2012-07-20

The Dark Knight Rises – A Worthy And Satisfying Conclusion

by Yo Snyder

I’m sitting there in the theater watching what has been one of my
most anticipated films in recent years, and there came a moment early on
when I couldn’t help but think; “That’s where it must have happened.”
Part of the legacy of this movie won’t just be how it ended on of the
great super hero trilogies of our time, how it was a worthy and
satisfying conclusion to an epic Batman saga, but how this movie about
good overcoming terror, fear and evil was itself used for terror and
evil. The scene early on with gun fire going off was uncomfortable and
difficult because I knew for some, it was a moment when an exciting,
highly anticipated event turned into a nightmare. The shootings in
Aurora, Colorado are unfortunately now a part of this movie’s legacy,
making the viewing of it something entirely different than it might
otherwise have been. And as hard as that made it, I realized as that
moment passed, that I still had to decide whether or not The Dark Knight Rises
truly rises as that rare third chapter that’s as good as the rest and
one that successfully concludes this Batman saga. With a few bumps along
the way, I’m happy to say yes, and I’m still saddened that tragedy has
tainted the enjoyment of what should have been an entertaining film for
all.

The Dark Knight Rises is not as relentlessly dark as The Dark Knight.
I didn’t have that mounting tension in the pit of my stomach that just
never stopped, but it is an intense and driven story with some moments
that will make you wince at the brutality of its villain. Bane is a much
more straightforward  as opposed to the insanity and unpredictability
of the Joker. However, he’s a much more powerful villain, and so the
threat he presents has a different kind of danger, a more physical kind
of danger. Tom Hardy is fine in the role, but behind the mask and with
the distracting voice issues (which aren’t entirely resolved), it’s hard
to take away much from his performance. Still, he does present an
imposing force for Batman to fight against, and for this movie he’s
definitely the right bad guy. He’s the one that can set events in motion
that require the kind of finality and all out effort that the
concluding film in Batman’s trilogy needed. 

And what a conclusion
it is. While things are a little shaky in the early going while all the
pieces are being put into place, once the film finds it’s footing it
grips you and doesn’t let go. The last hour or so is a relentless,
breathless experience, and the final twenty minutes of the movie left my
head spinning. Don’t let anyone talk to you who’s already seen it,
don’t let some of the surprises be spoiled or the key moments get ruined
so you can enjoy the full impact and emotion of them. And it is
an emotional finale, in many ways. I don’t really want to say more than
that, but this is about as satisfying of a conclusion to Nolan’s Batman
saga that one could ask for and a fine way to say goodbye to these
characters. 

While Bane isn’t the most memorable character in the
film, Selina Kyle just may be. Anne Hathway gives quite the performance,
capturing the playfulness and woundedness, the hard edge and
vulnerability, and most importantly, the conflict of conscience that
Catwoman is so well known for in the comics. I know there’s been a lot
of debate about how well Catwoman (which she’s never directly called in
the film) would or would not work in the Nolan Bat-verse, and I’m happy
to say that she works just fine. Kyle’s motivations for what she does
are often ambiguous, but here, at least in part, they’re made quite
clear. Selina wants a “clean slate”; literally. She takes on a job in
order to secure a computer program called “clean slate” that would wipe
her record and allow her to enjoy a fresh start. The question is whether
or not such a thing, a “clean slate”, actually exists. Well I’m happy
to say that it does, but it’s not a computer program.

The truth is
we all have quite the record; none of us is spotless. The truth is,
we’re all guilty of something and the only true way to get a fresh start
in eternity is to have that perfectly clean slate. Unfortunately that’s
not something we can earn or work at; and God knows that. God has done
for us what we couldn’t do on our own and paid the price for a “clean
slate”. All of our wrongs, all of our mistakes, all of our sins can be
wiped away; forgiveness can be ours. It was all made possible by the
death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; that is the true “clean slate”
program; that is how we can experience a fresh start. “‘Come now, let us
settle the matter,’ says the Lord, ‘though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow…” (Isaiah 1:18) The point is simply
this, to get a clean slate we do need something, and it’s the blood and
sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As strange as it may sound, that’s the only
true way to access a “clean slate”, regardless of whether your a cat
burglar, a terrorist, or a regular person that tells the occasional
lie. 

In truth, there’s a lot more that can and probably will be
said about this movie. Bruce Wayne’s journey is particularly fascinating
here, as is that of his faithful friend and butler Alfred. There are
many call-backs and ties to the previous movies, more so to Batman Begins than The Dark Knight,
but they’re all used to wonderful effect and help give this trilogy a
feeling of completeness. It has a much different feel from the previous
two with a gritty, dirty war-like texture to it. It doesn’t quite
resolve as well as it could have some of the left over elements of the
previous movie (for having everyone think that he’s a murdering rogue at
the end of TDK, it seems people are pretty quick to accept Batman back
as a symbolic hero of hope), and despite the long running time, it
almost ends too quickly. 

However, in my mind the great irony of
this movie will forever be the fact that it’s the story about finding
a way to rise above fear, above terror, above lawlessness and evil, it’s
about how no matter how dark this world may be, it is worth it to
stand for what is good, for what is pure, what is moral and what is
right.  And yet, at it’s debut, one lone lunatic tried to undermine that
all by presenting evil, fear and terror as the greater reality; almost
as if to say the ability to rise above those things is a fantasy,
something best left to caped heroes in the movies. It can be so easy to
give-in to that when the unthinkable happens in our world, often when we
least expect it. However, as one character states, “You need to have
faith in something more real.” He says it in a derogatory manner to
another person who still believes Batman is the hero they need. Well,
when facing evil, when trying to rise above the terrors of this world,
we do need to believe in something more real. And that reality isn’t
represented by a bat, but rather a cross. A cross that demonstrated a
love that was willing to give all to conquer evil, to overcome fear, and
to stop terror. A love that said evil cannot, and will not last. A love
that said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will
give you rest.” A love that said, “Fear not, for I have over come the
world.” A love that says, “A light shines in the darkness, and the
darkness has not overcome it.” A lone gunman in a darkened theater
cannot undermine that or make it any less True. That he would try to do
so at a movie that would remind us of those very truths is a tragic
irony, and one that will forever be apart of the legacy, at least for
me, of The Dark Knight Rises.

Is this the worthy conclusion
to Nolan’s Batman trilogy? Yes. It’s flawed, it’s a bit shaky at times,
but it’s eminently satisfying, thrilling, exciting and emotional. It’s
the finale that I hoped it would be, and a fitting swan song for one of
the more complex and popular icons of our culture; the Batman.

Score: 6 of 7