The Dark Knight Rises” is the last in the Batman trilogy of films that will be helmed by auteur-director Chris Nolan. Nolan is one of those directors who packs theaters because he is the director, and DKR is a challenging journey inside Nolan’s highly moral and labyrinthine mind.
DKR is a continuum of Nolan’s first two highly acclaimed Batman films. Although the women in each film keep changing, Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman has been deliciously consistent through the three films.
We left Batman seemingly weak and defeated at the end of the second film: “The Dark Knight” (2008). He has become a recluse, wounded in body and spirit, but Gotham is suddenly challenged by a new foe, “Bane,” and his treacherous, sewerdwelling army. What convinces Batman to come out of retirement? The ever-faithful Alfred (Michael Caine) has a lot to do with it, but one of the sparks is a new Catwoman-jewel thief (Ann Hathaway). Hathaway slides into the role with ease.
Her felinity is played down; her martial arts skills, scrappiness, ego and ruthlessness played up.
The film is and feels very long at 164 minutes. But we don’t care because we love the story, Batman, Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan. The tables are constantly turning and the dilemmas get stickier and stickier. Each character has a rich back story, including the villains. Everyone without exception is tainted in Gotham and beyond.
The takeaway seems to be: We’re all trying to make something of ourselves (however twisted that turns out to be). We are all desperately trying to accomplish something. But no one lives in a vacuum — we all influence the people we live with, even the strangers around us. Some people have been pretty thoroughly distorted by life’s cruelty and lash out (Bane), and others are still on the fence; as Batman says to Catwoman: “There’s more to you than that.”
Although the Batman saga is definitely set up at the end for many more sequels, Nolan gave us a very satisfying conclusion to his take, and has both raised the bar and deepened the lore of this chiaroscuro superhero forever.
Burns is a Daughter of St. Paul and ministers in Chicago.