The Dark Knight Rises
Release Date: July 20, 2012
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan (screenplay) and Christopher Nolan (screenplay/story), David S. Goyer (story), Bob Kane (Batman characters)
Stars: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway and Morgan Freeman
MPAA Rating: PG-13
If you are looking for a rational, objective review of The Dark Knight Rises, you came to the wrong place.
I was 12-years-old when the Knightfall story unfolded in the Batman comic books. I was instantly drawn to the character of Bane, someone who had an intelligence and strength that rivaled Batman’s. He was a great villain with a really captivating backstory. Plus, I was the perfect comic book reading age when the series came out. It’s still the comic book event most vividly etched into my mind.
So needless to say, I’m very protective of Bane. I made my dad take me to see Batman and Robin on opening night, excited that the villain I loved would be included. My hopes were quickly dashed as I watched Jeep Swenson turn the character I adored into a bumbling moron who existed only as muscle for Poison Ivy.
The Dark Knight Rises is the Bane film I’ve been waiting for. It’s not a straight adaptation of Knightfall, but it definitely has many aspects of that storyline in it. It also pulls from a variety of other Batman comics. You can tell Christopher Nolan read a lot of comic books when making these films and he loves to pick and choose little moments and aspects from a wide variety of sources.
What he does best is finding the essence of a character and staying true to who that character is while adapting him or her for the story he is telling. Heath Ledger’s Joker wasn’t exactly what fans had seen in the comics over the years, but he was true to the spirit of the character, which as his core is a mischievous agent of chaos. Same with Liam Neeson’s Ra’s al Ghul, who is a man who believes he should be controlling the world.
Nolan gets Bane. He’s a hulking, unstoppable monster, but he’s also a wounded soul who doesn’t trust authority figures or traditional power structures. He’s a leader of men who can execute plans with military precision. He’s a genius who has the Batman figured out. And all of those character traits are present in this film, which tinkers with Bane’s backstory and completely does away with his dependence on Venom, but still presents him in a way that rings true.
The story takes place eight years after the end of The Dark Knight. Harvey Dent’s death galvanized the city, leading to new legislation that essentially shut down organized crime in the city. Batman (Christian Bale), having taken the wrap for Harvey Dent’s killing spree, hasn’t been seen since the night Dent died. And Bruce Wayne, now lacking any direction in his life, has become an eccentric recluse. Worse still, his body is giving out on him, wearing down after the torment he’s put it through.
It’s into this peaceful, Batman-less Gotham that Bane (Tom Hardy) shows up with an army, looking to take over the city. There’s also Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), who becomes a wild card in the mix as she’s a cat burglar with a conscience. (Another character which Nolan absolutely nails.)
The story feels a bit unfocused and scattered at times, though it’s mostly because Nolan needs to introduce a lot of new characters and plot points in a limited amount of time. Thankfully, the overall story is strong enough and the ending is rewarding enough that it’s worth it. Nolan’s trademark dry sense of humor is on full display in this film and that and the large battle scenes help to carry the story through the rough patches.
Nolan has finally figured out how to shoot action sequences. His battle scenes in previous films were often too jerky and quick cut to follow, making you feel nausea while leaving you unsure who was hitting who. This time around though, the action sequences are clear and easy to follow. And they are brutal. When Batman and Bane square off, you feel it. Their first encounter with each other is a prolonged, brutal fight scene that is truly something to behold.
Comic book fans and casual fans alike should enjoy the film. For fans of Nolan’s previous films, this feels like a fitting sendoff, with plenty of nods and callbacks to the other two movies. And comic books fans, even those who like me know Knightfall backward and forward, will still find themselves surprised at some of the twists and turns Nolan added into the story. You are never quite sure where the movie is headed or how things will end up, which is a great feeling to have.
Nolan did 12-year-old me proud. And I think the inner Batman fan in all of you will be delighted as well. It’s a fitting end to a trilogy that elevated the discussion of what a comic book movie could be. And after 19 years of hoping Hollywood would find the right way to utilize Bane, I can happily say it was worth the wait.
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his reviews, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org.