The Dark Knight Rises

***### Spoiler Alert. I’m serious. Deadly serious. This post, relative to all my other movie review posts, is spoiler city. Do not read this until you have seen the movie. Repeat. I am serious. You have been warned. ***###

Quick rate: Chris Nolan once again pulls off an intelligent, gripping movie. Perhaps not as great as the previous two, but certainly a worthy part three.

One of the things about The Dark Knight I lived was the clear thematic resonance. It’s not clear here – well, actually, it’s signposted, but it’s signposted because it lacks some clarity. This is my big fault with this movie, so I’ll get that out of the way. Nevertheless, as I thought about this, the theme in this movie is “the future”, referenced in two ways – trust, and hope.

Trust – to whom will you trust the future? As we know in Ecclesiastes, you die, and then someone else turns up and completely stuffs up what you built. Hebel, Hebel, all is Hebel. The issue of who will take up your mantle comes up with Bruce and the Batman. What is the future of the Bat? Bruce Wayne cannot live forever. Neither can his ligaments, cartilage, bones, or other soft tissue. And what is the future of his public front, Wayne Enterprises? This comes up via the affections of Marion Cotillard’s character, Miranda Tate (more on her later) and an abandoned fusion reactor project.
But who can Batman trust? Alfred is older than Bruce. He has no wife, no children. Who will take up the mantle?

Then there is hope. What is a future if there is no hope? At the start of the movie, we see Bruce as somewhere on the path to Howard Hughes, recluse, because his hope of being with Rachel has been destroyed. The city does not need the symbol of the Bat to bring hope, because the efforts in The Dark Knight have produced a peace in the city. But what if the symbol of the Bat, the incorruptible Bat, could be broken? What will be the hope of the city if it has no saviour? What will be the hope of the Batman if his city dies while he lies, crippled and damaged, in a prison in the middle of nowhere? What hope can bring him out of that pit? What hope have the citizens of Gotham when hope is taken away from them?

But there is more to this story. For there is the trust and hope of darkness. Out of the ashes of Ra’s al’Ghul, the League of Shadows operates still. The mantle of the Demon’s head has gone to his child, to his daughter, to Talia. Marion Cotillard pulls the betrayal off well. In the movie, when they spoke of Bane as though he was the child, I forgot that Ra’s’ child was in fact a daughter. You’ve played me well, Christopher Nolan. You may recall that in Batman Begins, Ra’s aims to destroy Gotham in much the same way that great centres of civilisation that have fallen were destroyed by the League. So Talia resumes that quest. And their hope? Destruction. Fear.

The story of hopes and futures is played out over pretty much everyone. Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway, but you knew that already, right?) hopes for freedom from her past. The businessman she put her trust in (Ben Mendelsohn) failed her trust. Can Bruce really give her what she desires?
What is the symbol that can be given, in whom people can trust, who will bring about their hope? Well, you know the answer to that. And, well, you know that I know the other answer to that.

As far as being a movie goes, Nolan rounds off his sequence of three, going from the start of Batman, to his finish. Whilst this movie owes its connections more to Batman Begins than to The Dark Knight, nevertheless, it gels well as a story of a modern hero. It is, in a sense, a modern myth, as I have outlined above. Christian Bale carries on pretty much as he has done for the past two movies. Tom Hardy pulls off Bane in an interesting manner. His voice makes you think “Sean Connery”, but his body is clearly that of King Kong. Yet this dissonance between his sound and his appearance sets him apart from just being a big guy in a mask who pounds people for Mrs. Evil ala. Batman and Robin (*urghhhh*). The dissonance is what causes fear, not his bulk. Anne Hathaway is adequate. She’s not played as eye candy, but more along the lines of honourable thief who needs a way out. All the old guys are perfectly adequate. I <3 Gary Oldman. Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Officer, and then later, Detective Blake is clearly signposted along the way as someone with the potential to take over the role of Gotham’s protector. I liked him.

I’ve written this much – that’s the effect this type of movie has. I think this is a movie that needs two viewings. One to get your bearings, two to see the themes and analyse them. If anyone wants company …

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