The Dark Knight Rises’ ... but not above its prequelBy: Martha Mukaiwa
IT’S been seven years since Batman begun in the pragmatic, dichotomous and dark tones that ensured DC Comics will continue to shine a Christopher Nolan shaped light into the sky, should they ever want to reboot a flailing franchise for a chronically jaded generation.
Deftly introducing the dispirited hero, who is as disillusioned as he is devilishly good-looking, while engendering audience rumination through a series of morally bereft, though strangely seductive, villains – there is no doubt that Nolan has brought an unabashedly emulated edge to comic book-to-film adaptations.
After much fan-ticipation, the last in Nolan’s acclaimed trilogy, which revved its engine in ‘Batman Begins’ (2005) and reached full speed in ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008), is the ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (2012).
Taking place eight years after the caped crusader covered-up the dark deeds of Harvey Dent to sustain his myth as Gotham’s hero, after the Joker all but obliterated the populace’s faith in the police force, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ finds the indestructible Bruce Wayne mentally and physically crippled as he moodily haunts Wayne Manor.
Having presented a compelling original story in ‘Batman Begins’ and an inimitable mid-point in ‘The Dark Knight,’ during the “The Dark Knight Rises,’ Nolan is tasked with presenting a fitting and furious dénouement that pushes Batman to the limit in an ultimate battle that will either buoy or break him.
In this endeavour, Nolan uses the sage formulae of damaged and despairing heroes, strangely seductive villains, a dollop of Didactism and, of course, some gorgeous gadgets courtesy of Lucius Fox.
While Batman is most certainly the brawn of the whole operation, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ impressively introduces a duo of sidekicks who add their support to the gang of goodies which includes franchise regulars, Alfred Pennyworth, Lucius Fox and the good Commissioner Gordon, played by Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman respectively.
Launching a re-imagining of Catwoman previously over-played by Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry, Anne Hathaway’s sarcastic, traitorous and effortlessly
sexy version is a perfect contrast to the woe-ridden Wayne; though the two are seriously in want of convincing chemistry.
Next to join the do-gooders is Detective John Blake (later revealed to be or not be Robin of Batman and Robin legend) who is perfectly played by Joseph Gordon- Levitt.
An orphan, a law enforcer and a Batman supporter, Blake becomes an unlikely ally to Commissioner Gordon who gets shot, half drowned and almost dies in a
car crash, all for the love of Gotham city which has seen him endure more of the same in all three films.
Bringing the heroic supporting cast tally to a fighting five, Nolan succeeds in creating a human hero who relies just as heavily on his pseudo sidekicks as they do on him, lending the film the levels of vulnerability and realism that are fast becoming the standard in superhero flicks.
As always, the villains in Nolan’s Batman franchise are decidedly more enigmatic than the heroes.
WWhat with Heath Ledger’s Joker spawning the pop culture phrase, “Why so serious?” Ensuring any respectable Halloween party sees the reappearance of his ghoulish face and monstrously maimed mouth, Nolan’s villains have reached a mythical status that even he was hard- pressed to recreate.
Enter Tom Hardy’s Bane; a former member of the League of Shadows, thought to have been born and raised in hell on Earth, replete with a Hannibal Lector-esque mouth piece and a
Darth Vader-ish breathing apparatus, which renders about 50 per cent of his revolutionary ramblings utterly unintelligible.
Chillingly, Bane is cut from the same cold-blooded cloth that spawned the likes of The Joker. However, unlike the cruel clown, who just wants to watch the world burn, Bane is a criminal with a cause that involves stripping the rich of their monetary power and condemning them to death or exile while urging the poor and the previously incarcerated into a classist war.
Frightening enough in his strange, stone-cold accent, grim mouthpiece, bulging muscles, remorseless kills, suicidal followers and calm clutching of his lapels, surprisingly Bane is just a pawn in Marinda Tate’s (Marion Cotillard) game.
Presented as a green energy enthusiast, philanthropist and ally to Wayne enterprises, Tate’s reveal as the brains behind the bad operation is too little too late.
With few Nolan-esque breadcrumbs scattered throughout the plot and a long drawn-out explanation that breaks the cardinal rule of show don’t tell, this particular twist in the tale is a knotty nuisance that draws the viewer out of the flailing action... and not in good way.
However, with that said, seeing as Nolan invited half the cast of ‘Inception’ (2010) to join the franchise, rabid know-it-alls may have fingered Tate as the foe, given her malice as Mal in the fantastical flick.
A Nolan film is not a Nolan film without trying to teach us, trick us or asking us to think about something we were quite happy to ignore entirely.
He bent our brains in ‘Memento’ (2000), messed with our matter in ‘Inception’ (2010) and asked us to consider whether a whole lot of people would kill a whole other load of people to save themselves in ‘The Dark Knight.’
This time, however, Nolan hits closer to home. Making use of skyjackings, foreign suicidal soldiers, as well as the real life situation of the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer and the bubbling fury it engenders, Nolan presents a world that isn’t too far left of the current mood in the world.
This makes the easy uprising, senseless deaths and instant militancy of the poor all the more distressing to behold while teaching us the disturbing lesson that the rich triumph, the poor can rise up but they will fail and in the end everything goes back to being as inequitable as it was.
A strange pill to swallow... if you think about it. And that’s precisely what Nolan would have you do.
Not as good as ‘The Dark Knight,’ yet an engaging and action-packed end to an incredible and game-changing trilogy, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is not Nolan’s best but, as always and in conclusion, Nolan’s good is... pretty darn good.
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