|I wish I could pull off standing on police cars.|
The Dark Knight Rises is the most perfect conclusion to a nearly flawless film trilogy and is, frankly, the most intense and the most satisfying movie I've ever experienced.
I can remember being dumbfounded when walking out of the theater seeing Batman Begins way back in 2005 (has it been that long?) because I could have never expected the sort of quality and realism that Christopher Nolan had brought to a franchise that had been tarnished by the ridiculous Batman & Robin and its subsequent nipple-suits and Schwarzenegger madness. I saw that movie twice. I can remember waiting outside of the locked theater doors at 10am with my friend in tow waiting for the earliest possible showtime for The Dark Knight - my theater didn't offer a midnight showing for, because trust me, I would've been there - which was at noon. I remember running in once the doors opened and body checking people to get to the theater, running to watch what would be the greatest comic book movie made. I cried when Rachel Dawes blew up as a result of the Joker switching addresses; I was in awe at the late Heath Ledger's incredible performance as the deranged sociopathic clown; I hated Chris Nolan with everything I had for leaving me hanging, not knowing if there would even be a sequel. (I might've been okay without one, actually) And four years later - we waited four years for this - The Dark Knight Rises is finally here, and I would wager that it comes close to entirely surpassing its near-perfect predecessor.
Scratch that. Now that I remember the film's final hour, I feel like it's better.
To be honest I was initially wary about the film as it began. The first forty-five minutes or so started on shaky and slow ground, though now considering the plot as a whole, I can see the need for such time to be devoted to establish what would become integral. Set eight years after The Dark Knight and after Batman took the fall for Harvey Dent's death, we find Bruce Wayne as a recluse, his body deteriorating and his weight on a cane. Events are set in motion immediately as he crosses paths with Catwoman, whose seemingly petty theft of his fingerprints begins a spiral of madness, orchestrated by the terrifying Bane, played by an almost unrecognizable and scarily built Tom Hardy. The movie plays parallel to the one before in the sense that the first hour is devoted to a tangled network of confusion before the main villain rises about and assumes control of their plan: in The Dark Knight we had the business with the Chinese businessman and the emergence of the Joker, and here we find Bane's employer calling the shots with a plan set before Bane hijacks the control with his own agenda. From thereon out we see absolute pandemonium: Gotham is turned on its head after a series of events triggered by Bane which honestly made my blood run cold - explosions, diversions, entrapments, a clusterfuck. Wayne is forced to return to his suit, something he had lived without since the failures of the second movie, to combat Bane, a task made all the more difficult by Catwoman's involvement.
My fear before viewing involved the tall order that The Dark Knight entails - I would've admitted defeat and given up on topping it with a sequel considering it is, honestly, perfect. The natural need to compare comes from the void left by the Joker, and Tom Hardy had huge shoes to fill in wake of the performance which resulted in a posthumous Academy Award for Ledger. It would be impossible to compare Bane to the Joker simply because you can't; Bane is therefore terrifying and physically formidable - the first fight scene with Batman is brutal to sit through - he proves a worthy match for the Caped Crusader, and I honestly for the life of me couldn't figure out how Batman would even be able to win at the end of it. Bane's entire plan, as it continues to unravel, gets increasingly horrifying and grand, and the intensity of the film-making put me in a cold sweat throughout the watching the film. The action keeps going to culminate in a sequence where I literally could not breathe.
The other concern was with Catwoman. I'm a huge fan of Michelle Pfieffer's Catwoman in Batman Returns and not so much of a fan of the Halle Berry incarnation. I don't know how I feel about Anne Hathaway; sometimes I like her a lot, sometimes I don't, but I was afraid she wouldn't fit in with the cast and would simply just be Anne Hathaway in a Batman movie instead of the character. I was wrong. This movie is Catwoman's movie, and as great as Bane was as a villain, she steals the focus away from him to be the greater of the two additions. She oozes sexuality without even trying, and her cool voice shooting off sassy one-liners made her memorable; I'm glad they played her off as being morally ambiguous. Catwoman, the master thief, steals the movie. (lame)
The most emotional part about this movie, though, is the investment we have in these characters. I shook with nerves thinking of any of the veterans dying - specifically Alfred, Lucius, and/or Commissioner Gordon - and I won't say who lives and who doesn't, but there are a handful of scenes where I was literally squirming in my seat because I wasn't sure what was going to happen to any of them. So too was the attachment to Bruce Wayne (obviously), and as the chaos grew darker I feared the Dark Knight might not triumph, let alone live. (again, I won't say what happens) In addition to the characters we've grown to love came the additions - Catwoman, Bane, Joseph Gordon Levitt as a young and honest cop who becomes Gordon and Batman's ally, and Marion Cotillard as the new CEO of Wayne Enterprises and more eye candy for Bruce - but the movie never seems weighted down by their inclusion. I was nervous that it might become too much of an Inception reunion, though everyone seemed so natural within Gotham City.
The conclusion to the movie was simply perfect: a perfect end to the events in place of the movie, and a perfect end to the trilogy as a whole. For the last ten or so minutes, I cried. CRIED. I'm upset that the franchise has come to the end, and that we'll never see other characters from the comics come to light, but there's no more satisfaction I want from what we were given. CRIED.
I'm glad that I saw the movie at midnight. From the moment that I stepped foot in the theater it immediately felt like an experience. I stood in my Batman t-shirt and Batman Converse high-tops (so tight that I could barely walk and they became part of my feet) surrounded by others in similar apparel. A table was set up by a comic book store with a guy dressed as Bane, and we took a picture with him. The hype kept building as the theater got packed with people who didn't care that they were seeing a three hour movie at midnight. The trailer for Man of Steel was met with screams of "Batman's better!" and applause from the audience. The movie received unanimous applause as its title came up on screen at the end, and rightly deserved.
A truly unbelievable viewing experience from start to finish. Get to the theater now and see it.