In December 2008, as we members of the Utah Film Critics Association gathered together to vote for our favorite films and performances of the year, I remember battling out the nominees, everyone trying to get everyone else to vote for what they deemed the “Best Picture.” As we neared the end of our conversation, I chimed in one last time before voting with my unwavering claim that The Dark Knight was truly the best picture of 2008. Trying to sway others, I asked, “What other movie came out this year that built your expectations up to an unbelievably high level, and then beat them?” I don’t take credit for The Dark Knight walking away the “Best Picture” that night, but I feel I offered a perspective-inspiring thought that proved how great the film really was. Like The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises has also built up an insane amount of anticipation – I’d even go as far as to say that it’s even more than the previous film. Having seen the final chapter, I am proud to say that, once again, Nolan has blown the expectations out of the water.
The Dark Knight Rises takes place eight years after the death of Harvey “Two Face” Dent, which was the final scene of The Dark Knight. Due to Dent-inspired laws, Gotham is virtually crime-free – that is, until Bane (Tom Hardy) enters the picture. Through the course of his disturbing actions, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is forced out of retirement (as the Batman), putting on the armored suit and cape, breaking out new technologies and toughening up for an all-out war to save Gotham from Bane’s impending doom. Along the way, Selina “Catwoman” Kyle (Anne Hathaway) gets entangled with both parties and we meet new “hothead” police officer who shares the same ideals as Wayne and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) – John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). You can expect the usual assistance of Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Alfred (Michael Caine), as well as new Wayne Enterprises board member Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard).
The less you know about the film, the better. For that reason, I will not delve into anything else plot-related. Just know that things get dark, very dark. If you thought that The Dark Knight was bleak, just wait for what unfolds here. Some events may even cause discomfort for audience members due to the sick reality that it paints. Terrorism. Torture. Fear. Despair. The Dark Knight‘s story is taken in a direction that will appall you – all for the sake of bringing Nolan’s telling of Batman to a worthy close. Looking back in retrospect, it’s amazing that Nolan was able to take the first two films – Batman Begins and The Dark Knight – and tie them together as one unified-in-story trilogy via The Dark Knight Rises. (If you haven’t watched the first two recently, you might want to consider it as you knowledge of them is crucial to understanding this one.) Not only does Nolan bring the story full circle, but he closes it in a completely fitting and absolutely perfect manner. I walked away speechless due to satisfaction, mentally and physically drained from the whole ordeal. While exiting, I realized that my body was fatigued from clinching up with tension for such a long time. My heart and mind were drained from the rollercoaster range emotions. Without shame, I admit that my eyes were watery – not only from what I had just seen, but from the happiness and comfort that Nolan actually pulled it off, from the bittersweet sentiment that the series was officially over.
Everything good from the previous installments has been heightened for this finale. The story is so dense and far spanning that it feels more like an entire television series condensed into a nearly three-hour movie – and it works wonderfully, never confusing the audience or leaving anyone behind. The characterization is stronger, opening the doors for tear-inducing scenes. The action is also bigger. With the threat working on a potentially global level, it would have to be. And the actors have risen for the occasion. The seasoned participants are just as strong as always, but Michael Caine just might give the best performance out of the batch. Newcomers Hardy, Gordon-Levitt, Cotillard and Hathaway hit the ground with their feet running. Despite the flood of new characters, they’re all fleshed out and never make the film feel crowded. In typical Nolan fashion, everything works perfectly.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the recent Marvel ventures, but in comparison to Christopher Nolan’s comic book movies, Marvel’s movies are fluffy popcorn flicks. If The Dark Knight series is a thick medium rare steak, The Avengers movies are the dish of chocolate mousse served up after it. With Nolan overseeing next summer’s reboot of Superman, titled The Man of Steel, here’s to hoping that it functions on the same pitch perfect level.
I cannot express enough my love for this series. Containing three five-star perfect installations and the grand conclusion found in The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy has become my all-time favorite trilogy. I don’t say this to put them down because they’re still amazing series that I cherish, but forget Star Wars, The Matrix and The Lord of Rings. The Dark Knight trilogy has just trumped them all. Flawless, fitting and absolutely entertaining, The Dark Knight Rises just gave the trilogy a perfect dismount and landing.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.