The Dark Knight Rises will long live in our minds as an epic superhero drama forever tied to the tragic events in Aurora, Colo. The world is now familiar with the shooting that unfolded on Friday, July 20 at the midnight showing of the movie's premiere killing 12 people and injuring 58 others. That event will be with the victims, their families and that community for many years to come. However, those events should not detract from the superior movie making quality The Dark Knight Rises achieves. The film and its creator, Christopher Nolan, should be applauded for merging the best of movie technology with wonderful story telling in a film that will be celebrated long after its stars have left this earth.
True trilogies are about taking the audience back to the beginning and discovering something they thought to be true, that wasn't true. Nolan stays true to the formula and the audience is along for the ride watching a masterpiece unfold before them.
The movie is set eight years after the events of the Dark Knight. Batman has retired, opting to take the fall for the four murders committed by Harvey Dent rather than see Gotham's white knight destroyed. Aided by Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), Batman has kept Dent's legacy intact allowing criminals locked up under the Dent Act to stay behind bars and keep the streets of Gotham safer than they have ever been. Batman is not the only one to have retired, with his alter ego Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) living the life of a recluse in a body showing the signs of wear and tear after fighting the criminal underworld. Wayne walks with the assistance of a cane showing that even Batman is human.
The film, which clocks in at a whopping 2 hours and 44 minutes, is not only a visually spectacular film but also a film with rich story lines. Nolan has taken the canvas of DC Comics beloved hero and his rivals and turns them into characters we care about. Nowhere is this more evident than Nolan's take on Catwoman and her alter ego Selina Kyle played beautifully by newcomer Anne Hathaway. Gone is Catwoman's strange obsession with cats so vividly portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer in Tim Burton's Batman Returns. Hathaway's Catwoman is an accomplished thief, nimble and quick but a victim of her upbringing, desperate for a new start. Her repeated opportunities to redeem herself and Batman's repeated trust in her, at times to his own detriment, keeps the audience cheering until the very end that she will choose the right path.
Batman's supporting characters are also given wonderful story lines themselves. Gordon's struggles to continue to carry the secret he has kept for 8 years weighs on him at every turn in the film. Matthew Modine has a wonderful small role as Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley, an ambitious police officer with his eye on the commissioner's seat that often blinds his decisions. The infusion of Detective John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) with his pure vision of the world, along with returning favorites Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) allow the audience to view Batman's world through normal human eyes not just that of our super hero and his villains.
Speaking of villains.
Nolan has created wonderful story lines not just for our heroes but also for our villains. The movie opens with a spectacular airplane scene, which sets the tone for what type of character the movie's villain Bane (Tom Hardy) is. By the end of the scene, audiences are familiar with Bane, understanding the lengths to which he will go to accomplish his goal, understanding his fierce physical strength and the loyalty that drives the people that follow him.
One cannot help but compare current political climate and culture with Occupy Protesters demanding that America be returned to Americans and Bane's ultimate plot to return Gotham to the people. Bane is fierce and far more violent than Occupy Protesters but their core ideologies are eerily similar. Unlike real world Occupy Protesters Bane uses his ideology as a cover for his real plan. However, in the process the audience is privy to Bane's scary acts of violence, which include rocking the country's financial foundation by holding the stock exchange hostage and an impressive show of power when he takes an entire football stadium hostage.
The Dark Knight Rises is rated PG-13 but parents be warned that the film deals with intense adult themes that may be difficult even for young teenagers to process. The movie also contains scenes of intense action and violence, some sensuality and language.