Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dark Knight Rises - A Review

**Perhaps a few SPOILERS**

There was no midnight show for me this time around. No panting and huffing about how great the experience will be whilst frantically counting down the minutes till the late night drive to the theatre to catch the "first glimpse" of a long-awaited fan dream made celluloid. Instead, my wife and I took the more intelligent approach to seeing the new Batman film by waiting until Saturday afternoon. We were able to avoid lines, obnoxious hyper-fans, and poor seating. There's no better way to experience a film like this, I believe, but that's hardly why I'm writing and you're reading this.

Dark Knight Rises is the end of a journey. It means an end for Christopher Nolan, the cast and crew under his lead, the fans of Batman both new and old, and for me. Since I first saw Batman Begins in theatres up till this afternoon I've been giddy about the progression of the artful adaptation of the legendary, four-color, fear-wielding caped crusader. I've bought magazines so that I could see the production images. I've revisited favourite comic book storylines to play the pointless guessing game of the overly hopeful fanboy. I was completely destroyed and reassembled by the majesty of Dark Knight. Then came this afternoon when I beheld the proper, fantastically crafted ending to one of the best film trilogies of all time.

Christopher Nolan has time and again proven himself to be highly adept at finding the soul of a story and its characters and skillfully crafting a form for such an ethereal and elusive thing to inhabit. I believe he did this exceptionally well throughout his Batman trilogy. He masterfully gave us a clear beginning, middle, and end with a stellar story progression which continues to boggle the mind. He, as my wife pointed out, understood the archetypes at the heart of this modern myth and employed them to exceptional effect. It is necessary to respect him for his contribution to the genre of comic book film and to also respect him for knowing when and how to end his involvement.

Considering the film, it is a near-three hour ride starting with an extensive chunk of build-up which crescendos in a fantastically worthwhile pay-off. Playing with the tatters left in the wake of Dark Knight, this film is set in a Gotham a few years after the creation of the lie that was the passing of the "White Knight," Harvey Dent, and the beginning of the vilification of "The Batman." It's a Gotham doomed from the start of this tale because it is, at its core, a lie. That doom approaches quickly in the form of one who seeks to fulfil the aims of a long-dead idealist, enemy, and, to Bruce Wayne, a mentor. The avatar of the seemingly deceased dreams of the late Ra's Al Ghul wears the shape of the mighty Bane who cleverly sets up the pieces for a deadly endgame. It is a game Bruce Wayne, who has, since the end of Dark Knight, lived the life of a recluse with his faithful, father-like Alfred, thinks he is able to play. We see that as in many hero's tales there is still much that Bruce/Batman must do to truly be prepared for confronting the villains and saving his city.

Throughout the film we're introduced to many new characters, especially during the lengthy beginning. Each of them plays a fantastic part in the overall story, and each of them enriches this all-important final act. The ominous mercenary and terrorist Bane is a bizarre villain through which Nolan, executing the magic trick that is his cinematic style, sets up the greater end story. He's a leader with and for a purpose but he is ultimately a tool. Then there's John Blake, a "hot head" rookie cop who strongly believes in his badge but later learns, with the aid of the seasoned advice of Jim Gordon, that there's something greater to serving a purpose beyond the shackles of the rules. One of the greater surprises in this film comes from Blake, and I'm proud to say that I called it in two different ways which come together to be something far more interesting. Miranda Tate, a new face in the high-class arena of Gotham City, is also a new character and one which, believe it or not, has a thing or two up her sleeve. Another new character worth noting is Selina Kyle, a skilled and determined cat burglar who plays to her advantage through the world of men while remaining an independent, mostly self-serving woman.

Though we are forced to wade through over an hour of new information, introductions, updates, and piece-setting (all of it essential to the complete movie), the last act makes me proud to be a Batman fan. Overall Dark Knight Rises is a detailed study of the hero and the power of symbols. At the end we are shown a heroic figure who has grown over the course of the trilogy and reinforced his growth through the events of this final portion of his story. He has been tested, he is stronger than before, and he has completed a quest through which he discovered what was necessary to best the challenge of the newest obstacle in his life. After all is done we are given a view of a future for his city, for Gotham, that is built on a symbol similar to that of Dent, but this time it is a symbol with substance and great truth. In the end we're overwhelmed by a phoenix of hope which has broken the bonds of its ash heap. In the end we're given a forward-looking Gotham which was saved by the hero it deserved. 

I give Dark Knight Rises five out of five. Thank you for reading.

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