There are now clearly two tones to be taken in Hollywood comic book movies. There’s Whedon and there’s Nolan. You can blow a story out, make it a fun and winding path threw a clearly comic book universe, or you can ground a superhero in a gritty reality. One where greed and desire for power supersede logic and ethics. While I agree that the lengths this movie goes may stretch reality, the details buried in the methods of creating this madness are heavily steeped in reality. We are Gotham city. All of us. Batman is our better half.
Nolan immediately opens this movie with the tension spot. Bane, the masked sociopath. He is the schoolyard bully where the Joker is the weird kid in the corner eating paste. Every scene with Thomas Hardy’s Bane is one wrought with tension as to whether he will kill every person in the room with him, regardless of the side they stand on. He personifies evil in the most interesting ways. In fact, he creates such an imposing figure that by the time we actually see Bruce Wayne, we are convinced there is nothing he can do to stop this psycho. He has not only met his match, but his better. The only nitpick I have with Bane is his voice and his fights. The fights are short and undermine the amount of power Bane should wield. And as for his voice, let’s just say there were multiple points that my wife and I looked at each other wondering if either understood what came out of his mouth. These are nitpicks at best, but they are there. The character otherwise is full on terror.
This is where Nolan possibly makes one of few missteps for me. This movie is downright depressing. It is a two hour and forty five minute fest of being beaten down and torn into. Being told we are nothing but animals being led to slaughter. Bane is so imposing that there appears to be no way to prevent whatever his master plan may be. There is no cat and mouse like we saw in the first two Nolan Batman movies. The title itself appears to be a misnomer. There is no rising, other then the proverbial fire that Bane is creating. We must watch Gotham be consumed by fire and chaos. We can only hope that the city itself rises above, but as I stated earlier, this is not Whedonverse. This is Nolanverse. We must find the bottom before we ever see the light at the top.
Make no mistake though, this movie is crafted near perfectly. There is no doubt that this trilogy will not just go down as one of the best superhero trilogies of all time, it will go down as one of the best trilogies of all time. Listed among American greats like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, hell even the Godfather. Nolan creates a complete and whole story spanning upwards of 7 hours of film. I just often found myself thinking longingly of the 3 hours that preceded this one. The Dark Knight is all flurry and flash where Rises is sullen and lost. The story seems to halt around the 1 hour mark and does not find it’s place again until the final act. The last hour is pure superhero movie though. One not often seen in Nolan’s Batman work. The reality is that you will either like or hate this movie most likely, but you will probably not love it. You will love it for what it is, an ending to the epic story of Batman that Nolan created, but you will not love it as a stand alone piece of work.
If there is one stand out in this entire film, it is most definitely Joseph Gordon Levitt. The everyman who stands up to an unstoppable terror. It’s clear that Nolan values this actor and gives him most of the scenery to chew. It pays off by making a character who feels real and grounded. A cop standing up for what is right with nothing but towering powers all around him. Surrounded by personalities like Gordon, Batman and Bane, it seems he would get swallowed whole. Instead he is head strong and determined. It plays well and gives the movie a character you want to love.
To hear more spoilery type of talk about this movie then tune into the next podcast (#69), but for now you’ll have to be left with these thoughts. If you’ve come this far in the Nolan Batman trilogy then you’d be dumb for not completing it. This for me does not stand up to the amazing quality of The Dark Knight, but not much does. It is a good ending to one of the best superhero trilogies of all time.