After months of buildup, The Dark Knight Rises, the third and last installment, finally draws the curtain on the most popular superhero franchise to date. History has not been kind to the “third” film in a superhero franchise. Looking back at Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever, the Richard Pryor filled Superman 3, or more recently, the Sam Raimi Spider-Man 3, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that there is an unspoken curse that lingers around the third installment. Yet, spanning an incredible seven years, it is safe to say that Christopher Nolan has bowed out of the Batman franchise with grace and honour.
“I never wanted you to come back to Gotham. I always knew that there was nothing for you here except pain and tragedy.” – Alfred
With each film Nolan has pushed his operatic Batman even deeper into the dark, exploring issues of fear, death, loss and suffering. The Dark Knight Rises is no exception. Nolan, who rewrote the rule book with the dark and gritty first installment Batman Begins, cranks it up a notch, exploring the world of terrorism. There are frightening themes at work in the film, as the two-minded “heroes” verse the multilayered “villains”. The cringing fear is echoed even louder through Zimmer’s powerful doom drumming soundtrack. As if you needed a reminder; this is not a movie made for family viewing.
“There’s a storm coming.” – Selina Kyle (Catwoman)
It’s always unfair to watch a film through a comparative lens but given how amazing The Dark Knight was it would be hard not to. Many will argue that The Dark Knight was a perfect movie, a work of staggering brilliance, thanks mostly to the amazing acting of Ledger, who plays the villainous Joker. In order for Rises to genuinely succeed as a worthy sequel we would need to experience the same chills and thrills as the previous installment. This left Nolan and the Batman franchise in an obvious predicament, faced with an impossible task – How do you top the performance of Heath Ledger?
The simple answer; You don’t.
Instead, Nolan has cleverly focused on ending the saga, bringing in plots and characters from the previous films, mostly those from Batman Begins. And while The Dark Knight Rises is the longest and the darkest of the three, it could also be said to be the biggest and most ambitious.
“We were in this together, and then you were gone. And now there’s evil rising. The Batman must come back.” – Gordon
The Dark Knight Rises picks up eight years after the events of Dark Knight, Gotham only remembers Batman as a vigilante who murdered the city’s hero Harvey Dent. Incidentally, Dent’s death brought about a new legislation that puts a thousand criminals behind bars. Although this legislation helps keep the city safe, it’s also based on a lie, one that haunts a disheartened Commissioner Gordon.
Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne/Batman is a shadow of his former self, walking around with a cane, still beaten up from the events from the previous film and the death of Rachel. Although Alfred, Bruce’s voice of reason, tries his best to get him out of his isolation Bruce longs for a day he gets to don the cape again. When a burglar breaks into his safe he is awakened from his depressed state. Unknowingly, his investigation leads him to a new villain, Bane, the new leader of the League of Shadows. What follows is an epic battle of good versus evil. And for the first time ever, Batman might be on the losing end of the spectrum.
Although the film introduces a number of new characters, much of the thrills of Rises rely on our investment with characters from previous installments. It would only make sense that the past would catch up with Batman. Everything comes full circle. If you haven’t seen either Batman Begins or The Dark Knight you’ll be completely lost at sea.
“It doesn’t matter who we are… what matters is our plan. No one cared who I was until I put on the mask.” – Bane
The Dark Knight Rises is exceptionally big, shocking, smart and nowhere near disappointing. However, it is also nowhere near perfect. There are a number of annoyances, one liners, and plot holes that have creeped into the finale. Exhilarating as it may be, and although Rises has enough good qualities to stand on its own, it’s not hard to believe that The Dark Knight was a superior movie. Yet it seems pointless to nitpick at the tiny disappointments (which I will discuss in a later review), especially since it still stands taller than any of the other comic book films to date.
Is it better than The Avengers? Certainly. Nolan has no equal in the industry at the moment. The only fair thing then would be to compare it to a previous Batman film. And ultimately this is where it falls short, if only slightly.
The Dark Knight Rises offers a number of “Nolan style” twists. I wouldn’t dare to expose any of them here, except to say that audiences are in for a few surprises. Having seen every single trailer that lead up to the movie I was still caught off guard by a few events.
And so it all ends. History will remember this trilogy for an eternity. Thank you Mr. Nolan for changing the face of comic book film forever!
“If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal… you become something else entirely. A legend, Mr. Wayne, a legend!” – Ra’s al Ghul