Release: July 20, 2012
Allow me to first give an acknowledgement to the families of the victims of the July 20, 2012 Colorado shootings at a screening of this very film. Tragically viewers lost lives while enjoying Nolan’s third installment of his Batman series and we’ll probably never know for what reason. My condolences to all Aurora-area victims.
The legend has ended.
What’s come, has gone and what’s gone is, well….some of the best action hero moments in the history of filmmaking. Though Nolan headed up this particular crew and had the vision to make Batman as dark as it became, there must be many thanks given to the plethora of others involved in the nearly seven-year process. Not to mention, what fantastic acting from a mostly-consistent cast throughout the trilogy (the whole thing with Rachel Dawes being played by two different actresses still gets me, though). We started on a high plateau with the standard set by Batman Begins in 2005. Nothing could prepare us for what was to come three years later, when we were introduced to the Heath Ledger Joker — who was really not as funny as he was disturbing. And now, here we are in 2012.
Nolan’s epic finale is a nearly-flawless two-hour-and-forty-four-minute ode to the temporarily relieved Gotham City, a metropolis free from the fugitive Dark Knight and his intentionally misconstrued identity. Set eight years after his vanishing following the death of Harvey Dent, TDKRis truly a monster of its own. For a lot of the time the burden Batman is carrying is almost so great as to exceed capacity on the screen; audience members leaned further forward in their seats in this movie than I’ve seen in recent memory. Will Batman rise to the challenge? Or even more elemental than that, can he?
It was long thought that the city was surely strong enough to stand on its own without the bat silhouette gracing the sky, without a bat symbol smeared on the sidewalk from a child’s chalk pastel. It was long thought that Harvey Dent was the new good in Gotham (until, well, you know…..). That good, though, was not nearly good enough. We enter the film at a ceremony celebrating the life of the late district attorney (Dent) with Commissioner Gordon commending the man’s efforts in cleaning up the streets. Thanks to him, Gotham has been corruption-free for several years.
Thus, Nolan has given us quite the vantage point at the start; the notion that familiarity breeds contempt. Too much down time for the city’s finest inevitably gives rise to the city’s newest, most formidable threat ever. For Nolan to choose Bane over the studio’s supposed favorite (The Riddler) was to signify that something much larger than the return of Batman was going to happen to Gotham. The Dark Knight is an answer, though for a limited time only, Batman’s services are being offered at half-price. We see Selina Kyle for the first time here, played by the luscious Anne Hathaway. She’s sometimes at Mr. Wayne’s side, sometimes not; then again, that’s not the kind of attention you want. Hathaway’s Catwoman is a subversive trickster, nearly camouflaged by the night that hangs like Wayne’s cape.
Personally I thought Nolan’s interpretation of Catwoman was brilliant (perhaps owing more to Hathaway’s performance). She creates a tension that is always present throughout the film, a tension we haven’t seen consistently or been obsessed with throughout the course of the film since the evil chuckles of the Joker rattled down empty hallways a few years back. She is a minor foil for Batman at first, but when push comes to shove, it is Bane that proves just how much they need each other to triumph.
THE BANE OF HIS EXISTENCE
The moment we first get to meet Tom Hardy at his most intimidating is an opening sequence involving planes and some precious cargo. Again, leave it to Nolan to set a high standard early on. This one scene alone may even eclipse the pinnacle of ass-kicking in Batman Begins. Its a stunning moment that brings us up to speed with a man like Bane — what his intentions are, how big a threat, who he wants to focus on making suffer first. But apparently that last one can be answered with ‘everyone.’ All that stand in Bane’s way basically get annihilated. His focus is the entirety of Gotham, when he blows up 99% of the bridges that feed the city, leaving only one to the surrounding areas.
The confinement of all Gotham City policemen to the underground sewage system; the destruction and terrorizing of a football game; the breaking of Batman’s back: it is all part of a scheme that’s larger than life. It should make your jaw drop.
Especially the last hour or so of the film. What goes down in the concluding moments to Nolan’s franchise is some of the most intense, visually arresting, violent and complex fighting sequences ever attempted on camera. Not to mention Nolan’s chief use of the IMAX cameras, and wanting to release it on an eight-story screen. “It’s larger than life, that scope and that scare; [its] what I really wanted to provide for them,” is what Nolan tells a reporter at the London premiere.
It’s one thing to watch superhero versus villain duking it out in the streets, but when you add to that thousands of freed prisoners (all armed with assault rifles) and the entire city’s police force you come to understand that, by now, Nolan knows how to work under pressure and how to manipulate violence so that it becomes something more representative of art than of hatred. Bane’s revolution is a kind of symbology that Nolan’s work has finally been done. We’ve reached extremes here, with the Hudson and East Rivers entirely frozen and serving as death traps for any citizen wishing to escape.
Interestingly enough, Bale seems to spend less time in his suit in TDKR than he did in his first time donning the suit in Begins. While there was certainly reason to demonstrate Wayne’s life out of the suit, it would have been nice to see Batman being more….Batman. I don’t deny him The Bat (a cool new toy courtesy of Mr Lucius Fox once again); aerial support was critical in the end. But we learn that its Selina Kyle who would take down Bane, Lucius and the Commissioner keep everything under control while Batman bombards the city with his attacks against the Bane infantry, and Detective Blake (the perpetually awesome Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is the man charged with essentially freeing all the city’s cops from their underground prisons. Ultimately, what is it that Batman does that would absolve him from his so-called sins against Gotham? What would reflect a lifetime of pain and suffering? All arrows point to self-sacrifice.
Recommendation: This becomes the only logical conclusion to the somber saga that is the Dark Knight. It’s not even necessary that I recommend this film! You’ll see it if you’re wanting to see it. But here’s why Nolan succeeded in reaching scores of fans worldwide: independently, each film stands alone as a work of art. When put together as a trilogy, you may be looking at one of the most comprehensive and cohesive superhero stories that will ever be filmed. We’re not talking technological breakthroughs, or instantly recognizable casts. We’re talking about states of mind. If you are willing to lose yours over a movie, this one is it.
Running Time: 164 mins.
Quoted: “Calm down, Doctor! Now’s not the time for fear. That comes later.”
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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com