Where This Meets That
Tom Hardy plays Bane, an outcast of the League of Shadows vows to fulfill Ra’s al Ghul’s goal from Batman Begins of destroying Gotham. Hardy joins a new cast heavily drafted from Nolan’s last offering, Inception, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard, and also “Nolan newbie” Anne Hathaway, who is spectacular as Selina Kyle / Catwoman.
Christian Bale returns as the “Caped Crusader” and delivers possibly his best performance in the trilogy. He joins trilogy mainstays, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman, who are all on top of their game.
The story picks up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight. Batman has disappeared, Bruce Wayne has become reclusive in dwindling riches, and Gotham is enjoying peace and prosperity in the shadow of fallen hero Harvey Dent.
Wayne’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth (Caine), has been trying to get Wayne back outside his re-built manor to re-engage in life, but it takes an encounter with a certain skilled cat burglar to finally rouse Wayne from his shell (or cave, as it were). What Wayne finds is a city whose peacetime is rapidly nearing an end at the hands of the hulking sociopath Bane.
Renowned film critic Roger Ebert said the film “tests the weight a superhero movie can bear,” and I do agree with him on that. However, I disagree with him on several other critical points. Ebert questions the clarity of the plot and the motives of the villains, while I think Nolan conveys all that pretty well, though without spoon-feeding his audience.
My primary criticism with the film is its sound editing, for which its Bat-predecessor ironically won an Oscar in 2008. Bane’s mask often makes it difficult to understand what he’s saying. His voice (and general presence, in fact) recalls Darth Vader, but I never had trouble understanding Vader. Likewise, Batman’s voice is also difficult to understand at times.
The film also plods along very deliberately (i.e., some might say “boring-ish”) through the first half of its nearly three hour sprawl, as it readies itself for a highly adrenalized and unforgettable second act.
The film’s greatest weakness is that it had to follow up Nolan’s last two films, The Dark Knight and Inception, two of the most awe-inspiring films ever made. When I sat down to watch The Dark Knight for the first time, I expected the world and got it. I left wondering what in the world Nolan could do as an encore. Amazingly, Inception met the challenge and left me asking the same question. In that context, success for The Dark Knight Rises should be defined not by whether it’s the best film of the trilogy but whether it’s a fitting finale.
And that it is.