Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan; story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer
Cinematographer: Wally Pfister
Producer: Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan, and Charles Roven
by Jon Cvack
Continued from Part 1...
We’re led back to the city where we learn that Gordon is floating the idea of revealing the truth about Harvey Dent. With crime at a record low and Batman now Gotham’s most wanted, he hesitates to reveal the truth, knowing it might cause the people to turn back toward criminality.
We go on to Wayne Manor, where yet another party is thrown, in which Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) remains hidden upstairs, unshaven, slow moving, and now using a cane. One of the servers Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman; Anne Hathaway) works her way up to his room where she steals Marth Wayne’s pearls before Bruce reveals himself. The two are immediately attracted to each other, and even after Bruce requests she leave the pearls, she heads off and we later learn that it wasn’t about the necklace so much as retrieving Bruce’s fingerprint for a corrupt member of the Wayne Enterprise board, John Daggett, who hopes to seize power. He’s played by Ben Mendelsohn who has gotten even better with age, as while he was relatively unknown at the time, he’s gone on to play everything from the King of England in Darkest Hour (2017) to a backwoods redneck in The Place Beyond the Pines (2012).
Meanwhile, Bane is building a massive underground army that exists in the Gotham sewers, which have been attracting many local foster home kids; particularly of interest to former foster child and now police officer John Blake (aka Robin; Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who takes it upon himself to investigate the disappearances even against the direct orders of Gordon’s second in command Peter Foley (Matthew Modine) who believes it’s a waste of time.
What we soon learn is that Daggett is working with Bane who uses the fingerprints in order to frame Bruce Wayne in making a series of erroneous trades the Gotham Stock Exchange that soon tank the entire company; which if left in Daggett’s control, would provide Bane all of the firepower he would need to launch an attack. The prints cause Wayne Enterprises board to fire Bruce, but before he can, he appoints one of their more trusted board members, Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). The company has been designing cold fusion with the use of a nuclear orb, though being in its nascent stage and undeveloped, they fear it getting into the wrong hands (especially if Dagget gains control of the company).
Gordon then lands in the hospital after investigating the sewers where he comes across Bane’s lair, soon captured by some of their soldiers. Blake escapes and Gordon is captured, jumping into the rushing sewer water where he catches a bullet and is later found by John Blake, who admits that he knows Bruce Wayne is Batman and demands to know the truth of his disappearance and soon Batman goes into the sewers where he fights Bane, who strikes his back, knocking out one of his vertebrates. Christian Bale exudes the same exact torture I’ve experienced when throwing my own back out to the point of immobility or at the cost of complete andd unbearable pain. He’s sent to some deep prison well in the middle of some exotic desert; the place where Bane was born. The only way of escape is by climbing the precarious well which no man has done since; most dying as a result.
With Gordon in the hospital, Peter Foley makes the ridiculous and unbelievable decision to have 99.9% of the Gotham police enter the sewers to retrieve Bane and his acolytes, which is exactly what Bane hopes for when he explodes all of the entrances, trapping them all inside and ripping away any protection for the city. There are somehow no off duty officers, or even a few left on the street to, you know, protect the rest of the city, and while I want to look past, it is such an incredible decision that serves as the foundation for the rest of the film that you can’t help but be pulled out for the remaining hour. There are still fantastic sequences, but for whatever they are, you realize that the world you’re now being asked to accept doesn’t make much sense.
In situations such as this, I try and find alternatives that could have made it work. Perhaps the cops were all assassinated one by one (which would be even harder to accept), or maybe they could have somehow been poisoned by the scarecrows sewer juice. This would have also been hard, but at least we would have accepted the consequence; the larger issue being how they avoided poisoning the whole city, which I can’t find a way to work around. The easiest answer seems to be that they could have shown the hundreds of off duty cops and the handful of street cops to have been killed off or arrested. They could have gotten access to the schedule through a simple throwaway scene of a corrupt cop providing the information. While not perfect, it at least would have shown that no, not nearly every single cop went into the sewer which no sane person would possibly order. I’d argue this could even be shot and integrated into the film to fix the glaring problem. A few cutaway scenes showing the few remaining have now been killed.
Bane then launches an attack on Gotham city during one of their big professional league football games, where the crowd is decked in the old school yellow and black batman colors, which seems a bit too vibrant for the overall palette. A bomb goes off which explodes the fields, killing all of the players, except for one man who makes it to the end zone for a touchdown. It’s one of the few scenes in the series that leans far too heavy into digital effects, making you wish they scaled it down a bit in order to pull off a more vivid sequence which would honor the rest of the film.
It’s when Bane reads Gordon’s secret speech that reveals Harvey’s corruption that the film bends another bound of logic; namely, if I just watched a football field completely explode and kill dozens of players and spectators, I’m not sure how much of an impact a crazy person reading an alleged speech from James Gordon would have. Nevertheless, it causes mass panic, perpetuated when Bane introduces Dr. Pavel who explains the nuclear bomb circling the city. The US Government sends in troops, though Bane threatens to destroy the entire city if they attempt to come in.
Another issue is when, due to Catwoman’s savviness, they put her into the all male prison, which appeared done for the sole reason of allowing her escape when Bane’s army breaks in and releases all of the male prisoners who join them (though why they couldn’t have done the same with a women's prison, I’m not sure). This then bounces right into the next question as to why in the world Gotham City’s prison population, all immediately provided with automatic weapons, would then electively fall under Bane’s command. The easy solution is showing Bane’s intimidation tactics, but it also seems like it could have been cooler if there were multiple factions (having extra police up above ground would fit well in this regard; they’d be just another faction).
After numerous failed attempts to escape and a return to training, Bruce’s cellmate pops his vertebrae back into his spine. Bruce finally scales the well walls and returns to Gotham where his Batcopter blasts the police free and joins them in attacking Bane and his crew, as though straight from Medieval times. Batman fights Bane on the footsteps of city hall where Miranda Tate appears, revealing that she’s Ra’s al Ghul’s father and continuing her father’s mission to “liberate” the world of an immoral Gotham; by blowing it up with a nuclear weapon cruising around Gotham, hidden in a truck.
There’s an exciting sequence where Gordon and Blake attempt to chase down the truck with the bomb and disarm it the best they can; failing, only for Batman to then fly in and grab it, to then fly out to see where he allegedly sacrifices himself in order to save Gotham.
Earlier in the film when Alfred nearly quits in protest over Batman returning to the streets, there’s a flash of him expressing what he wants; to see Bruce settled down and married, perhaps with some children. In the closing images of the film, we see Alfred arrive at the very place we saw earlier, with Bruce at the table with the Catwoman; and while you first want to think it’s a nice nod to Alfred’s commitment, you then wonder how Bruce dating a criminal could possibly work. You then wonder if it’s just a fantasy and that Bruce is dead and perhaps it was only Alfred’s fantasy (but then why would it be Catwoman in the dream?).
The best possibility is that it actually happened and it wasn’t a compliment to Alfred so much as reality like the rest of the film, and so I’m left hoping Nolan returns; as it feels almost certain that he will. No one can continue Nolan’s story because it’s so much his vision of the story; which he created loosely off the Frank Miller material alongside his brother, but very much made his own. It seems especially likely when John Blake mentions his name Robin, which would make zero sense to include unless explained further; he could have just as easily said Tiger and he may or may not have become Batman’s sidekick. If I was a betting man, I’d guess around the mid-2020s it’ll return; preventing Bruce Wayne from getting too old for plausibility (not that Christian Bale couldn’t do it; though then what’s the difference?). There seems so much left to explore, and looking it up, he did hint at a fourth film back at Cannes in 2018.
In terms of superhero comic book, I’d put The Dark Knight Rises in fourth after Logan, as compared to nearly all of the Marvel movies I’ve seen (and I haven’t most of them), this is unparalleled. I can look past the liberties it took with the story as it was all in an effort to provide the most cinematic action sequences possible. It goes far enough to pull you out, but only during the quieter moments; when the police are marching through the tunnels and the coordinated attack goes off, it sets off a thrilling final act, providing bumper to bumper action which in and of itself is phenomenal. Only Nolan could somehow match the adrenaline between a person climbing out of a well with a Batcopter chasing a truck with a nuclear bomb. Watching Christopher Nolan is watching someone that, like Spielberg or Kubrick, captures the highest of imagination, all while abandoning the bells and whistles of style in order to tell as realistic a story as possible. As a kid I was always bummed when I finished Back to the Future, knowing that the world was over and that’s all there was to see. Watching these films, I feel the same; the world is so vivid and I wish there was more to explore. Hopefully there’ll be.
BELOW: Why Nolan should never go with CGI
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