Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises: The Apocalypse

No article about The Dark Knight Rises can be written at this point without honoring the victims of the horrific shooting that took place in Aurora, Colorado last night. It is tempting to search for some sort of meaning in an event like this, either to condemn something we don't like or support something we do. Ultimately, this event defies explanation. It was a senseless act of violence. We don't yet know if anything specific precipitated it, but until we do, I suggest we mourn and pray for the victims.

The following article does contain spoilers. I will attempt to be tactful, but it is meant to be a serious discussion of the film, not a cursory review to encourage you to attend.

Batman Begins was the genesis of Batman. The Dark Knight had a strong sense of immediacy, relevance, and tangibility; it was Batman today. So with Batman Begins as the past of the character, and The Dark Knight as the present, The Dark Knight Rises becomes a look at the character's future. It is in essence apocalyptic. There is a certain level of detachment from the proceedings that to my view is the cinematic equivalent of peering into the future. This seems necessary because while the events of The Dark Knight certainly pushed the limits of what we have collectively experienced in the modern world, the events of The Dark Knight Rises go beyond anything in our modern American experience. This makes it less accessible, yet perhaps, in time, we may start to see this film as a sort of prophecy as to where we are headed.

It is appropriate, then, that this film, like Batman Begins, has more elements of the fantastical than its middle, grounded predecessor. It is still, at its core, a comic book movie. One of the things I originally noted about The Dark Knight was that its plot followed the patterns of one of the darker graphic novels, and not the simple build of most films. The Dark Knight Rises also seems to play out as a sort of novel, with large time jumps taking place within it. At midnight, on first viewing, it can be somewhat hard to keep up with, though I expect clearer heads and repeat viewings will clean most of that up.

Let us speak first of Bane. Christopher Nolan has spoken before of his fondness for Bond films (a ski sequence in Inception hearkened back to On Her Majesty's Secret Service as well as The World is Not Enough). I caught many shades of Renard from The World is Not Enough in his character, though Bane has a much better and poignant backstory than his Bond counterpart. Unlike the Joker, Bane has a plan, a backstory, and feelings. He is scary. The fantastic opening scene shows us just what this man is capable of. He is a mirror for Batman, but he has not lost sight of himself and his purpose like Batman has. Which leads us to what I think the key of the film is, Bruce's hubris. He became legend, and then left at the top of his game in what he thought was a noble lie. Now he thinks he can just step back into it. He completely underestimates Bane, and opens himself up to all sorts of manipulation due to his own pride and apathy. In fact, every bad thing that happens in this movie is a result of his own disengagement with the world. His hubris, his lies, and his foolishness result in his punishment. Throughout the series, we've seen him trained by evil only to then take the tools of evil and attempt to use them for good. He then lies to the people to save them. As Bane says, "you put on the darkness. I was born in it." Batman's tricks do not work on Bane. Bane does not fear the dark knight. It is only after suffering a horrible penance that he can regain the conviction and strength of character necessary to truly save Gotham and finally be free.

 AnneHathaway's Selina Kyle is a compelling character. From the beginning, Bruce sees something different in her. Yet even here he is vulnerable to hubris. Many parts of this film feel closer to the comics than either of the previous two installments. Not so much in tone, but visually. Nolan eschews some of the complete realism he embraced in The Dark Knight in exchange for something more visually operatic. Even the conclusion of the film is far more bombastic than anything we saw in The Dark Knight. As I compared this to the Star Wars trilogy, the first and third films have Death Stars. While the microwave gun itself does not make a reappearance from Batman Begins, a super weapon unwittingly built by Wayne Enterprises does play a part, and again is part of Bruce's detachment and apathy. When he was actively involved during the time of The Dark Knight, Wayne Enterprises didn't make such silly things.

This is not the triumphant third installment one would expect. Unlike the previous two films, which largely stood on their own, this one relies heavily on the others for its emotional punch. It feels most like "an installment," mostly I assume because of the long time jump. There is a lot of ground lost between the second two films, whereas the first two bridged seamlessly. Yet, at the same time, it feels almost like a direct sequel to Batman Begins, with the events of The Dark Knight sort of tossed into the middle. As you can tell, I am still processing the movie.

This is not The Dark Knight. This is not more of same. This is a completely new and different beast. Batman Begins could be compared to the first Superman. The Dark Knight was Heat on steroids. The Dark Knight Rises defies comparison. I need to see it again.

Click here for more movie reviews.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...