The Dark Knight Rises

Note: The following is my review of the film The Dark Knight Rises. It is not meant to be a social commentary or a reflection on any of the events surrounding the premiere. For my thoughts on the shooting that took place in Aurora, CO, please see my previous post.

It’s pretty obvious that no one has been able to forget the incredible explosion of cinematic genius that was The Dark Knight. If you were anywhere near a movie theater last night around 11:00 pm, you know what I mean. Last night, thousands of people across the country waited in line to see the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, the highly-anticipated conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, which began with 2005’s Batman Begins and gained huge mainstream popularity and adoration with 2008’s The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight Rises earned $30 million off of these midnight viewers alone. That’s insane.

But this huge success at the box office doesn’t mean that The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t have its critics. In all honesty, The Dark Knight Rises is a very polarizing movie. Some people love it while others say it is a huge disappointment. And I believe that this is at least partially due to the success and creativity of its predecessor. The Dark Knight was so powerful and ground-breaking that it would be almost impossible to create a sequel that could live up to the hype. And yet many fans expected Christopher Nolan to do just that, and most of them were probably disappointed by the film.

I personally loved it. I thought it was a great film. But here’s the thing: I’m willing to accept the movie for what it is. I didn’t go into the theater expecting The Dark Knight Rises to be as fantastic as The Dark Knight. That would be silly. I didn’t have low expectations, mind you, but they weren’t unrealistically high, either. And I believe most viewers who watched the movie with realistic expectations were pleased, too.

As a film, The Dark Knight Rises is great. It has everything one would expect from a superhero movie. It even sets itself apart with the extremely dark tone and a supervillain unlike any other in the superhero film universe. The Dark Knight Rises also functions well as the last movie in a film trilogy destined to become history. It ties up loose ends left by the first two movies while leaving just enough open-ended story lines to allow the viewer to draw his or her own conclusions. In short, the movie was awesome and a great way to end the series.

But because it is a film and a series that many fans are very passionate about, I’m sure that there are some people who will not like the way the story ends, regardless of whether they expected The Dark Knight Rises to be as awesome as The Dark Knight or not. There are some aspects of the ending that are very definite and cannot be ignored. I will not go into detail for the sake of those of you who have not seen the film yet, but I will say this. I loved the ending. I thought it was very fitting and in line with the direction the series was going. If you don’t like the ending, I’m sorry. I guess you’ll just have to pretend like the last few minutes of the movie never happened and make up your own ending.

All the polarization and controversy aside, there are a couple of specific things about the movie that I would like to discuss. The first is Catwoman. I must admit that I was kind of skeptical about how the character of Catwoman would fit into the Batman series. But my skepticism was completely unnecessary. Anne Hathaway’s acting was flawless, and the character fits right in with the rest of the Batman universe that Nolan has created. In fact, I think that Catwoman epitomizes the complexity, darkness, and reality that is so characteristic of this film series. The Dark Knight Trilogy started a trend in superhero movies to sacrifice a little bit of the fantasy in order to become more believable and relatable. Catwoman is ultimately the result of that. She has a dark past and ulterior motives, and she doesn’t always fight for the good guy. But she’s a hero nonetheless. And she adds a lot to the film not only as a wonderful character but as the ultimate example of a realistic superhero character.

The characterization of Bruce Wayne was also brilliant in this movie. This movie is, among other things, the story of a broken man overcoming the many disasters he has been forced to face and moving past his brokenness for the sake of the greater good. We see a lot more of Bruce in this movie than we do Batman, and I think the changes we see in Bruce throughout the move make the scenes where he is fighting as Batman that much more enjoyable.

I hope no one tries to accuse The Dark Knight Rises of being political. Although the film does feature some Occupy Wall Street-esque extremism in reference to the economic gap between the wealthy and the poor, this extremism is criticized, and the movie doesn’t so much draw any conclusions on the current economic system as simply asking questions. And I for one appreciate that. I do not think studios and movie creators should draw in viewers with promises of action and then secretly include political agendas in their films, but I think it’s great when content creators of all sorts use their mediums to draw attention to pressing issues and ask questions to get their audiences to think about the matters at hand. We can’t fix the issues until we ask the right questions.

And I think The Dark Knight Rises ultimately gives us a glimpse of how these issues will play out. Everyone has their own solution to each problem facing the world that he or she thinks will work best. But the only way these issues will ever be truly solved is through each and every one of us coming together to combat chaos, destruction, and corruption in a way that is beneficial to all.

The Dark Knight Rises has a lot to offer. There is no way I could cover it all in one review, even one as lengthy as this one. I would greatly urge anyone over 13 to go see this movie at least once. It’s not for children, but it’s certainly appropriate for anyone old enough to understand it. It’s entertaining, thought-provoking, and definitely a worthy successor to the movie that made Batman a common household name again. And now Batman will continue to live on in our hearts and our movie collections with a great ending thanks to The Dark Knight Rises.