“You’ll hunt me. You’ll condemn me. Set the dogs on me. Because that’s what needs to happen. Because sometimes the truth isn’t good enough. Sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded,” Batman proclaims ominously at the end of Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” — the critically-acclaimed second installment in the trilogy based on the famous DC comic. Nearly a decade has lapsed in the cinematic universe, yet in the threequel, The Dark Knight Rises, millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is still haunted by the backlash of his alter-ego’s vigilantism. But though time can heal the deepest wounds, it’s still too soon for the citizens of Gotham City to welcome back a man they’d branded an enemy — an unfortunate circumstance when a terrorist leader sets his sights on the unguarded metropolis.
Meet Bane (Tom Hardy): A bruiser of a man, whose brawn is evenly matched with his wit. Determined to usher in an age of anarchy, he takes aim at the stock exchange, a crowded sports stadium, and a prison holding some of the city’s most heinous criminals. Despite half his face being obstructed by a muzzle-like contraption, Hardy manages to express a wide range of emotions for Bane, namely through his eyes — a harbor for pain and rage. The “Bronson” star reportedly based his character’s accent on the “King of the Gypsies,” a once undefeated bare-knuckle boxing champion of the United Kingdom and Ireland; conceptually, this comparison works wonders for Bane’s fighting style, but the actor’s execution is silly and the effects on his voice make him even harder to understand. Nevertheless, a beefed up storyline makes him a menacing villain and gives the movie a sense of urgency that was lacking in its predecessor.
Nolan co-wrote the screenplay for The Dark Knight Rises with his brother Jonathan and, despite their constant work together, it still has its fair share of problems. A common issue is that the characters will stop what they’re doing to spew a cheesy monologue about humanity and morals — something that should’ve been implied. Their compulsive need to be “deep” cheapens the complex characters by forcing them to come to simple conclusions on some very complicated issues. Drawing inspiration from everything from the French Revolution, post-911 New York City, and the recent economic crash, the duo tries too hard to make The Dark Knight Rises a social commentary, rather than a personal exploration into Wayne. Unfortunately, they just don’t have anything interesting to say on the subjects.
When it does come to developing our protagonist, not much is done to ensure Bruce has a lasting impact. His romantic relationships to both Miranda (Marion Cotillard), a businesswoman interested in investing in his faltering enterprise, and Selina (Anne Hathaway), an experienced thief, are rushed and don’t make much sense. The development that does happen stems from Wayne’s interactions with Alfred (Michael Caine), his trusted butler and confident, the world-weary Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), and Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a rookie cop who still has hope for the city. There’s no denying that Hathaway and Cotillard are incredibly sexy and likable, but the latter encounters are far more satisfying. Still, as a whole, Christian Bale remains an extremely charismatic lead.
Honestly, however, these are issues that present themselves in retrospect. With dizzying production values, the filmmakers ensure there’s a decent amount of intricate explosions, sets featuring hundreds of costumed extras, and entertaining brawls to keep audiences entertained. And while the bombastic tone does somewhat contradict Nolan’s original vision to establish an über-realistic atmosphere, it doesn’t replace the storytelling aspect, which, although inconsistent, still has enough twists-and-turns to keep most guessing. All in all, although finales tend to suck, The Dark Knight Rises certainly does rise to the occasion, even if it stumbles along the way.