Christopher Nolan is the George Washington of the superhero movie. He has revolutionized the genre so dramatically that the American people, the very people that have spent the last decade being screwed over by the 1%, are not only willing to watch a movie about a man born into money doing whatever he wants with his wealth, but make that man into our god. Batman has gone from a rich guy indulging in a criminal-beating hobby to a symbol of the American dream itself. This would have never happened if Nolan had produced anything other than a masterpiece trilogy. Fortunately, he did.
I’m not the first nor will I be the last writer to sing Nolan’s praises. “The Dark Knight” is one of the most critically acclaimed movies in recent memory, and its box office success is more than well known. Of course, after “The Dark Knight,” the question on everyone’s mind was, “Where does he go from here?”
“The Dark Knight” left us with Batman (Christian Bale) taking the blame for crimes committed by Gotham’s former District Attorney Harvey Dent/Two-Face. This was so Police Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) could justify passing the Dent Act, which allows the legal system to be far more aggressive with criminals. Now the city can fend for itself, and Bruce Wayne can retire his batty alter ego.
But as every trilogy fan knows, evil never really dies until the third movie (and sometimes not even then). In “The Dark Knight Rises,” Batman must confront and defeat Bane (Tom Hardy), a muscle-bound criminal with a taste for crushing violence. Bane must wear a metal mask at all times, lest his gruesome facial injuries put him into extreme pain. This mask gives him a voice that sounds like Darth Vader with an Irish accent. Yes, it’s as strange as it sounds.
Aside from the main villain, Batman must also contend with his love/hate relationship with Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway). The first scene in “Dark Knight Rises” shows Catwoman stealing a pearl necklace from Bruce Wayne’s safe, which was formerly owned by his mother. Hathaway delivers a believably sassy portrayal of the not-so-petty thief, and helps lighten the mood of this relentlessly dark film.
Like other Nolan films, the movie goes deeper than a simple tale of a man who punches bad guys. The film is loaded with sharp social commentary by dragging both Batman and Gotham down to their lowest levels. We see Batman broken physically and mentally, and we see Gotham collapse alongside him. At one point the city falls into a Lord-of-the-Flies-style anarchy, with the most horrible flaws of men serving as the rule of law.
The cinematography adds another layer to the story. The images presented by the camera are among the most moving parts of the film, with shots of tattered American flags and crumbling buildings showcasing the complete destruction of Gotham City. There are parallels and references to real-world events, although I don’t believe that this movie is a jab at Mitt Romney as certain right-wing radio personalities do. Speaking of that character, the scenes of Bane are particularly frightening. They often have the camera at his stomach, pointing upwards at his face, making him like a menacing behemoth looming over every room and area he’s in.
Of course, all of this symbolism and deep storytelling in the world won’t sell tickets. There needs to be something that a more casual moviegoer can enjoy, like ridiculous Bat-gadgets, or thugs getting savagely beaten, or Anne Hathaway in a skintight leather suit. This movie just so happens to have all of those things in surplus. The crown jewel of The Dark Knight Rises’ razzle-dazzle arsenal is Batman’s new aircraft, dubbed the Bat.
When it comes to creating these special effects, Nolan goes hardcore and old-school at the same time. The list of stunning visuals and jaw-dropping action moments in “The Dark Knight Rises” goes on and on. But what separates this movie from other blockbusters is that Nolan barely uses any CGI. Almost all of the visuals in the movie are done using camera tricks and scaled down models of the set pieces. Once you see this movie (and you will), you’ll understand what an amazing feat that is.
I can’t say much more without spoiling the ending, so I’ll leave you with a few words of encouragement. I strongly encourage you to see “The Dark Knight Rises.” It’s worth at least double the ticket price, and will keep you engaged for the entirety of its 2:45 runtime. There is no better investment at the movie theatre right now. Stop reading this article and go see “Dark Knight Rises” right now.