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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Film Discussion: The Dark Knight Rises

Spoiler notice: Any discussion of TDKR beyond this point will contain spoilers for the film. Do not read without seeing the film first!
  
Eight years on, a new terrorist leader, Bane, overwhelms Gotham's finest, and the Dark Knight resurfaces to protect a city that has branded him an enemy. (Source: IMDB)
 
"When Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die."
  
I would argue that The Dark Knight Rises was the most hotly anticipated film of the summer, even more than Marvel's The Avengers. After all, it's the bookend to a wildly popular trio of films by super-director Christopher Nolan, featuring one of the most iconic heroes in comic book history. Given all the hype around it, TDKR had to pull off a lot in order to live up to it all and still successfully bring an end to Nolan-verse Batman. So did it?
 

The answer to this question is as multi-faceted as the movie itself. As an action blockbuster, it performed perfectly. As a Batman film, it plays perfectly into the mythos of the series and brings back some of the characters from the first film to tie everything together. As a film based on a deeper philosophy of human nature and capitalism, it rather falls apart at closer examination. So really, if you don't think about some things terribly hard, it was a great film. If you stop to examine Bane's philosophy or how the film portrays Gotham's residents, then it becomes a great film with some serious flaws.

Still, people come to see Batman kick ass and take down the bad guy, so no one will be disappointed by how this all plays out. And he really does kick a lot of ass in this one, him and his shiny new gadgets courtesy of Lucius Fox. I've always loved his trike; I have to admit, Selina looks better on it!

Speaking of Selina, Anne Hathaway was brilliant as Catwoman. Don't let anyone tell you differently. I don't think in terms of characterization anyone was truly miscast, although I think Marion Cotillard was severely underutilized as Miranda Tate, aka Talia al Ghul. Maybe if she had been able to spend more time playing Talia as opposed to her fake persona Miranda, I wouldn't feel this way. There's also a brilliant cameo from another series villain during the film; Jonathan Crane (played by the always beautiful Cillian Murphy) who acts as Gotham's makeshift judge during their French Revolution phase.

I'd complain about the fact that they cast Tom Hardy, a white actor, in the role of Bane, a character of Caribbean origins, but Christopher Nolan's Batman movies have always had a bad history of whitewashing crucial roles. For example, casting white folks for the Arabic characters that are the al Ghuls. Cotillard could possible pass as biracial if you squint, but Liam Neeson is painfully white. I'll just lead you this way for a much more intelligent breakdown of how problematic Tom Hardy's Bane is: Batman's Latino Nemesis, Bane, Gets Airbent in New Nolan Film (via Colorlines).

The last major point I'll make before handing the conversation over to you, my beloved readers, is this: The Dark Knight Rises is the first of Nolan's Batman that has genuinely scared me. Nothing about Batman Begins was terrifying, and the Joker's anarchy ways in The Dark Knight were thrilling but not exactly scary. But it is Bane's single-minded and calculated evil schemes with a massive body count that puts all of Gotham in his grip manages to do it for me. The scene at the football game? Holy crap. And then he detonates the bridges too? It's too much, y'all. It's just too much.

So The Dark Knight Rises is thrilling and action-filled and is definitely worth the admission price. Just . . . don't buy a soda. It's nearly three hours long - and you won't be wanting to leave your seat for even a minute.

Feel free to talk about your favorite and least favorite moments and character portrayals in the film in the comments!