I am a life long fan of Batman.
I am not one of those t-shirt wearing, fist pumping, fair-weather fans who adopted Batman recently because he’s suddenly dark again and they like his appeal. No. I have been collecting Batman comics since I was a boy. I follow the comic book Batman.
I’m the guy who stood up and walked out of the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton Batman fiasco. I never liked Michael Keaton as my hero, never liked Val Kilmer, and certainly hated George Clooney for what was done to the Cowled Avenger. (We won’t even discuss what Arnold did to Mr. Freeze.) I’m picky. If it were not for video releases, I would not have seen the previous film adaptations. I’m a curmudgeon when it comes to Batman. I like the incarnations brought to us by Bob Kane (pre-comics code – it created a monster and sucked the life out of Kane’s work, tying his hands), Frank Miller, Neal Adams, Brian Bolland, Alan Grant, and especially Dennis O’Neal.
I am also a fan of Christopher Nolan, who I feel is closer to a modern day Hitchcock than any other person sitting in the director’s chair. I have been a fan of his since watching Memento, a psychological thriller told in reverse order, about a man who loses his memory of everything when he falls asleep. His movies are like puzzles, and I love to watch the pieces fall into place.
I loved Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, both of those films illustrating the Batman as I know him: gothic, gritty, smart, brave, and driven by a force of will that is by all means his true “superpower”. I went to see The Dark Knight Rises yesterday afternoon with my son, and I will have to say that this film is already generating Oscar buzz. I will have to say I was speechless exiting the theater, but this long time Batman fan has a few words to say about it (without any spoilers).
The writing is breathtaking, a wonderfully woven tapestry of a maze-like quality. It is relentlessly written, captivating the audience with twists and turns that are highly unpredictable and genuine. It has villains within villains, as I have written about in a previous blog post as being important to any adventure story. It has surprises that leave you holding your breath, causing real moments of gripping the armrests of the theater seat. It will make you laugh briefly at things that should not be humorous. Bane, right before doing something that is absolutely evil, listens to a boy sing the national anthem at a football game and comments: “He has a lovely voice.” It will make you cry when the last event happens in the film. My son was in tears, I shed a few, and we both looked at each other asking “Is this it?” but were not sorry for our momentary display of emotion. It is necessary, and it is wonderfully done.
The acting was natural and realistic. Tom Hardy’s Bane is terrifying, yet delightfully evil. He is a man with utter determination and a force of will that drives him much as the Dark Knight is driven. He parallels Batman in many ways and is an example of what Bruce could have become if taken to the extreme. His voice, I believe, will become as iconic as that of Darth Vader or Voldemort, singing a death song of amplified fear. It is a voice you love to listen to, yet knowing that it brings with it a reckoning that is inevitable and horrible. I was genuinely creeped out by Bane, but loved every minute of Hardy’s performance and wanted more. The unsung hero of this film is Michael Kane, his Alfred Pennywise being the surrogate father of Bruce Wayne. I wept with him at the end, felt his father’s heart when he told Bruce that he “didn’t want to bury him”, and cheered with him just before the credits rolled. Gary Oldman’s performance was spot on. Commissioner Gordon is stalwart, brave, believable and just like he is in the comic books. Selina Kyle could not have been played by a better actress. Anne Hathaway is cool, calculating, deceptive and graceful. She is truly Catwoman. I cannot complain about any of the performances. They were all stellar and worth mentioning, especially Joseph Gordon Levitt, who is the heart of this film.
Christopher Nolan has created a welcome capstone to this trilogy, keeping true to the comic book story that I love and cherish so much. It realizes Batman in a way that is gritty, realistic and symbolic. There are so many images in this film that symbolize the message and theme of the film, and this is what qualifies as good film making. Nolan has outdone himself with this film, and if it does not win Oscars I will be surprised.
If I were to give it a star rating, it scores a 5 out of 5 with me. Go see this. You will not be sorry you spent the money. It is well worth the price of admission, if not more.