According to Wikipedia, four years have passed since The Dark Knight premiered, continuing Nolan’s gritty Batman resurgence in the movie realm set in motion three years before with Batman Begins. Seven years have been building to this—the last of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. My life, and the lives of countless other Batman fans, have fundamentally changed since the first film came out. Is it any wonder that the release of this film feels like an event? At the premiere that I alluded to earlier, my showing was marked by the seizing of a stranger in the theater next to mine. Half the movie had gone by when AMC was forced to temporarily stop all screenings of the film due to a man who had begun to experience a seizure. It was a moment plagued by confusion and chaos, a moment that might have made the Joker crack a smile, and in that chaos, a voice of reason jokingly shouted into the abyss in order to give us baffled fans some clarity in those trying times. This savant, this genius, he said … nay… screamed, “Somebody couldn’t handle the Batman,” with the confidence of the high-school-class-clown. I knew right then that this was one of those literary moments invading the space of reality. Was it a coincidence that this “Bro,” as I will now dub him, shouted what ended up being the concluding thesis of that particular blockbuster half way through its run time?
And just why can’t we handle the Batman? Why is he the hero Gotham needs but not the one it deserves? I don’t feel self-important discussing the Batman in this philosophical light because it’s clear that Nolan wants this sort of discourse, at least on a surface level. Bruce Wayne, himself, wonders what exactly the symbol of Batman means over the course of this third installment and the two prior films. Commissioner Gordon, Lucius Fox, newcomer John Blake, Selina Kyle, all ponder the importance and meaning behind the vigilante known as Batman. Is his purpose simply to prove how cool Oliver Twist could have been if he had added bad-assery and Richie Rich money to his orphanage? Or does he represent something far grander?
I have read reviews that claim that Nolan has taken a political stance with his comic book trilogy, that Batman is meant to be seen as a metaphorical George W. Bush, sacrificing his stature and doing what is necessary in order to best help the American people. As someone who’s knowledge of politics is just deep enough so that I can make pseudo-intellectual fart jokes in my political science class, I refuse to further examine that theory, but I do accept that this is a film that might make you think such thoughts if you are so inclined. I accept that this is a film that allows you to think. No, it does not have the depths of a great American novel, but it doesn’t pander to the audience either, excluding Nolan’s apparent love for the stereotypical cop and their hilarious quips in the midst of car chases. Think of the last big summer action film you saw that allowed you to have even a superficial philosophical thought pertaining to it. Unless the Transformer movies really resonated with you on a theological level (more on the divinity of Optimus Prime later), it’s probably been awhile. Even the Avengers, a film I loved, does little more than provide some stellar entertainment for two hours.
And The Dark Knight Rises does the same. Bane and Catwoman provide excellent antagonists to our now reclusive Wayne. Of course, Thomas Hardy had some impressive shoes to fill, following the much heralded Ledger performance of the Joker, and he doesn’t really attempt to fill them. Bane is his own thing, a villain on a different spectrum. He is a tyrant, strong and intelligent, and a domineering force for the Dark Knight to rise above; whereas, the Joker was an agent of anarchy. Hardy portrays Bane excellently, and if you’re willing to accept its deranged rhythm, the Bane voice does not annoy as many have worried after seeing the trailers. The film is rather bleak throughout its duration, far different from the rather light-hearted Avengers juggernaut that kicked off the summer blockbuster season, but its cynicism isn’t what makes Rises the more contemplative film. It’s the triumph, the constant prodding and questioning of its hero until he is catapulted into success.
The Dark Knight Rises is a fitting conclusion for Nolan’s tale and an admirable send off for Bale’s Bruce Wayne. Yes, the film is rather predictable and rather heavy-handed in its thematic content (if you hit a child for any use of the word “rise” or any image that may reflect the action/idea of “rising,” you would be arrested for child abuse because hitting children is wrong even if prompted by a joke in a comic book blog). Sure, the film is somewhat of an ideological mess; in fact, I’m not sure Nolan knows what the Batman represents or if he’s just uncomfortable providing a definitive answer, but at least, it asks the question. That’s more than I can say for Madea’s Witness Protection, which kicked me in the testicles and stared blankly into my soul.
~ The Black Ness Monster ~