The Dark Knight Rises is set up by the very first scene and in more ways than one. In this, it recalls the earlier two movies in the trilogy. While The Dark Knight, with a guise of a bank robbery showed you what Joker and his philosophy was all about (which is what the film is going to masterfully delve into), the final film chooses to go with all out action (which is what we get in this film).
Maybe it is the bane of final (in a series) films and films with such humongous amount of expectations that you can’t help but give the fans and everyone else exactly what they are expecting. Also summer movies are for playing to the galleries right? They are supposed to entertain and that is all. We know he retired – yep he’s retired. We know he falls – he falls. We know he rises – he rises and how! This happened with Avengers (which was insane fun!) and Joss Whedon gave fans exactly what they wanted. But here, we are talking about Christopher Nolan. The man who gave two tremendously detailed films in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. He went beyond the summer-movies-are-just-fun axiom and gave us more. A film that gave us one of the greatest villains ever and promised legendary status to the actor. A film that made the Academy look sideways towards summer blockbusters and increase the number of Best Films nomination. A film that was as much about superheroes as it was about super villains, their psyche, the blurring line between them and the heroes, and the tentacles of organized crime. As my friend – one of the hardcore Nolan fans I know – would say, we’ve been pampered!
While comparisons maybe wrong, they are unavoidable. Joker’s past was a mystery. It remains a mystery throughout but nonetheless, acts as the prism to dig into his mind. The guy who comes across as chillingly Machiavellian but nonetheless, being the “guy without a plan”. There was a method to his madness much like there was a method to Batman as a detective – he was never a lone crusader like, say, Spiderman. Bane’s past here is also a mystery. This film though focuses on that past and tries to solve it. Bane is the guy with the seemingly flawless plan. Once he sets that in motion it is anarchy, mayhem and all that jazz which leads to one and one thing only – action set pieces. Excellent ones at that accompanied by great lines and a greater background score. This still works wonderfully as a trilogy. But as a film, The Dark Knight Rises plants some doubts about holding up on multiple viewings. Nolan’s familiar problems of exposition are evident here too and he repeatedly refuses to play his cards close to his chest. His films are beautifully detailed on paper but on screen fleshing out these details has always been an issue for him (Is he a better writer than a director? Discuss.). I felt a mild cringe in the scene where Catwoman kidnaps Dagget and how his lines are structured there.
But don’t get me wrong, The Dark Knight Rises is a bloody good film! I had great fun in the theater, with the action scenes, with the atmosphere of a first day show, with a like minded group of people. It diminishes only with respect to the scale and ambitions of Christopher Nolan that we have witnessed in the past. It crumbles as a follow up to the greatness – however preordained it might have been – of films like The Dark Knight. Why, even consider Inception and Memento. There is a line Batman utters when he turns around and notices that Catwoman has disappeared. The brooding Batman of Begins and TDK would have never uttered that. But it was such a hit in the theater! That’s what, consciously or otherwise, Nolan has gone for here. It’s Nolan in traditional summer movie territory.
I’ll watch it again. Just to know how it feels like.