In Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” Batman proclaims, “A hero can be anyone, even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a little boy’s shoulders to let him know that the world hadn’t ended.” In light of the Aurora theater shootings, this statement is more poignant and true than Nolan ever could have predicted. Gotham, Aurora and other cities like them need a hero now more than ever.
In “The Dark Knight Rises,” Gotham has been without Batman for eight years. Bruce Wayne has become a recluse. When Bane, a pumped-up monster of a man, storms into Gotham, he revs up the city’s less fortunate, including orphans and criminals. With more than a little hint at the Occupy movement in our own world, Nolan leaves Bane to start an uprising against Gotham’s elite. Batman only returns when John Blake, a city orphan turned cop, reveals to Wayne that he knows his secret identity and urges him to vigilantism.
The film does not come close to the grandeur or spectacle of its predecessor. It has none of its psychological villains, breathtaking action sequences or memorable lines. But with all the hype of “The Dark Knight” surrounding Heath Ledger’s death and his posthumous Oscar for the role of the Joker, was it ever possible for “The Dark Knight Rises” to be better than or even equal to it? No, unfortunately it never had a chance.
Luckily, Batman fans had a trusty writer and director in Nolan, who did the best he could to bring about a satisfying villain. He traded the spectacular weapons and fight sequences for plot twists and turns. Bane as a villain is difficult to place. He’s no Joker, for sure, but he’s a fair lick better than the Scarecrow (despite the latter’s comeback cameo). Unfortunately for Tom Hardy, whose defining facial feature is a pouty mouth that is only enhanced by his smooth voice, Bane’s iconic mask and mutilated voice smothers his acting talent.
Catwoman finally finds her slinky soul sister in Anne Hathaway. She coos her way through the heart of the movie and brings the entire audience to her side by the end. Christian Bale plays the predictable Batman, sulking his way through the movie and using his ridiculous “disguised” voice to faux-threaten his enemies. Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine play touching roles as Lucius Fox and Alfred Pennyworth, and their only detriment to the film is in lack of screen time.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the young cop John Blake, who takes the side of Commissioner Gordon, played by Gary Oldman, in the fight to save Gotham once more. Gordon-Levitt takes a winning turn as the man who stands up for his city as Bane ravages it. Unlike Batman or Catwoman, Blake is completely free of moral dilemmas and has a clear set of convictions.
In total, “The Dark Knight Rises” is far more plot-driven than the trilogy’s sequel, and therefore it fits better in line with the style and tone of Batman Begins. It seems that “The Dark Knight Rises” and its writer-driven spin is more Christopher Nolan’s style, showing that maybe “The Dark Knight” was really Ledger’s show after all. Despite this, it seems to have been a satisfying ending for fans of the series.