Batman Begins gave us a fun and intriguing origin story steeped in the Batman mythos with plenty of nods to comic lovers while still staying stark and realistic. The Dark Knight continued the trajectory and took us into a world even darker and grittier than the first film. And now we arrive at the conclusion of the trilogy with the promise of Rising out of the darkness…somehow.
Because of the twists, turns and surprises, I will try to avoid too much information about plot details, but I may say some things that might hint at plot points. If you're worried about that, skip to the final paragraph above the stars. :)
Like many, I was saddened at the death of Heath Ledger. I certainly haven't seen everything he's been in but I've enjoyed his work and had a lot of fun watching him. And I felt like his characterization of the Joker was fabulous. He really nailed the creepy crazy psychopathic nature of the Joker. With him dead, I was worried that the final movie in the trilogy would either have another actor try to mimic Ledger's Joker or the Joker would be completely absent from the film. Part of me hoped that we'd have a copycat actor working as the Joker just because the Joker is such a quintessential part of Batman. In the end, we had no Joker in Dark Knight Rises which was a bit of a let down to me personally, but I think the movie was fabulous even without the Joker.
The Dark Knight. Wayne manor has been rebuilt but both Bruce Wayne and Batman have essentially gone into hiding. The nature of their simultaneous disappearance and almost simultaneous reappearance makes me wonder how it is that almost nobody (especially not the police commissioner and other smart people like him) puts two and two together to deduce his secret identity. I think Nolan tried to address this a little bit by having Commissioner Gordon comment almost apathetically that he didn't care who he really was because all he needed to know was that he was "the Batman."
Without going into spoilers, I can tell you that this movie will pull you down (alongside Batman and Gotham City) to the bottommost point of despair. But it does so with that slim glimmer of hope. And, knowing that this is a movie, it's easy to remember that hope is very, very possible. The final ~30 minutes of the movie are intense as Hope meets Despair in a final battle that keeps going and going beyond the point where it might end. And when the end does finally come, it will come in a way different than you may expect. The final 5-10 minutes are full of great revelations that finally help pull things out of the darkness. Even though it doesn't end as you might want it to, I think you will be happy with the ending.
Overall I really enjoyed this film. It does a great job finalizing the trilogy. I'm a little bummed that Nolan indicates that this is only a trilogy since I would love to see more from him in Gotham. But the way he ties everything off makes me think he's definitely walking away from Batman…at least for now. While I missed the Joker here, Bane was creepy and evil and made for a good counterpoint and I really enjoyed the portrayal of Catwoman. There isn't a ton of graphic, grotesque violence but the fight scenes are definitely intense. Bane and Batman go toe to toe in some fisticuffs bouts that can make you cringe.
While the movie is great on its own, I wouldn't recommend seeing it without seeing the other two first. It could certainly stand alone and informs the viewer through flashbacks and conversations, but the connections will be even stronger if you've seen the other two films. This movie maintains Nolan's dark style so if you weren't a fan of the previous two movies you will find this one more of the same. But if you are a fan of Batman and if you've enjoyed the grittier, darker treatment of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, then this is a must see. You won't be disappointed.
4 out of 5 stars
In addition to this review, I want to take a moment to step onto a soap box.
I am horrified and deeply saddened to the violent real-life events that accompanied this film's midnight showing in Colorado. I'm sure there will be plenty of villainizing of the movie industry as a result of the shootings. There will be discussions about violence in movies and the way they are destroying the moral fiber of society. To an extent those arguments will be accurate and have some teeth. However in the end I don't believe that movies are to blame any more than the gun manufacturers are to blame for making the guns that the man used. As sad as it is, there is violence and darkness in this world. I don't know the details of the gunman's life and I certainly don't intend to defend his actions in any way. My heart goes out to the family and friends of those who are suffering through this tragedy.
The only additional commentary I want to add is that we all have a choice…we all have our own agency. The gunman made a very bad choice which then limited and destroyed choices for his victims. Whatever his motivations, whatever influences led to this, it was his choice. I don't disagree with those who say violence in movies can corrupt or influence for bad. My hope would be that we as a society…as humanity…can step back and realize that we need to teach each other good moral principles. If we disagree with the violence and muck that's in the world, then say so…boycott it…tell your kids, your friends, your family to avoid it. Don't hide in the shadows and hope that the violence goes away on its own…or ignore the violence as it's embraced by those around you and then wonder how it corrupted them. If you see someone taking a bad path, stop them. Turn them around.
In a sense, that is part of the message of this very movie. Apathy and ignorance will destroy our culture just as fast as the violence and corruption that apathy and ignorance try to avoid. In fact, by being apathetic or ignorant to what's going on around us, we are actually speeding the process. By doing nothing to make things better, we are allowing things to get worse. There is darkness in the world. But there is also light. Embrace the light. And then teach those around you to embrace it as well. Reach out a helping hand. If you see something that isn't right, do what you can to make it better. This doesn't mean donning a cape and cowl and turning vigilante. But everybody has a sphere of influence and there is always something you can do…something besides ignoring the problem.
To those in Colorado who are suffering, you are in my prayers. To the rest of the world, let your hearts go out to them as well. And then open your heart and your eyes to the world immediately around you and make it a better place.