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For Your Consideration: The Dark Knight Rises

By Eric Hilliker

In this installment of For Your Consideration, Eric Hilliker looks at a movie you’ve probably already seen three times and your friend has threatened you with physical harm not to tell him any spoilers about. It’s the grand finale of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises.

It’s been seven years since Christian Bale swooped in as the Caped Crusader and director Christopher Nolan has been able to wipe away any bad taste left by previous Bat-films. Gone are the Dayglo nightmare, toy commercial visions of Gotham, the Bat-credit card, and Arnold with his ice puns (personally I couldn’t get enough). What replaced it was a sprawling, dingy cityscape, like the child of the worst parts of New York City, Chicago, and Detroit. Audiences embraced Nolan’s more mature take on the Dark Knight. Now after two thrilling chapters, Nolan brings his story to a close with The Dark Knight Rises, the most bombastic yet.

It is eight years after the Joker’s reign of chaos was stopped, Harvey Dent was killed, and most of the organized crime in Gotham was eliminated with stricter new laws. Batman is no longer needed. Bruce Wayne has become a Howard Hughes-like recluse, spending all his time in the shadows of the newly rebuilt Wayne Manor. Deep below Gotham City an evil is building an army. A terrorist named Bane has hatched his machinations on the unsuspecting Gotham City and the only man who can stop him is a Batman who is out-of-shape, older, and hanging on to his last rope.

Yes, it does sound like standard action movie faire: Madman plans to destroy the city, hero has to rise up to stop him. But what has separated Nolan’s Bat-films from the rest was the attention he and his brother, Jonathan Nolan, pay to the underlying subject matter of the series. Their Batman films are the dirty, funhouse mirror of our world. It takes the fear, distrust, paranoia, and extremism of  the Post-9/11 world and gives it form.

With The Dark Knight Rises it all reaches its apex. Bane and his legions embody the dangers of our world and bubble to the surface until it ruptures. Many would like to link Bane’s plan with that of some sort of villainous Occupy movement but it shares more in common with the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. It is what happens when extremism takes root and goes completely wrong. Any form of order is destroyed, replaced with kangaroo courts and an “only the strong will survive” mentality. What was mused on in the first two films is brought to life in the form of Bane’s new kingdom in Gotham. A dictatorship where our greatest negatives are the laws of the land. The inmates are literally running the asylum.

Bane is a new type of threat for the Dark Knight, miles away from the Joker’s gallows humor or the regaliness of Ra’s. In the last two films it was shown that villains usually present a choice, whether it Ra’s trying tempt Batman with the way of the League of Shadows or Joker trying to bring Gotham down to his level. With Bane there is no choice. It is the day the worst aspects of humanity win. Bane is portrayed as inhuman.Saying his name invokes his presence like some sort of demon. Most of his face is covered by a mask designed for his survival. His voice is an odd, playful, almost sing-song that is filtered through some old speaker system. Since his lines were re-recorded for better clarity, his voice has this unearthly presence that seems to come from nowhere. All brought to life by an imposing performance by actor Tom Hardy– a performance based on body language and Hardy’s stone cold eyes. Like his character, he is able to dominate the screen through his performance. All attention turns to him in his majestic terror when he’s on screen.

That’s not to say not that the rest of the cast lags behind. Newcomer Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman is a scene stealer. It’s not just because Hathaway is in a leather suit and heels (it helps) but she just oozes charisma and chemistry, a welcome addition to Bale’s dour self. Another newcomer is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s John Bake. He’s the everyman thrown into a world of people in gaudy costumes punching each other very hard. Levitt brings a great grounded performance to Blake, who’s trying to hold together a life that has gone totally out of control. The returning cast is its usually strong self. Bale is at his most human in this installment, fighting an enemy that seems unstoppable, while the rest of his crew, Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon, Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox, and Michael Caine’s Alfred, are great in their supporting roles as always.

The nature of the beast demands that in a few years time Batman will be rebooted and rebranded. The future of Batman will be an entirely different entity. Safer, probably, one that links to the greater superhero universe. Nolan’s Batman films have showcased a different side of Batman. One that is less concerned about fighting mustache-twirling bad guys (not that there is anything wrong with that and can be entertaining in its own right) but fighting against base human corruption, the worst that society has to offer. It is one man’s crusade against the nightmares of the world and Nolan satisfyingly puts an end to it.

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