Published Jul 19, 2012"And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up." This line, uttered by the elder Wayne to his son after a mishap in the first of director Christopher Nolan's three Batman films, Batman Begins, sums up incredibly succinctly the underlying theme of not only The Dark Knight Rises, but Nolan's entire trilogy, and Batman/Bruce Wayne himself.
The Dark Knight Rises begins by fast-forwarding eight years from the events of The Dark Knight (unarguably the best film version of a comic property to date), opening with a very over-the-top, stark, kinetic introduction to Batman's latest eventual nemesis. Said man mountain antagonist is Bane, a hulking, fanatic, terrorist, cult leader figure, with a small army in tow.
In Gotham, crime is at an all-time low and Harvey Dent is still honoured as the hero whose reforms cleared the way for law and order to reign. Batman, who took the fall for Dent/Two Face's transgressions in order to further the common good during his battle with the Joker, has been in hiding ever since. And Bruce Wayne has become a Howard Hughes-ish recluse, minus the jars of urine and long fingernails, while commissioner Gordon is wracked with guilt and has been left by his wife and kids.
Of course, nature abhors a vacuum, and anything built upon a lie will eventually crumble. The first signs of cracking come with the introduction of Nolan's Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), who while stealing from Wayne Manor, piques Bruce/Batman's interest in returning to reality, whether he's prepared to or not. The next come when a rival competitor, Dagget Industries, employs Bane to bankrupt Wayne and gain control of his company, and a new clean energy source, which can also be turned into a weapon of mass destruction.
But Bane has his own agenda, as super-villains usually do, least of which is breaking Batman both physically and mentally, upsetting Gotham's status quo, instituting anarchy, casting down the rich and, eventually, utterly destroying the city Batman has sworn to protect.
Bane, as played by Tom Hardy (Warrior, Bronson), possesses an innate, restrained charisma even behind the mask, and his hulking physique is a presence onto itself, filling the screen. However, Bane, as a character, is more added grey ― well, black ― in a landscape dotted by characters that are various shades thereof, existing in a world that's also generally dreary and gloomy. Nolan also isn't shy about heaping on the melancholy and misery, which causes the film to verge upon oppressive, at times.
While all the performances are good, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt's hot-headed rookie cop, and talented actors such as Christian Bale (Wayne/Batman), Michael Caine (Alfred) and Gary Oldman (commissioner Gordon) have a chance to act and emote more so than in either of the first two offerings, what's lacking is that great splash of colour Heath Ledger's Joker brought to The Dark Knight. While this may be unfair, especially since Bane, as a villain and foil, is the polar opposite of the Joker, Ledger's performance, much like how it overshadowed The Dark Knight, is felt in The Dark Knight Rises, this time in its absence. However, Hathaway's Catwoman does help alleviate that lack a little.
Also, much is being made about how certain scenes and plot points could be interpreted as allegories for the Occupy movement. However, since The Dark Knight Rises draws the majority of its story line from two Batman comic book arcs that appeared in the '90s ― Knightfall and No Man's Land ― and I don't recall the Occupy movement wanting to destroy a city, this may be a bit of a stretch.
Both Nolan and Bale have said this will be their last Batman film, and while it isn't as pitch-perfect as The Dark Knight, it touches upon themes, characters and plot first raised in Batman Begins and concludes the events of the second film, with an unexpected Nolan twist or two along the way, making it the finale of a true trilogy and the second best of the triumvirate.
"And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up." Make no mistake ― Bruce falls hard in The Dark Knight Rises. But as heroes are supposed to, he picks himself up and continues the struggle, no matter the cost. After all, in life, what other real choice is there? (Warner)