The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Directed By Christopher Nolan
Why have superheroes become such a source of inspiration for our mainstream cinema? As the reboot of Superman hits the silver screen (and no doubt box-office records tumble) and with the recent success of Avengers Assembled and the Iron Man series, it seems any comic-strip film saga brings a rabid audience. Added to this comes a newfound critical acceptance and credibility. In my mind part of the reason for this is Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. As has been mentioned elsewhere this is where comic-strip movies have grown up. Some people have even claimed that Nolan's trilogy rivals The Godfather films for allround greatness. I think we need these superhero films not just to escape from mundanity, but to offer solutions to real problems, even if ultimately that solving is fantasy. Saved by the men in tights.
As a big fanboy of these Batman films The Dark Knight Rises didn't disappoint. From the trilogy it's the least focussed and compact, and nowhere near the high mark Nolan set with The Dark Knight. A big plus this time round however, The Dark Knight Rises brings tense emotion. Some scenes here are genuinely moving (mostly containing the quivering bottom lip of Michael Caine). Christian Bale is dependently solid in the Wayne/Batman role, but The Dark Knight Rises struggles to find a suitable villain. Tom Hardy does his best as Bane, but the mask he sports throughout reduces the menace. Anne Hathaway surprises as a sleek Cat Woman (amazing high heels!), whilst Gary Oldman is effortlessly good. The twist at the end however feels unnecessary, and the usual explosive finale goes on a bit too long. Nolan has moments here where the tension builds fantastically and most set pieces impress.
The Dark Knight Rises works best when the Wayne/Batman dark side takes hold and the-not-explored-enough-death-wish tendency emerges. Nolan interweaves some current affairs into the plot, but none of this interests like our anti-hero's state of mind. That's the juice. Like Gotham we need Batman and we need him to be there for us, to alleviate the dark and take the strain and feel some of our pain. Will he come back? When our next crises takes hold, I'll turn on the sign and see if he arrives to save the day. In the meantime, I'll revisit these movies. The perfect mix of fantasy and contemporary realism.
The shocking news that was published today in the media (The Guardian for example) is that globally 1 in 3 women suffer from violent attacks during their life time. Most of these attacks, violence and murder are done by the women's male partners. The ones supposedly looking out for these women, the ones in love. This is a world of violence (gendered violence in fact). It is distressing to come face to face with the statistics, even though in our everyday life we see evidence of this brutality all the time. How does this piece of research into violence against women relate to Batman, the loner (comic) hero? Well, it doesn't directly, but my dim view is that movies like The Dark Knight Rises are both a product and they take part in producing the culture of violence they picture so carefully.
At this point it is fair to mention that I enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises surprisingly much if you compare to my utter despair after seeing The Dark Knight. I was mad with anger in 2008. (And then there was the death of Heath Ledger which was maddening too.) I hated Nick for dragging me into the cinema to destroy a good day. Now I kind of sat through the entire show and only ranted a little...because hey, how can my intelligent husband say that this is a successful metaphor for our times? To me it was like a 10-year-old school kid's cut-and-paste analysis. If you are making a fairytale why does it have to attempt to relate to the reality?
Admittedly, there is something rewarding about the minutes where Batman stuffs it in the throats of the evil poor bastards and climbs out of that ridiculous cave cell; and when he whisks the atom bomb somewhere above the sea where it can explode without destroying Gotham. I see the hope that somehow maybe something/someone will come and save us people when everything is beyond salvaging. I see the need for this hope. But c'moon guys, that's like believing in god up above.
Just this week it occurred to me that we as people – and especially me – are living our lives not to our greatest potential, not to continually invent and expand our knowledge and goodness, but to be content. I am worried for us and our little kiddies. We can do much better than this.