used them to explore or, at the very least, raise interesting themes and ideas and explored them through the Bat-villains. With Begins it was Fear tying into the Scarecrow and, on a larger scale, the League of Shadows and Batman himself. With Dark Knight it was Anarchy and Chaos, embodied in Heath Ledger's ghoulish Joker, as a directly opposing force to Batman's Order. With Rises... I hesitate to call it thematically inconsistent, as Nolan doesn't seem to really be truly engaging with any themes here. There are a number of possible avenues opened up (Hope? Evil?) but none that are fully explored. There are dalliances with popular uprisings and a tip-toe into the waters of the financial crises but the scatter-gun approach leads to the film feeling muddled on a fundamental level. What is it, exactly, that Bane represents? Whatever it may or may not be, it's completely undercut by the completely unnecessary and obvious twist reveal before the end. And once his usefulness to the plot is done with, he is summarily dispatched. Almost offhandedly.

Something I'm still processing, as a comic-book reader more than anything, is that this may not be Batman as we know him but it is unequivocally Nolan's Batman. The Batman I, and many other comic-book fans, know would not have quit after the events of The Dark Knight. In fact, the end of that film seemed to give Batman more impetus to continue his mission.

Which brings me to another point. Every other death in the trilogy has meant something; has resonated somehow. Whether it be Ra's al Ghul/Ducard in Begins or Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight. In Dark Knight Rises, they just... happen. They don't tie in to the life of Bruce Wayne/Batman or the larger thematic concerns that Nolan may (or may not) be exploring.

Is Batman a conservative hero? What, if anything, is Nolan saying about the Occupy movement? Should Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Officer Blake have taken up the mantle of the Bat earlier in the film? Can anyone but Bruce Wayne be Batman? Where did Bruce Wayne's secret stash of inheritance money come from? Why did he have a bum leg if he quit crime-fighting? 
There's more to consider with The Dark Knight Rises but, for now, these are my thoughts.  

Also, Liam Neeson's ghost dissolve?! Really?! And "Robin"? C'mon. It's just so... off. 

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