8 years after the death of Harvey Dent, Gotham City is clean from organized crime by the force of Dent’s Act that was established by a lie and conspiracy of commissioner Gordon. The Batman is gone and Bruce Wayne isolate himself away from the community, until one days when a female thief Selina Kyle a.k.a the Cat Burglar stole his fingerprints; a young, idealistic police officer John Blake, discover his secrets; a masked mercenary called Bane break The Batman (quite literally) and held the entire city of Gotham hostage. Between a haunting past, a bleak present, and what seems like no future, The Dark Knight must Rise…
Warning: The section below is image heavy and may contain spoilers!!
The movie opens with a scene of a takeover of CIA agent’s plane by a mysterious masked mercenary Bane to kidnap a Russian nuclear scientist Dr. Leonid Pavel, ended after a quick action sequence and a line ‘the fire rises’, a promise of yet another crazy ride offered by the Nolan brothers, no where but up from here. I felt the first 1/3 of the movie has this almost awkward phasing and transition from one scene to the next. I only feel this awkwardness the first time I’m watching this, I might be just getting use to it or it just didn’t bother me as much the next time around. The movie did introduce a loads of new character that might’ve caused the awkward feeling too. However as the plot progresses I can’t help but being blown away by the twists and turns incepted in the script. 165 minutes felt like nothing’s with such a fast pace, think I don’t have much complain, I was totally immersed in this world of Gotham, taken hostage by the wit of Nolan brothers. As my friend told me, The Dark Knight trilogy is very loyal to its source materials too, not for 100% but enough to satisfy him as the fan of graphic novel and comics and yet still given a very Nolan-esque treatment.
I enjoy the fact that this Trilogy ends by going back to its roots in Batman Begins as if it all ended where it begans with Ra’s Al Ghul and The League of Shadows. I noticed a lot of people was not aware of the first installments (as shown by its underwhelming box office reaction), and for those people, you better go back and watch it so you can appreciate Nolan’s trilogy as a whole, not just by comparing it to The Dark Knight. (And to be honest it is annoying to see/hear people refer to The Dark Knight Rises as a The Dark Knight second movie).
Christian Bale returns as an older, isolated Bruce Wayne who left his Bat persona for so long. He’s struggling with himself, isolate himself from communities, hidden away in the east wing of his Manor, living life without a sense of purpose, just like an old man waiting for the Death. When The Bat was forced to return out of retirement to help his city once again, his concerned butler/caretake Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) threatened to quit if he continue fooling himself, that he only do it to get himself killed. Michael Caine delivered a very touching dialogue of Alfred’s dream of seeing Bruce happily moving on with his life with a beautiful woman and starting a family of his own, leaving Gotham which only filled by pain and ghost of his past (which made me cry throughout the scene). When he was broken by Bane, he was put in The Pit, while watching his City succumb to destructive, day by day passed in terror as he regain his faith and regain a purpose in his life.
The movie introduce Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married, Love and Other Drugs) Selina Kyle, known as Cat Burglar, who usually stole from the rich. Chasing a new beginning in her life, she took advantage of The Batman in more than one occasion, until she made a decision that shock even herself. The Catwoman (it is implied, i think) was another key supporting role here, and Anne manage to made it as her own and a different rendition than Michelle Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman in Burton’s 1992 Batman Returns. This Selina Kyle is not (trying to be) sexy, instead strong-headed and snarky with wit.
Our main villain in the movie is a masked mercenary called Bane played by Tom Hardy (Bronson, Inception, Warrior), I did a little search on Bane as soon as rumors about Tom Hardy playing Bane was on ONTD, i wonder how Nolan gonna make a muscled strategic genius in a wrestling mask and costume, that previously appeared in Schumacher’s 1997 Batman & Robin as a tertiary villain, fit into Nolan’s gritty world of Dark Knight?
And apparently Nolan brothers could. Bane really couldn’t be more different to the Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight which is very psychological and theatrical villain, Bane is a very physical, with a huge muscled body that is almost intimidating. Bane goes fist to fist in a mano a mano fight with The Batman, and he quite literally break the bat, and with his calm and level head strategy, he destroy wall street, releases the prisoner’s of Blackgate prison, and held Gotham hostage under a nuclear time-bomb, giving an ultimate terror to Gotham self-destructing citizens (which obviously triggers comments about the movie political undertones). With a mask covering all his face except his eyes Tom Hardy only have very little thing to deliver his emotion, so he speaks body language and gestures, his voice though rather muzzled by the mask got this foreign accent and mannerism of speech, and of course those eyes in a close-up shots is oozing menace that gave me chills.
There’s always a pseudo-protagonist-turn-antagonist in the previous movies, and this time it’s Marion Cotillard (Inception, La Vie an Rose) as an innocent business partner of Wayne Industries and had a brief romantic encounter with Bruce, but actually the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul (Batman Begins, 2005), Talia Al Ghul. Whoa, did not saw that coming. Born in the prison, Talia is protected by Bane, her mission is to finish his father mission to destroy Gotham. While Marion is a brilliant actress, I could not help to hate her acting on the her death scene which kinda look border-line soap opera (or in Indonesian: sinetron) when she quite literally drop dead after spitting out her last words.
Last but definitely not least is Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake, a young, idealistic police officer who managed to decode The Batman true identity. He exist as a reflection to The Batman and commissioner Gordon early idealism against injustice and corruption, before getting sucked into the grey system. JGL kinda surprise me in here because I thought I read enough spoilers and yet I did not see how big a role he play in The Dark Knight Rises’ plot twists. I hope i did not imagine it, but i think JGL speaks in a slightly altered dialect for this role, his existence is strong and leave a powerful impact throughout the movie, especially the end which reminds me of Inception in a way, but more on that later.
The Dark Knight Rises reunited Nolan with many of his past collaborators: cinematographer Wally Pfister who has been with him since Memento, production designer Nathan Crowley, editor Lee Smith, costume designer Lindy Hemming, special effects supervisors Paul Franklin and Chris Corbould, and composer Hans Zimmer. Utilizing IMAX cameras for most part of the film, Nolan tried to maximize the movie watching experience (and really watching it in IMAX gave a slightly different experience for me). The costume design for The Batman did not changed much, the big controversial problem was Bane and The Catwoman costume. Bane skintight wrestling suits and masked changed into a more industrial and military design, the mask actually fitted according to Hardy’s head creating a perfectly sculpted head piece (unfortunately leave a weird tan on his head afterwards). Catwoman skintight black suit is made in a modern materials not the usual pleather/leather donned by the predecessor, instead of a headpiece with cat ears, they gave the Catwoman a mask with somekind of glasses attach to it, that when it is not in use, can be pulled back and gave a faux cat ears shape. Brilliant really.
The Bat return with more toys courtesy of Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman), The Bat Pod and The Tumbler returns accompanied by a new aerial vehicle called The Bat. The design was very hard, gritty, raw, instead of sleek designs usually found in similar type films. To quote the Concept artist Tully Summers: “..Christopher Nolan’s visual style. One of the things that makes his Batman movies so compelling is their tone of plausibility. He will often prefer a raw, grittier design over one that is very sleek and product design pretty. It’s sort of a practical military aesthetic. This stuff is made to work, not impress shoppers. The Dark Knight Rises is a war film.“. Nolan usually prefers using a more traditional method by creating sets than using CGI or green screen, and the result still manage to blow us away. Accompanied by music and sounds design by Hans Zimmer, who he has been working wit since Batman Begins, creating the moods and evokes emotion to those subjected to it. The most distinguished one for me was the recurring Moroccan Arabic chant (most evident in the wall-climbing scene) of a phrase”deshi, deshi, basara, basara (Arabic: تيجي بسرعة)”, that means “he rises”. Hans Zimmer actually crowdsource that voice in order to achieve a feeling of thousands of people chanting.
During Bane attacks to Gotham which mostly happen in the winter lend an eerie atmosphere of a dead city, with blue-grey colors dominating the scene, triggers a sense of despair and lost hope. Hope, in yours truly humble opinion, is the big theme in the movie. Bane talked about how The Pit was the worst place of all, giving a hint of hope in a place of darkness and despair. Bane also terrorized Gotham by using a nuclear bomb with a tiny ray of hope that the citizen can find the detonator and stop it from going off. Or like how the honorable judge Jonathan Crane aka Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy reprised that role, a definite scene-stealer) gave the verdict with two option of death or exile, where people who chose exile was given false hope of survival. Hopes that can crush, crash, and burn, the existence of those are vile. When Wayne climbs out of the prison, with hope to get back to Gotham and save his city urges him to risks his life and fail. Hope that gave strength, a will to survive. Hope that drives you to last longer, hope to fight harder.
The end of a movie was so hard to express. With such an epic built up and a sensational climax, i remember i was choking back a tear when The Bat explodes with the nuclear bomb, and cheer as loud as i could (together with everyone in the theatre) when Alfred witness Bruce and Selina in his favorite cafe in Florence while drinking his Fernet Branca. I think it symbolizes hope as well, for us the viewers. Despite some say that it would be a more epic ending if The Batman dies (like how some thinks that Harry Potter should’ve died, blasphemy really), i love this ending. So powerful, emotional, and, well, hopeful. Of course, what’s a Nolan movie without a debatable twist at the end? The part where John Blake inherits Batcave and said his full name, Robin John Blake, triggers buzz across the internet. Is he the Robin? Will he be the next Batman? Just like how Inception closes with the Spinning Top spins across the table before the screen fade to black. Although knowing Nolan, it must’ve mean that John Blake will continue to defend justice without being part of the system, just the way he want it to be and of course a delicious (albeit far-fetch) possibility of a spin off.
All in all, It really was a worthy ending of an epic trilogy.
Until this blog entry is published The Dark Knight Rises has earned roughly US$745 million, despite the alleged Aurora Shooting. Christopher Nolan had issued a formal letter of condolence on The Dark Knight Rises official website (screen captured here by yours trully) and there’s a special track by Hans Zimmer called ‘Aurora‘ released on iTunes, which you can download here for US$1.29 (all the proceeds made by the sale of the track will go to The Aurora Victims Relief Fund at the Community First Foundation). There’s no official release date for Blu-Ray/DVD for the movie or a box-set, but you can find a loads of toys and merchandise including a book ‘The Art and Making of The Dark Knight Trilogy’ (amazon) and an official novelization of the movie (amazon).
By the way, the cast list kinda feel like its dominated by Inception casts right, sans Leonardo DiCaprio and Ken Watanabe. Well Ken Watanabe did appear in Batman Begins, so at least he’s in the trilogy. But where’s Leo? Apparently back in the developement phase of The Dark Knight Rises, an exec wanted this movie to have a villain like The Riddler (as in Batman Forever, 1995) to continue utilizing the insane psycho villain type like The Joker, and urge the casting of Leonardo DiCaprio. I just found this factoids to be amusing (and hope it amuses you too).
Christian Bale definitely said this is his last movie as the caped crusaders. Nolan himself expressed this is his last Batman movie. And despite the ending involving John Blake can be a hook for a possible spin-off, JGL himself has said that it really is the ending of Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Nolan already denied the rumour of directing Justice League movie, and despite she said that Selina Kyle spin-off is well deserved (Anne Hathaway already express her interest if Nolan’s directing) it is not clear of his intention in directing it. However there were rumours about a possible Batman reboot planned to be release as early as 2016 *shakes head in disgusts*