The Dark Knight Rises (2011) Review

The Dark Knight Rises (2011) Director: Christopher Nolan

“A hero can be anyone, even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy’s shoulders to let him know the world hadn’t ended.”

Batman standing in Gotham with a flaming bat symbol above


For the final installment of this deservedly celebrated Batman trilogy, Christopher Nolan once again joined forces with his writing virtuoso brother, Jonathan Nolan, in order to inject something new into the “Dark Knight” mythos. The theme of “rising” weaves throughout the film and is complemented nicely with an elevating score by Hans Zimmer. Whereas both Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008) had explored the nature and limits of heroism, both seeking to construct the symbol and idea of Batman, The Dark Knight Rises considers what happens when Batman truly fails. How can a hero, who is premised on the notion of “rebirth,” rediscover his ascendancy amidst an aging body, as well as an apathetic and complacent disposition? Has his vigilantism all been for naught?

Eight years have passed since the events of The Dark Knight. Now, a towering criminal known as Bane (Tom Hardy) has emerged and acquired a nuclear weapon from Uzbekistan. The city of Gotham, meanwhile, has found a certain degree of peace due to expanded powers found in the “Dent Act,” so-named for the fond memory of the late Harvey Dent from The Dark Knight, however people remain dissatisfied with their elites (in truth, The Dark Knight Rises actually had to compete with the “Occupy Wall Street” movement for the shooting of certain scenes). Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) decides to keep the dark secret of Harvey Dent. Gotham now exists in a state of decadence a la Charles Dickens’ A Tale Of Two Cities. It has become far too trusting of its own opulence and a revolutionary spirit has consumed the underclass. The mood is rife for a wayward demagogue to divide the city against itself. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) lives like an aging recluse in Wayne Manor, not unlike Howard Hughes, and at the same time Wayne Enterprises is losing money after deactivating a nuclear reactor which could have been weaponized. The air of complacency hangs everywhere. Below the city, Bane quietly builds his criminal network from the sewers, always looking upward, while his close confidante Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) becomes the new CEO of Wayne Enterprises. Together, they sabotage Bruce Wayne. Batman is reluctantly lured out of retirement to confront Bane, but he is brutally assaulted. Batman is defeated, his back is broken, and he is tossed into a remote underground prison. While healing, he hears legends of Ra’s al Ghul’s child who was once left in the same prison to rot, but then eventually became the only person to scale the massive walls of the prison, and make the final leap necessary for escape. We are led to believe this child is Bane.

Bruce Wayne triumphantly completes the same journey. He climbs the walls and leaps to freedom from the prison. Bruce Wayne has once again overcome struggle in order to be reborn, even at this late stage, as he has learned to face death one again. He then returns to Gotham and, with help from a former opportunist-turned “Catwoman” Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) as well as former cop “Robin” John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Batman battles Bane, only to be surprisingly stabbed by Miranda, the woman he entrusted with Wayne Enterprises. She reveals herself to be Talia al Ghul, Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter! She was actually the child who climbed out of the desert prison, and Bane is merely her sidekick. Batman chases down the bomb which is set to detonate inside Talia al Ghul ‘s car around the city. Eventually, Batman recovers the bomb and lifts it over the water where it can detonate far from the city. The citizens of Gotham fear Batman has died in the explosion. Both Bruce Wayne and Batman are presumed dead, and his home Wayne Manor becomes a home for young orphaned children. It is bittersweet for Lucius Fox (Morgen Freeman) and Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine). At the end, in a brief epilogue, Alfred spots Bruce Wayne sitting together with Selina Kyle as his new love interest, casually dining in a foreign country. Is it true? Or is it merely a hopeful vision? Regardless, the image and ideal of Batman has been successfully reborn. Perhaps the idea of a hero must constantly be reborn, he cannot grow complacent, he must always be prepared for what is coming, from either inside or outside the city.

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