By Christian DiMartino
I was reminded this morning that The Dark Knight Rises is having its 10th anniversary on July 20th. I hardly get the chance to write about film anniversaries because by the time it’s brought to my attention, I miss the boat. This is one I’ve been itching to write about though so I’m glad it’s been brought to my attention. But the fact that this movie is already 10 years old grosses me out. Where has the time gone? It feels like only yesterday my four year long wait came to an end that I found deeply satisfying (while others apparently didn’t).
I wanted to write about The Dark Knight Rises because I’ve learned over the last few years that people think this movie is bad. People think this movie is bad, and I think this movie is great. Before the internet rushes to jump my ass, let me just state that my head is very much up Christopher Nolan’s, and has been for a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed Tenet. Was it as good as my 4 star review suggested? Nah, but the guy is a great showman who loves and cherishes filmmaking, and it was a year in which going to the movies wasn’t really a thing, so I was happy to have it. So naturally, I’ll follow him anywhere, and while The Dark Knight Rises isn’t quite the masterpiece that The Dark Knight was, it’s a movie that I often return to and still find deeply enjoyable, even if you can see some of the seams.
Perhaps this was a movie that was always destined to have discourse. It was the sequel to what is inarguably the best comic book movie ever made, which also featured the performance of a lifetime from Heath Ledger. It also came on the heels of Nolan’s previous masterpiece Inception. The bar just might’ve been raised a tad too high. Kind of like when Coppola made The Godfather Part III. What also might’ve hurt it was the tragedy that came with it at the midnight screening in Aurora, Colorado, in which multiple people were gunned down in the middle of it.
As for the movie, there was simply no topping Heath Ledger’s Joker. The villain in The Dark Knight Rises was of course Tom Hardy’s Bane, and at the time he was seen as a disappointment. Over time though one of the things about this movie that people still seem to enjoy is, actually, that performance. Bane might not be The Joker, but I’ve always found Hardy’s Bane voice, muffled as it might’ve occasionally been, pretty menacing. Menacing at first, but over time I’ve just grown to find it kind of wonderful. Gotta love it.
I’m all over the place with this stroll down memory lane, my apologies. I just really enjoy this movie, so I guess I’m going to just talk about what is so enjoyable to your truly. Bane being one of them. But really, just the spectacle of it all. I’d be curious to see Nolan return to his small scale roots of the Memento days, but since he’s become the mega-deal that he is now, the guy really gives you your moneys worth. The Dark Knight Rises, on a visual level, as has aged marvelously. It helps that Nolan is a giant advocate for practical effects over CGI, and it’s a great crusade because this movie has passed the test of time, visually. The cinematography from Wally Pfister (who, strangely, Nolan hasn’t worked with since) is beautiful, the visual effects are seamless, the production design from Nathan Crowley is intricate and grand (love that pit, and Bane’s lair).
I also love the Hans Zimmer score. Now, people seem to be pretty split on their collaborations, which include The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, Interstellar (my favorite) and Dunkirk. Yeah they’re all a little bombastic and loud in ways but they’re a perfect fit for what Nolan is doing and the scope in which he’s doing it. Zimmer’s Dark Knight Rises score is a beaut, adding to the anxiety and the dread that this movie is going for (I always get a kick out of the “FISH FISH PASTA! PASTA!” that can be heard in much of it). Fun fact about this movie: it didn’t receive a single Oscar nomination. Not one. That irks me every time I think about it. Like it or loathe it, the production values are first rate.
Speaking of dread, one criticism of this film is that it’s too dark. The Dark Knight was obviously a pretty grim outing too (the death of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Rachel and the beautiful downer of an ending are still gamechangers) but The Dark Knight Rises, from beginning until just about the last 5 minutes, feels so apocalyptic that you often wonder if you’re even having a good time. A “good” time? Maybe not, but lordy do I find this movie richly entertaining. This movie is 2 hours and 45 minutes long, which is indeed a sit. Yet I don’t think Nolan really wastes any of that time. This film is an epic, a journey. I remember the first time I saw it I was pretty wowed by the fact that two hours had gone by, and what Nolan had managed to juggle in those two hours.
I’m not really sure where people stand on Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman. Actually, I’m not really sure where people stand with Anne Hathaway. I like her, and I like this performance. Mind you, it’s not up to the level of Michelle Pfeiffer’s in Batman Returns, but she is sly, sexy, and it’s a character that is pretty unapologetically herself. Or at least that’s the vibe she gives off. She gets Batman’s ass kicked and she even says something along the lines of, “If you’re expecting an apology…” Pretty cold stuff. Though one thing that I notice about this performance with each viewing is that Hathaway shows that, despite the very tough exterior, there is a human being in there. Take the sequence in which her and Batman (Christian Bale, can’t believe I haven’t even said his name yet) have a brawl with Bane’s men on the roof. Following this, we cut to them in The Bat (his Batmobile/plane thing) and it cuts to her looking truly terrified by what has transpired. I don’t know, just something I noticed.
So as you can tell, I love this movie, will continue to defend it, and if you don’t, that’s great and I don’t care. One thing I do have to point out though is that I have spent so much time with The Dark Knight Rises that, well, the flaws are noticeable. They’re not major gripes for me because I do find the movie really enjoyable, but they’re there, and it’s mostly in some of the plotting. So Bruce Wayne, when we first see him here, is a hermit who just wanders around Wayne Manor with a cane (and a Caine, love Michael Caine’s Alfred too, brief as he may be) because of his broken leg from the end of the previous movie. This movie also takes place 8 years later, and Batman hasn’t been seen since. So, my thing is… Gotham City hasn’t made this connection yet? Nobody has seen Batman in all this time, and not much of Bruce Wayne. Nobody has connected the dots?
Well, one person has, and he’s a cop named John Blake, played by the simply adorable Joseph Gordon Levitt. Now, he has connected the dots, but the way in which he has done so is… strange. He pretty much says that he saw Bruce when he was a kid, and he just knew it was him. Strange hunch, but it’s never bothered me too much. There is another hole that stems from the setup though. So when Bruce finally decides to spring back into action, he puts this brace on his legs that cracks the bones back into place. My thing is, how long did he have this brace at his disposal, and why did he just now decide to put it on? His leg has been broken for 8 years, and he’s just now deciding to heal it?
Also, Bane has this sewer lair. It’s really cool looking. But it’s located directly under Wayne Enterprises and, specifically, under where Batman keeps his equipment. There’s a lot I could say about this, but then again who helped build The Batcave? I’m not going to ponder this one for too long. Yet I will ponder the Miranda Tate/ Talia reveal. So Marion Cotillard’s Miranda shags Bruce, and despite having a somewhat undercooked romance with him, it’s revealed that she’s not only the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul (Liam Neeson’s character in Batman Begins) but she was the true mastermind. I like the reveal and it sorta wraps a bow on the trilogy. My thing is, it took her 8 years to hatch this? I mean maybe she needed to get Bane out of the pit or whatever but if they were aware that Bruce was Batman, why didn’t they just go after him 8 years ago? Also why did she have to establish credit as a philanthropist and gain Bruce’s trust whenever she could’ve just killed him and taken the reactor thingy? Her death scene is also weirdly done, that one has kind of bothered me for years.
Maybe I’m overthinking it. Well, I guess we all did, because people don’t like this movie. Truthfully, I only noticed these things after seeing the movie 200 times, so maybe I’m a dumb dumb or something. Or maybe I just didn’t care, because of my investment in these characters and the movie itself. Flawed as it might be, I still love it. The action sequences are utterly spectacular and again I find the whole thing richly entertaining and enjoyable, for the reasons already mentioned. I think what really seals the deal with The Dark Knight Rises though is its ending, which I think is absolute perfection. It’s moving and it’s really about as satisfying as you could ask for, especially after spending three movies watching Christian Bale’s Batman endure such tragedy and loss. It’s a beautifully satisfying ending and, for my money, The Dark Knight Rises is still a beautifully satisfying finale 10 years later. If you’re a hater, that’s perfectly fine and I’m happy for you or whatever. For me, I guess darkness is my ally. The grimmer, the merrier.