Countdown to “The Dark Knight Rises”: Part 11 of 11 – A Look at “The Dark Knight Rises”
If you missed it here is Part 1 of 11: Introduction to Batman “The Gift”
And here is Part 2 of 11: A look Back at Tim Burton’s ‘Batman’
And Part 3: ‘Batman Returns’
And Part 4: ‘Batman Forever’
And Part 5 ‘Batman and Robin’
Part 6: ‘Batman: The Animated Series’
Part 7: ‘Batman: Arkham Asylum’
Part 8: ‘Batman: Arkham City’
Part 9: ‘Batman Begins’
Part 10: ‘The Dark Knight’
Eleven weeks ago, when I started looking back at how Batman has played out over the years in visual media and even further back when the thought occurred to me to do this, the objective was both to hype myself up and anybody following along for The Dark Knight Rises.
There were two points at which I became afraid of lathering too much anticipation on the film. The first came when I had procrastinated on watching as much “Batman: The Animated Series” as I needed to in order to finish the column by my self-imposed deadline. In order to do so, I binged on 75 – 80 percent of the series over two weekends. The thought occurred to me. How much is too much? Will I get sick of this character after spending so much time with him and in his world in such a short amount of time? He might be my favorite superhero, but how much exposure can you have before it starts to grate on you? Spaghetti is my favorite food and though I’m sure I’ve claimed in the past that I could eat it every day of my life, it almost certainly isn’t true. Variety helps. Morgan Spurlock probably liked McDonalds before he made Super Size Me and then this happened: http://youtu.be/ATYJx3x0nyo. Ultimately, once the 88 episodes were powered through and I allowed myself to live a non-Batman life for a week until the next installment was due, my faith in the project was renewed when it was imminent that breaks would be had. I wonder how Batman does it night-in and night-out.
The other instance of heaping too much hope on a new movie came rushing toward me once I finished re-watching The Dark Knight. I’d seen it three or four times prior to then, but never in the context of what would come next in the life of the Caped Crusader. I recognized how great a film The Dark Knight was and couldn’t imagine it possibly being topped or even equaled. I instantly lowered whatever expectations I had for the trilogy’s conclusion for fear of being disappointed by it. The last thing I want is to not like a movie, especially one that I’d been excited about, even moreso one I’d been trying to hype up for close to three months and spent hours thinking, and tons of words writing, about.
A couple of years ago, I decided to stop hyping myself up on any movie. It was 2010. I made the decision to feel I’d burned myself on hype before a movie was ever released only to be let down. I’d devour stories (some of which I wrote myself), watch trailers, re-watch trailers, send links to people, make lists of what I was looking forward to, buy magazines for the sole purpose of gleaming more information and when the time came to sit in the theater to see the movie I was so excited about, I felt I had already seen it. There was no mystery left to discover. Unlike someone who thinks they can quit smoking cold turkey, I was able to give up my addiction with little issues. There were no late-night shivers. No body parts had to be amputated. And I definitely never ended up at a party hosted by Keith David.
I accomplished my goal by not visiting any movie-related websites and a steadfast refusal to watch any trailers or TV spots. I would literally turn my head, close my eyes or just talk to someone (imagine the courage). I was posed with the dilemma of “how am I going to know which movies exist and which I want to see?” For that, I’d just look at the IMDb release calendar, see who was involved in the production and read some synopses. What transpired was my favorite calendar year of movies since probably 1999. I’d feel extremely comfortable putting each of my favorite four films of that year (“Inception,” “Toy Story 3,” “The Social Network,” “Black Swan”) on the top of the list on any given day (though the order I just gave was their “official” ranking in my head). Could it be that the movies released that year were just that good? Or was it a product of not oversaturating myself in media related to the film before actually seeing the product? Since I can only have the first experience once, it’s not really possible to know. I’d had discussions with others about the results and the thing that changed my mind after my year-long Stanford Prison experiment came right back down to The Dark Knight. After all, The Dark Knight was a film I was super excited about. One in which I watched everything, read everything, looked at everything, waited in line for, talked about and it met every single expectation I could have possibly piled on top of it, if not downright exceeding them. So maybe, if a movie is good, it’s good, regardless of what baggage you bring into the movie theater. Maybe The Dark Knight Rises will do the same thing. It lives or dies on its merits as a film. Any disappointment or letdown would be due to that, not my months-long anticipation.
Those are the thoughts I brought with me as I sat down in front of the seven-stories-high IMAX screen and let the movie play out right before my eyes.
If you’d been following me on this journey so far, the chances are you’ve seen the film at this point. However, just in case you hadn’t, be sure to do so before reading further. The specifics of the film and how it fits into the legacy of the trilogy Christopher Nolan created is what I’m here to discuss rather than suggesting whether it is or isn’t worth your time.
The Dark Knight Rises accomplishes what every sequel sets out to. It capitalizes on the story preceding it and expands it onto a grander scale. The epic nature of the story is felt in literally almost every frame (for those lucky enough to see it projected in true IMAX theaters). The movie also manages to accomplish what so few movie sequels fail to do, which is circle back on itself and close the book on the multiple-film-spanning story it wanted to tell. Most sequels are set up to beget more sequels. Let us remember another Christian Bale-starring sequel, Terminator Salvation (not that we want to). In that way, the trilogy came to an end with an approach more akin to serialized TV shows. The long-form storytelling afforded television is remarked as one of the factors for the small screen having surpassed its silver brethren in quality. Luckily, the quality of The Dark Knight Rises is never in question.
We are immediately introduced to the series’ newcomers. Bane and his group of heathens hijack a plane for a specific passenger and Selina Kyle poses as a maid in order to invade the Wayne Estate in pursuit of some pearls. Bane is a brute using force to impose his will. Selina (whom I don’t believe was ever called “Catwoman”) uses finesse and wits to obtain what she wants. The latter event triggers Bruce to emerge from his eight-year self-imposed exile and seek out his new object of interest and take up the old hobby of protecting Gotham in menacing black garb.
Alfred is against the notion from the start. His heartfelt speech to Bruce about not wanting to see him re-suit up as Batman and to instead see him abroad with a wife and a knowing nod echoes a similar desire of Ben Affleck’s Good Will Hunting character to the titular man. Having seen how such a speech played out in the 1997 Oscar winner left little doubt as to how this one would end, but there were enough twists and red-herrings to make you believe it wouldn’t or at least not in exact form.
With Selina Kyle having trouble showing any loyalty to either Bruce Wayne or the man in costume, I presumed the partner he’d end up with was Miranda Tate. She’s the first woman Bruce ever really pined for since Rachel’s death in The Dark Knight and the first one we’d ever see him sleep with. This gave him the courage to entrust her with overseeing the one thing that could be transformed into a weapon large enough to destroy the city and the one Bane uses to control Gotham’s citizens.
The cage-faced ball of rage known as Bane is largely a mystery, though we’re given several details about what we presume to be his background. Whereas Scarecrow wanted to spread fear throughout Gotham in an effort to carry out Ra’s Al Ghul’s plan of destroying Gotham and Joker wanted nothing more to cause chaos and evil throughout the society, Bane is able to get the city’s population to do what some Americans talk about and Egyptians fulfilled – overthrowing the government. What the new world order actually creates is a dystopian wasteland that could have led to the events depicted in Children of Men. Bane gets Gotham to rise up like a great dictator then proceeds to rule them with an iron face.
After breaking Batman in a Selina Kyle-produced betrayal, Bane has Bruce banished to the underground prison in which he was raised to watch the city Bruce once loved and protected turn to hell on earth. The only hope allowed in the prison had been provided in story form. A child, the offspring of Ra’s Al Ghul, escapes the pit and the lifetime of misery it assured. Bruce summons the courage to continue living, the anger to get back in shape to return to Gotham and finally the fear of death to provide the adrenaline needed complete the task. The lesson afforded to him by his father at the beginning of Batman Begins comes back to propel him.
While Gotham is still a wintery hellscape, Batman returns to enlist Selina Kyle in his quest to return the nuclear bomb being paraded around the streets of Gotham like a megaton manifestation of oppression to its secure resting place. Commissioner Gordon has been sentenced to walk the icy plank and after all the Batman I’ve soaked in over the past several weeks, I’ve never felt the man in black to be more of a badass then when he has Gordon light a flare to reveal his emergence from the shadows and set off a flaming reminder of the symbol he represents.
Batman finally bests Bane in a mano-a-mano showdown in the middle of thousands of citizens/”Baners” duking it out. Only then does Miranda reveal herself to be kin to Ra’s Al Ghul, Talia (a fact IMDb seems intent on spoiling for you in its Cast/Character section of the movie’s page). Selina comes to Bruce’s rescue and his faith in her is rewarded. No longer is she on the antagonist end of the character totem pole and the woman Bruce is to share the rest of his life with is destined to be her.
Instead of leading us right to the ending we wanted and felt was preordained, Nolan forces the audience to wrench one last time as Bruce seemingly martyrs himself to save the city whose fabric he’s so deeply sewn into. His death is marked by a gravestone next to the parents who left him orphaned all those years ago, which started him on his journey. Alfred is beside himself with sorrow until providing that knowing nod while abroad we knew we wanted from its first mention.
Nolan’s trilogy has come to a close. And as it does, so does this series of articles looking back at the past and how things went from Adam West to superhero-on-film’s best. There’s already been talk of a reboot, as is inevitable. We all have to hope the timetable is longer than Sony gave to Spiderman, but rest assured this task won’t be carried out again when the film’s time in the sun comes to rise. I never did get too much Batman. Things were never ruined for me. In fact, I have more fondness for the character now than I ever did before. And I was wrong, by the way. My fears of this film not living up to what I wanted from it were unfounded. I should have known Nolan would never let me down, but it’s nice to know he followed through with the theme he set up in his first Bat-film. “Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” After Joel Schumacher left the franchise for dead, Nolan brought about its resurrection.
Now, I get to watch all the trailers and TV spots I’ve been avoiding before I go see it again…