BY IRENE KARRAS
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises is an excellent conclusion to his post-911 thesis on the flawed hero in a corrupt America. Though not quite as gripping as 2008’s The Dark Knight, it is well-acted, thought-provoking, and ultimately optimistic, if a little too long and meandering in places.
The film picks up 8 years after the previous installment. Batman (Christian Bale) is an outlaw, his collusion with Commissioner Gordon in the previous film resulting in a relatively quiet Gotham. That changes with the arrival of the Shadow League’s seemingly unstoppable terrorist, Bane (Tom Hardy). Bruce Wayne, now an emotionally and physically broken recluse, comes out of seclusion both to save Gotham from Bane and to save some of the other characters from themselves. In the process, he, too, ultimately finds a kind of salvation.
I didn’t see the film in theatres and I’ve remained unspoiled, for which I’m grateful, as the last half hour is full of interesting plot twists and reveals that put me through a bit of an emotional wringer. The film did, however, drag in places, and its almost three hour running time could easily have been tightened up without losing the impact of that final half hour.
The acting was superb–Michael Cain was wrenching as father-figure Alfred; Christian Bale gave Batman real depth and motivation; Anne Hathaway brought a youthful levity to her Cat Woman character; Marion Cotillard was luminous, as she tends to be; and Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a grounding force in the film.
This is a highly entertaining movie, and one that raises several interesting questions around class and power. After all, Batman is smart, yes, but he’s also very wealthy, thus giving him opportunities and access to the resources that allow him to maximize his potential. There’s plenty of allusion to the Occupy movement in some of the scenes as well, and their violence is reminiscent of protests around the world, if not necessarily in North America. Nolan raises questions and points out social weaknesses, but he doesn’t take a definitive political position or prescription.
It’s also the best of the three films in the trilogy in terms of its female characters, featuring two brilliant, strong women. It doesn’t make many inroads as far as race goes though. The most racially integrative scenes are those involving athletes or criminals. The bomb-builder, though not inherently villainous, is still ultimately the cause of destruction–and he’s the only one with an accent. There’s Morgan Freeman as brilliant and honest Lucius Fox, true, but he’s hardly in the film this time around.
Overall, the film is magnificent to watch with plenty of exciting technical details, an interesting plot line, and well-developed characters. A few hours well spent.
EXTRAS: Bonus DVD with interviews on Batman’s evolution throughout the years, Nolan’s personal infatuation with the superhero, specific scene and character breakdowns, and a history of the Batmobile. Even non-nerds will find the special features informative and the context provided interesting.
Irene Karras is a Calgary-based communications consultant and freelance writer with a fondness for 1950s Greek melodramas, 1980s coming of age movies, weird Canadian films, and, by necessity, PG movies. She blogs at misplacedmysassy.wordpress.com and tweets @irene_karras.
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