Can you think of a better way to spend your birthday then seeing the final chapter of the Christopher Nolan Batman series of films? I couldn’t think of one either and spent this morning going out to see The Dark Knight Rises. Be warned; there are plenty of spoilers ahead.
The movie starts roughly eight years after The Dark Knight. Batman is still a wanted fugitive after accepting responsibility for Harvey Dent’s death, and Bruce Wayne hasn’t been seen since. The debut of a new terrorist/mercenary force lead by a new villain named Bane causes Bruce to take up the mantle of Batman for one last ride.
The result was a story that combined elements of the Knightfall, Cataclysm and No Man’s Land storylines, with Batman having to recover from a crippling defeat at the hands of Bane only to save Gotham City from certain doom after it has been cut off from the rest of civilization.
That said, I think I enjoyed this film the most. I liked how intertwined all of the characters were and pretty much everyone knew that Bruce Wayne and Batman were one and the same. At the key of this film was the complex relationships all of the characters had with each other and issues of trust. Sometimes Bruce’s trust was violated (in the case of Bruce and Miranda Tate, who turned out to be none other than Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter Tate and was seeking to avenger her father’s death from back in Batman Begins); other times it was earned (as was the case with Batman and Catwoman).
The other theme in The Dark Knight Rises is moving on. Alfred urged to Bruce that someday he would have to give up being Batman and have a chance to have a normal life. Bruce somehow manages to do that at the end of the film; saving the city and seemingly dying in an explosion. It’s a fitting end for the Batman persona, as he not only saves the city he so dearly cares about but finally sees the impact that he had on its citizens, as they openly mourned the loss of their dark protector. This allows him to resurface in Europe with Catwoman, who was also searching for a chance to start over, and start a normal life.
Although this is the end of the film series, they leave an opening for a new Batman to guard the city. Detective Blake (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) knew that Batman and Bruce Wayne were one in the same, and did everything in his power to help the vigilante come back to save the city from Bane. At the end of the film, he gets given access to Batman’s arsenal of crime fighting equipment.
There’s a whole bunch more I can talk about on this film but I need some time to digest. So what did you think about this?
This film represents the human spirit and its ability to endure, health, and rise above the difficult circumstances that can exist in ones life. The emphasis should not be on how this film compares to other superhero movies, or even TDK. This movie brings closure, for the first time to one of our cultures most mythical characters on the bid screen, to a character that had vastly difficult challenges placed in front of him. Yet, he remained selfless through. That is the beauty of this serious, the beauty that Nolan captured in his take on Batman that comes out of these three films.
Bruce Wayne remained completely selfless throughout this series, despite having the ability to completely self absorbed and detached individual, and he took his pain and created circumstances that allowed other gothamites to enjoy a great future. He sacrificed his body, mind and soul for this purpose, and ultimately, like any athlete, the body just can’t handle it anymore. More importantly, the spirit can’t handle it anymore. That is what this film was about, the final challenge before retirement. That last ounce of strength that you put into something before you know it is gone forever. For Bruce, and you can tell from the fight scenes how dependent Batman was on brute force and not speed because it was all punches because he had no legs/kicks throughout. He finally saw the light at the end of tunnel, his purpose and impact as Batman would mean nothing if he failed them. He rose, and saved the city.
While this was happening his pain, from his parents and Rachel, that has kept him in a hole for nearly a decade finals disapates when he learns that Rachel did not love him. That is true poetic realism. He held onto to these feelings for someone and something that was not his fault, and something he could not change or run away from as Batman anymore because that journey had ended. That finality, and realization that life exists outside of your self imposed prison (represented by a pit of dispare that Bane puts him in) causes a person to want to embrace the possibility of something more. That something began as Miranda Tate, and as he learns from her betrayal he was wrong about her, and that her heart does not embrace good.
His relationship with Selina Kyle is that of foresight and faith. He had intuition early in the film that hte pearls looked good on her and that she would not sell them. He on a intimate level understood this person, and looked past her faults. He believed that good existed in her beyond the what she had exhibited. He trusted her with his most deeply important purpose and not only did she come through for him, but she realized that he had first forgiven himself and that he accepted her for who she is truly is, a complex, intelligent, and indepedent woman. That is why she helped Batman, because she realized that this man, who had no money, understood her struggles and believed in her to do the right thing. He literally gave her the key to freedom and she turned it down for him.
Second to last thing, the Batman in this series is nothing more than symbol. As Bruce Wayne sees his term as Gotham’s symbol and protector coming to an end. The person that helps will him back into ignites the flame in Bruce Wayne. He sees the potential, and the good in John Blake. Blake has superior intuition skills, and that same selfless drive that he had as a youth. Suddenly, Bruce Wayne is teaching Blake the philosophy of Batman, the purpose as a symbol and the reason for the mask. He keeps stressing the importance of a mask to protect those you care about, knowing full well that Blake would be the next to don the cape. It is a mentor-mentee relationship. We see one exit, and one enter to take up the cause for Gotham. Blake leaves because his spirit is not for the beaurocratic system, this part of him dies when the bridge is blown, instead it yearns for true justice. A justice that exists outside the legal rules that we have present in society. Fittingly, Commissioner Gordon is shown to be a flawed instrument of a system. He is not perfect but better than most, and utlimately upon learning Wayne’s identity respects the privacy of Wayne by not disclosing his identity, but instead stresses the importance of the caped crusader. That he is Batman, the symbol and knight of gotham. This is what matters, and he awaits his next companion.
Lastly, we see Bruce with Selina in a cafe in Italy. The man has life left to live, and he choses to forgo the duties and responsibilities of Gotham as BRUCE WAYNE. Instead, he selflessly runs from this work and presumably lives quietly until his death.
The reason this film is not viewed as good as the TDK is because it represents the finality of humanity. Nothing goes on forever, but legends, myths, and symbols can last so long as we keep talking about them and seeing their presence in soceity. What Batman represents is not Bruce Wayne, but justice, honor, integrity, and selflessness for fellow man. To have Nolan bring in the next chapter of Batman while showing us the emotional toll of the responsibility and subsequent revival of Bruce Wayne as a man is truly remarkable. That is how this should be viewed, that the man who was never thanked and truly started the revolution, will die forgetten, In dying a true matry of privilege, he found acceptance, forgiveness, and happiness. His gift , Batman, the Dark Knight , shall continue to rise.
Great review Josh! I like how you got into the philosophy of the film.
Great review! Here is my for a different take:
Yeah, I’m kind of in the same boat as you are with a lot of your opinions. And the line about bland Indian food had me howling…makes me miss my Indian pals!