Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises Review

Back in the summer of 2008 when a little movie called "The Dark Knight" managed to both transcend and redefine the comic/superhero movie genre as we know it, the liklihood of a potential third installment, be it the tiniest glimmer on the horizon, became natural and inevitable. During a long and quiet couple of years in which Christopher Nolan, the director and all around master and commander of the hottest comic book franchise to date took a hiatus from the gritty streets of Gotham to direct his mind bending dream caper "Inception" many ideas were postulated by an ever hungry fanbase on were they would like to see a third movie go in terms of themes, villains, etc. I myself was eager for a story involving Batman on the run from the law while at the same time determined to hunt down a certain cerebral assailant obsessed with leaving riddles at the scene of his crimes as a taunting lure for Gotham's shadowy protector. Well, after finally have seeing that long anticipated third installment "The Dark Knight Rises" after a grueling four year turn-around, all I can say is thank goodness Chris Nolan and everyone involved were thinking so much bigger than I ever was.
Taking place eight years after the events of TDK which ended with Batman willingly becoming an outlaw to save Harvey Dent's reputation after the horribly scarred district attorney went on a mad rash of violence prompted by the The Joker's schemes, TDKR sees a Gotham that has since prospered under an era peace under "The Dent Act," which has allowed police to effectively stamp out the remaining elements of organized crime that for many years proved a blight on the heart of the city. Not fairing so well however are Police Commisioner Jim Gordon whose guilt over having betrayed his good friend and confidant in order forge a tremulous peace built on a lie is finally becoming more than he can live with, and eccentric billionaire Bruce Wayne, who, after riding off on the batpod to escape a vengeful police force in the climactic final moments of TDK, has relinquished his crime fighting alter ego of The Batman and since slid away into a life of reclusion and ignominity. Suffering from wounds both physical and mental, the once fearsome hero has let himself deteriorate into a gaunt, disheveled ghost shuffling around in his night gown and haunting the corridors of a sparse and sterile looking Wayne Manor.
But when new adversaries threaten to plunge the city into peril once more, Bruce is determined to dust off the cowl once more, and despite his past prime state, jump back into the fray much to the displeasure of his loyal butler and surrogate father figure Alfred, who yearns for his master achieve a happy and fulfilling life beyond the obsession of being Batman.
One of those adversaries is Selena Kyle, a sultry, crafty con artist who uses a potent combination of feminine wiles and kung fu kick a$$ery to get what she's after. Although she is a free agent and never truly a legitamite threat to the city, Selena (never referred to as Catwoman in the film) nevertheless plays a pivotal role in shaking Bruce, who senses a kindred spirit in Selena, out of his gloomy self exile, and opening his eyes to the economic disparities that are rotting the city from within.
Batman's other adversary, who is very much a threat to the city is Bane. Built like a 200 + pound tank and outfitted with a grotesque mask that evokes the image of a muzzled pit bull from hell and is part heavy metal part Hannibal Lecter, Bane is truly frightening not only in his strengh and size but also in the demeanor of smug casualness he projects while perpetrating extreme acts of violence in pursuit of his ultimate and horrifying goal. He is the biggest dog in the yard and he knows it.
Rounding out Bruce's stable of allies is head of Wayne Enterprises R&D department Lucius Fox, the veriable Q to Batman's 007, who makes his employers decision to resume his nightly theatrics even easier by supplying him with a truly cool and sci fi looking air assault vehicle crisoned "The Bat." Miranda Tate, an attractive and environmentally conscious Wayne Enterprises board member who encourages Bruce to come out of his shell and pursue his father's philinphropic endeavors by means both in the boardroom and bedroom. Lieutenant Peter Foley, a character whose arc is intended to mirror that of Gotham as a whole. And John Blake, an earnest and idealistic rookie cop who refuses to go along with the aura of complacency that has crept into the city and proves an indispensible ally to Batman in his war against Bane.
In the tradition of The Dark Knight, "Rises" taps into many real life contemporary fears including urban terrorism, class warfare, and the threat of total economic collapse. Like modern day suicide bombers eager to give their lives in perpetuation of some "glorious" cause, the villains of the story truly believe in their own twisted ideals of order and justice and are willing to go to any means necessary to accomplish those ends, thus making them far more scary than a giant CG lizard or some anonymous alien army from outer space.
Themes of suffering and redemption pervade as (spoilers!) after being beaten nearly to death and tossed in a hole to suffer and die, Bruce must rise from the abyss and truly become the symbol of hope he originally set out to be in the first movie, (2005's "Batman Begins) in order to save his city and perhaps finally overcome his need to be Batman.
 Epic in every sense of the word, The Dark Knight Rises is truly a moving and bittersweet finale to the most outstanding superhero film franchise there has ever been and perhaps ever will be again. Batman truly rises to his highest height and the film's simple yet profound rational for what constitutes a hero really stikes at the core of why people love Batman in the first place. That any of us can be him.


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