The Dark Knight Rises (USA, 2012)

Directed by: Christopher Nolan. [note: spoilers ahead] This is perhaps the most significant Event Movie franchise of this generation. I don’t want to go into the whole thing—partly out of respect, and partly because it’s still too fresh in my own head—but this franchise is unprecedented in the way that the profound gravity of the plot and tone of the film is reinforced by real-life gravity, first from the suicide of the now-legendary Heath Ledger, apparently from a role that “killed him”, and from the recent horror in Colorado, the full implications of which we’re still in the dark about at this point. This is a discussion for another day, though. Of the film itself, I feel like I can’t talk about it without going into some speculative discussion about American politics and culture. As much as Nolan was drawing from Batman mythology—which he did wonderfully, taking elements of Knightfall and No Man’s Land with a charming mixture of love and disregard—he was also painting with the palette of America’s cultural consciousness in a way that probably hasn’t been done in my lifetime. The closest thing I can remember is Alfonso Cuarón’s masterful Children of Men, about Britain. To what extent Nolan’s distance as a Brit accounts for his ability to pull up all of this American cultural dream-content is up for debate. What American, since the heydays of Coppola and Scorsese, has taken such interest in the American Predicament of the contemporary scene? It will take another viewing or two for me to decide if I think Nolan has some profound thesis about the States, or if (as I suspect) he’s simply pulled out a few elements from the nation’s latent dream-content and tried to arrange them, with the structural aid of Batman mythology, in the most visually striking way possible. I’m thinking here of sitting in the theater watching a horde of ragtag terrorists (dressed to look like Cuban revolutionaries, or heavily armed Occupy protesters) in a wild battle with cops—and we’re rooting for the cops! It’s dreamlike because of the way that Nolan uses Bane to invert and pull inside out the regular leftist political dynamic and eradicate any mistrust of authority. The cops are unquestioningly the good guys, and Bane and his criminals are unquestioningly the bad guys. It doesn’t take long to figure out the underlying conservatism here, and yet, Bane stood there and said the words: “We come not as conquerors but as liberators.” Whoa…did he just say that? I couldn’t believe it. Did you guys catch that? There was nothing blowing up at the moment, so I hope you got that. Remember that whole thing…Iraq War…2003…too long ago? That’s cool. But for people over 15 years of age, we remember that garbage about “liberators” as one of the defining Bullshit moments of modern political propaganda. Except here, it’s the wild criminal saying it, not the organized forces of “law and order.” To be fair, I suspect that once I get a few viewings in and get over the “wow” factor of this 3-hour spectacle, perhaps the “idea” content will prove to be pretty paltry, a few gestures towards profundity but little underlying force. Fair enough. As for the rest of it (the manifest content), I’m pretty happy with it. I thought that I would hate Anne Hathaway, and I didn’t. As in the previous film, Christian Bale took a backseat to the virtuoso villain performance, but he does his thing quite well. Tom Hardy is absolutely delightful to listen to, and I love that operatic voice with its hard-to-decipher vocal processing. The mask robs him of his face, but he can do more with his eyes and voice than most actors can with their whole body. Also, extra props to Nolan for putting in guys like Ben Mendelsohn and Matthew Modine to bolster the supporting cast, not to mention two—not one, two!—cameos from The Wire alumni. I could talk all day about this thing, but we’re well over 500 words. I see that I haven’t had any “spoilers” per se…oh well then, Marion Cotillard is R’as Al Ghul’s daughter.

3 responses to “The Dark Knight Rises (USA, 2012)

  1. Pingback: Killing Them Softly (USA, 2012) | Offhand Reviews·

  2. Pingback: Killing Them Softly (USA, 2012) | Offhand Reviews·

  3. Pingback: Starred Up (UK, 2013) | Offhand Reviews·

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