The Real Value of a Hero Unfolded in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’
As the movie’s apt title suggests, the Batman rises in this grave conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s epic trilogy. Nolan carries his magic torch with him to the set of “The Dark Knight Rises,” with his brother Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer as co-writers for screenplay and story, respectively. Composer Hans Zimmer is back with his dramatic compositions, while Christian Bale returns for his third and final portrayal of Gotham’s caped crusader.
Eight years have passed in Nolan’s Batverse since “The Dark Knight,” during which Batman is branded a cold-blooded criminal while billionaire Bruce Wayne (Bale) retreats from society’s view. Having taken the blame for District Attorney Harvey Dent’s fall to murderous rage, the now crippled Wayne stays comforted only with the company of gentle Alfred (Michael Caine) and the haunting memory of beloved Rachel.
In his premeditated solitude, the emergence of a city-wide nuclear terror spearheaded by Bane (Tom Hardy) drags Wayne and his batsuit out in the open. “Drag” is a fitting word, as it takes further multitude of blows for Wayne to rise; from sassy burglar Selina Kyle’s (Anne Hathaway) literal kick, Alfred’s painful jolt, the threatened Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), and acts of solid faith on Police Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and his protégé Blake’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) parts. But even re-donning his suit might not be enough, as greater evil lurks behind unlikely persons.
“The Dark Knight Rises” maintains the blanketing darkness and realism of its predecessors. Set against an intricate scheme with shots of economic turbulence in stock markets, amplified by the snaking corruption compromising Wayne Enterprises, Nolan’s work proves grimmer than any of its Marvel film counterparts. Above all, it explores Bruce/Batman’s rise and the Dark Knight’s value to Gotham city.
As Batman, Bale entrances with his shadowy charm whereas his foil Bane booms in explosive charisma. Unlike Robert Swenson’s portrayal of a grumbling burly puppet, Hardy’s florid version creates a capable strategist-villain. Introduced during the film’s opening (a bit of a letdown in comparison to its precursor’s), he becomes a co-mastermind who grinds Gotham down to a state not unlike a revolution. Initially overpowering our fragile (yes, fragile) masked vigilante, Bane throws Batman into a nearly inescapable pit designed to break one’s body and spirit.
It is in this hell hole that Bruce recovers himself. We know hitting rock bottom is necessary to his ascent, but the violence he is subjected to along the fall makes viewers cringe with the primal fear that their hero might be broken for good.
Finally evolving from the drifting Bruce at the film’s beginning, he regains his fear of death and, his acceptance of fear – not reception to self-destructiveness – with renewed determination to protect Gotham is what Nolan constitutes as a true Dark Knight. The character’s necessary transition is beautifully directed, conceiving enough suspense that mesmerizes viewers with the weight it carries.
In the interim, disaster buries a society without law, order and our titular figure. Throughout Batman’s absence the film switches to Gotham’s multiple characters as they resist the city’s unleashed terror, all superbly unfolded without the loss of narrative voice. With Dent’s crimes exposed and the disappearance of the town’s nocturnal protector, prominent figures step up and wear their own heroic mantle.
With this many heroes emerging, what, then, is the true value of a Batman? In this universe, the crime-fighting vigilante comes down to being a powerful symbol of hope and justice. As the character himself proclaims, the Dark Knight can be anybody. This moral mask, initially requiring Bruce for materialization, is a hope bringer collectively worn by Gordon, Blake, and many of Gotham’s good people against Bane. Their hope for survival is what Bane, as a manifestation of the people’s lost moral values, vows to crush.
Bruce’s battle against evil launches futuristic Bat-themed vehicles in town, courtesy of paternal figure Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). While indisputably mind-blowing in their fast-paced motion, the rides ring with familiarity. The football stadium scene, however, is a fresh addition to a chain of stunts that spell out sleek and stunning – clearly a product of superior film-making.
At the end of the doomsday, it takes Bruce-Batman to give his everything for Gotham’s safety. Ultimately, all drastic noble measures are shouldered by the lone figure because, as a vigilante, he possesses the tragic freedom of crime-fighting beyond the law.
Nolan’s previous box-office success “Inception” may fascinate viewers with its ambiguous ending, but “The Dark Knight Rises” conclusion overflows with such certainty that cannot be any more spellbinding as it establishes the legacy of a heroic symbol in a backdrop of corruption, economic uncertainty and terrorism.
There will always be critics, but Nolan has undoubtedly set the bar sky-high for future Batman films. He makes viewers feel the value of a hero, the value of a Batman.
The Dark Knight Rises
Now showing in local cinemas
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway
English with Indonesian subtitles