In his latest ‘State of the Genre’ column, , Martin Deer revisits the epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy…
“Sometimes a man rises from the darkness…“
Words spoken about Bane and his emergence from the pit but which have so much meaning for Bruce Wayne himself, 30 years spent angry and in pain seeking and clinging on to an outlet for the rage which brewed deep within. The Dark Knight Rises shows how a person can move on from the burdens they’ve laden on themselves, as well as being the conclusion to an inspiring story of how one man can make a change and how a life dedicated to others can make a difference. Anyone can be a hero.
Rises is a wonderfully crafted story. Everything works for me. My initial reaction on first viewing was one of intense emotion. Bruce is taken to some incredibly low moments during the course of this film; from the figuratively broken man we see at the start, secluding himself from the world when the Batman persona he created and so needed was itself no longer needed, to the literally broken man when ego takes him in to a battle he can not win and which costs him dearly. The pit sequence epitomises why I – and I’m sure a lot of us – love this character; his will, his determination, his refusing to quit and be beaten. His back broken and thrown to the bottom of a seemingly inescapable pit to wallow in self pity at his failure to save Gotham, he doesn’t, he throws himself to the floor and attempts to re-build himself. Refusing to be beaten. But he must first learn to again cherish his own life as well as those he tries to save. The sequence culminates with what is my favourite scene of the trilogy and one of the greatest scenes to ever affect me in such a profound way. The climb out of the pit accompanied by that pulsing score and rhythmic chanting is just an exhilarating experience, each and every time. It’s also a wonderful moment when the bats fly out before he makes the jump, fear literally found him again, just wonderful.
Bane is a fantastic villain. He may not as be charismatic or have the same level of gravitas as Heath Ledger’s Joker, but then he was never going to as Bane is a completely different kind of villain. But if Ledger fully embodied and became the Joker, so too did Tom Hardy with Bane. There are two scenes in particular; the prison scene post-sewer fight and at City Hall when he is incapacitated where Hardy is able to convey with his eyes alone the hate and coldness which Bane feels towards Bruce and the love and warmth which he feels for Talia. Intelligent, calculating and evil, Nolan created a villain that was worthy of being Batman’s equal and Hardy elevated the character to be a menacing, terrifying enigma.
Enough has been said about Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle that I couldn’t put better myself, a captivating performance of a great character. Selina’s role in Rises was perfect and inspired, the relationship built between the two and the connections between them made me love her character more than ever before. Like Bruce, Selina is also trying to put the pieces of her life back together and start fresh, they were kindred spirits, and it was a beautiful site to see her with Bruce at the end, having left Gotham to begin their new lives together.
Speaking of that ending, when Rises was first released there was lots of talk about the bomb and the twist being predictable and lazy, to which I disagree. Is a nuclear bomb threat original? No. Is it lazy? Absolutely not when used effectively as it is here. Bane and the League of Shadows are terrorists, terrorists who; sacked Rome and burned London to the ground. They used economics to attack a City’s stability and livelihood and when that didn’t work they came back to poison it. But they failed because of one man, and so the next step was something that would be bigger than one man, or so they thought. In today’s world faceless terrorists exist behind a cause or a belief, this is the League of Shadows. These terrorists try to use nuclear weapons and this is our world today, and the League fit right in to that mould. The bomb also plays in to a much bigger story, it’s not just the bomb but it’s where the bomb allows the story to go; the occupation of Gotham where a terrorist/dictator parades himself as a leader of the people and the City must fight back to free itself from his reign of terror, 1000 extras pitted against each other in an epic showdown between good and evil, the exhilarating chase sequence through the streets and it’s allowing Bruce to make that most ultimate of sacrifices – if needs be – but also giving him a way out to leave Gotham behind free of his burdens. That is where the bomb takes us and what it allows. A tired device? Maybe, but not in The Dark Knight Rises, it’s how the device is used and it was used to great effect here.
The Dark Knight Rises is well written, incredibly well acted, beautifully shot, moves at a heart-racing pace – this film does not feel like two and a half hours – and speaks to us about the world in which we live today through the prism of one man’s journey to be a symbol for good whilst exorcising the demons within him. To see Bruce finally shed his pain and anger, to move on with his life was for this Batman fan an incredibly moving and wonderful thing to see. He may have left Gotham behind but he didn’t abandon it, he has inspired generations to follow in his footsteps. Bruce Wayne will not be around for ever, but the symbol of Batman can be. Anyone can be a hero.
For me The Dark Knight Rises is a masterpiece, and I struggle to understand why it receives intense nitpicking and unfounded criticism to be so underrated. Following The Dark Knight was always going to be tough, and I think a lot of the problems with Rises stem from people expecting something far different than what we got. However like many a now considered “classic”, Rises is undervalued in it’s time, receiving mixed reviews and not held up aloft as the cinematic achievement that it i.s But in time it will be viewed as it should be – as one of Christopher Nolan’s and cinema’s masterpieces, and I can only offer my thanks to Mr. Nolan for giving us the greatest trilogy ever made.
Holy Franchise, Batman! Bringing the Caped Crusader to the Screen – Available now via Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.