Yesterday you got my spoiler-free review of The Dark Knight Rises. Today, though, expect many spoilers as I go through the movie with my Batman fanboy hat on.
First up, let’s talk about Bane. Nolan stays fairly faithful to his comic book character – the frightening intelligence, incredible strength, charisma, etc. But there were a few changes made, and necessary ones at that. Bane no longer has an addiction to Venom, the super-strength drug of the comic. His history is tied more to that of Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Shadows, too. For a long while in the film, you are even lead to believe that Bane is the son of Ra’s al Ghul. Personally, I thought that was a neat touch, and makes the eventual reveal of who really is the child of Ra’s al Ghul more spectacular.
Bane also has most of the immediately quotable lines in the film. His speech in front of the prison is absolutely breathtaking, and moments such as “do you feel like you are in charge?” are so intimidating you end up squirming in your chair whenever he is onscreen. There’s also the underlying subtext of Bane, Talia, and the League of Shadows. They recruited the down-and-outs, the nameless of society, the poor. What did they promise them? That the city would be theirs. There’s a distinct anti-money, anti-capitalist bent in the film, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence given the 99% and Occupy protests. The League of Shadows bastardized and manipulated this movement to suit their agenda – an astute choice of reasoning from Nolan.
Then you’ve got Nolan’s Selina Kyle. The announcement of Anne Hathaway as Kyle/Catwoman caused a lot of concern amongst the fanbase, much in the same way that Heath Ledger’s as the Joker did. Thankfully, she doesn’t disappoint and turns out to be my favourite Catwoman. Why? Well, first off, I don’t think the name ‘Catwoman’ was mentioned in the entire film. Most importantly, though, is the fact that the more ridiculous backstory about her ‘reincarnation’ as a cat (in the likes of Batman Returns and the Catwoman movie) has gone. She’s an expert thief with tremendous skill, and that’s that. The rest of her character? Well, it’s character depth. Nothing supernatural, nothing science fiction, just a human being. And it works brilliantly.
Other than that, I loved Scarecrow’s cameo appearance. It would have been a shame if he hadn’t appeared, given Cillian Murphy’s role in the other two films. A nice little touch, particularly given his ties with the League of Shadows. Meanwhile, John Blake’s reveal as ‘Robin’ was a wonderful touch. There were plenty of rumours surrounding his character from the off, but his true identity was kept a secret (at least to me) until I saw the film. It keeps an important tie to the ideals of the first film – an idea is more powerful than a man. Bruce Wayne is ‘dead’, and Batman is ‘dead’. But there is the possibility of his return through John Blake – as a new Batman, a Robin, or a Nightwing. Will it happen under Nolan’s stewardship? It’s really beside the point. The circle is complete.
And more important is that it leaves the door open, at some point, to a return to the trilogy from Nolan. I don’t expect a quick fourth film in, say, three years’ time. But, I do have a little dream of Christopher Nolan directing an adaption of The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller’s glorious imagining of the future of the Batman universe. In ten to fifteen years, after Nolan’s directed a Bond film or two? I certainly wouldn’t be against it…
The comic book storylines also had an obvious influence on The Dark Knight Rises too. There’s a clear parallel to Knightfall, where, most memorably, Bane breaks Batman’s back and takes over the city. But there’s also plenty from No Man’s Land, a series where Gotham is cut off from the rest of the country by a terrible earthquake. Somehow Nolan has managed to tie both series together, along with making it an important part of his own, unique universe.
Nolan is the best thing about this series, obviously. His direction is flawless, unique, and theatrical. Most importantly, aside from a few quips the series takes itself very seriously. There’s none of the wisecracking of The Avengers, for instance. The lack of dependence on CGI to make the films work also keeps its grounded feel, with none of the tacky quality of Marvel’s own films. The Dark Knight Rises continues the series’ amazing set-pieces and iconic moments. The Joker standing in front of a burning pile of money, or the original film’s training with Ra’s al Ghul have been joined by some incredible scenes. My personal favourite was when Batman’s symbol is lit up to show his return to Gotham, perhaps due it its similarity to a scene in The Crow. The films are classic, traditional storytelling at its finest.
Of course there are a few gripes to be had. There’s plenty of cliché to be found – but the way the film is made, these clichés only seem to add to the experience. One personal thing that confused me was exactly how Bruce Wayne was able to get from his prison to Gotham in about a day, and in particular how he was able to get back into Gotham when it was under such surveillance. I’ve now just accepted it as ‘he is Batman, he can do pretty much anything’.
Finally, I’m going to share with you something I can’t unsee. At the end of the film, Batman flies off over the sea with a nuclear bomb, trying to get rid of it. I couldn’t help but be reminded of this scene from the original Adam West Batman film:
Sometimes, you just can’t get rid of a bomb. Now we know how Bruce Wayne survived – clearly a brave dolphin helped him out.
I’m genuinely sad to see that the Nolan Batman trilogy is over. All three of them are amongst my favourite films and I genuinely think it’s the best trilogy in film history. Whoever takes over the Batman franchise after Nolan is going to have a tough time on his hands.