“What work is there to be found up here?” the boy responds.
Movies are a reflection of the times and Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises” is no exception. With last month’s national unemployment rate at 8.2 percent (and the unemployment rate among 16- to 24-year-olds at 16.5 percent), the dismal economy and job market is nothing new. Nor is the global undercurrent of social unrest — from the Arab Uprisings to the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Just like how “The Dark Knight” carried post-9/11 themes of terrorism and wire-tapping, Nolan’s third installment in the Batman trilogy channels Gotham as a parody of today, seeming to provide another social commentary.
“The Dark Knight Rises” continues eight years following the aftermath of “The Dark Knight” — when Gotham’s District Attorney Harvey Dent/ Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart) dies and the Gotham Police Department, under Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), exalt Dent as a hero when he was also a murderer. Gordon feels guilty about praising someone who threatened the life of his family while blaming Batman for Two-Face’s crimes. Meanwhile, although billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has hung up his cap and cape and retired from a life as Batman, those events also haunt him. But when a new mercenary named Bane (Tom Hardy) threatens the social order of Gotham, Wayne doesn’t hesitate to return to Gotham as Batman.
Whereas Christian Bale’s Batman paled in comparison to the eccentricities of Heath Ledger’s Joker in “The Dark Knight,” Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne is fascinating. Like in “Batman Begins,” the story refocuses on Wayne, breaking him down and building him up. But Wayne was never an underdog. “You get to keep your house. The rich don’t even go broke,” Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) quips after Wayne loses his money following some bad investments (J.P. Morgan, anyone?).
Although Wayne’s household name prevents him from invisibility, his desire for anonymity seems both brave and arrogant. In one scene, Wayne shows up at a masquerade party without a mask. When asked what’s his costume, he responds, “Bruce Wayne.”
But if Bruce Wayne is only a costume, so is Batman. “The idea is to be a symbol,” Bale says. “Batman can be anyone.” Bale echos “Batman Begins” where he expressed similar sentiments on a plane: “As a symbol, I can be incorruptible.” But Bale isn’t the only one with the ability to don two masks.
Hathaway also displays fluidity as Selina Kyle and Catwoman, giving a convincing fake scream one minute and walking calm and composed the next. Hathaway’s Selina Kyle is a fantastic actress, proving Hathaway’s own prowess in the field and her ability to land on her feet.
Tom Hardy gives a powerful presence as Bane, expressing that no one paid attention to him before without the face mask (Did anyone pay attention to dollar bill guy before the OWS protester taped a dollar a bill to his lips?). Perhaps it’s the face mask that warrants the added attention (or the fact that the mask muffles Hardy’s voice, making it harder to hear him, and therefore making you listen harder). Or perhaps it’s his buff physique. Or his words, which echo the words and signs of the Occupy protestors: “Return control to the people,” “Demand resignation of the corrupt.” Whatever the reason, Hardy makes you watch him as he tells you, “There can be no true despair without hope.”
Brothers Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s screenplay is a emotional roller coaster, full of twists and turns. But Bale, Hathaway, Hardy and the rest of the cast are strong pillars, providing support for the dizzying drops and mounting heights of the film. From when Wayne’s butler Alfred (Michael Caine) proclaims his love and guilt — “You are as precious to me as you were to your own mother and father. I swore to them that I would protect you, and I haven’t.” — to the stunning fireworks (such as when Bane and the construction workers blow up an entire football field), “The Dark Knight Rises” promises and delivers a wild ride.
“The Dark Knight Rises” was written by Jonathan and Christopher Nolan and directed by Christopher Nolan.