Midnight in the Garden of Good and Gotham

If you were like me and bought tickets a month ago to see The Dark Knight Rises at 12:01 this morning, then I’m willing to bet that the great majority of you were pleased, overwhelmed, and fulfilled in ways that you didn’t even think possible. Not sexually, of course… or perhaps sexually (who knows, I won’t speak for everyone). I know I was having freak outs, bouncing in my seat and smacking The Boy every time something awesome happened. Which was about every second.

As usual, herein lie spoilers. For real though, see the movie first, because this will ruin much of the wonderment for you.

Notice that the promotional poster I’m using is the one of Bane, not Batman. I’ll say frankly, Tom Hardy was 100% the star of this film. Bane had the largest amount of meaningful screen-time, with the most important messages. He plays every single person in the film for a fool, except for of course the lovely character portrayed by the illustrious and gorgeous Marion Cotillard. Everything is a game that Bane fully knows that he will win. And win he does, for such a great portion of the movie.

Over the course of the last few weeks leading up to the opening, I had discussions about the importance of keeping Bane real, visceral, and, ultimately, one of the most intelligent characters we’ve seen in Gotham. The Joker may be Batman’s greatest foe, but Bane is his most damaging. I mean, come on,¬†Knightfall Part One: Broken Bat? What is so amazing about the interaction in the first fight between Bane and Batman is the subtly and lack of melodrama with which Bane destroys the hero. It’s crushing to see him snap his body in half over his knee, as if it is nothing, because truly, to him it IS nothing. No effort was exerted, because at this point in the story, Bane simply has more passion. In the comics, Bane is arguably the only villain to best Batman both physically and psychologically. The Dark Knight Rises captures this mix of the physical and psychological quite well, despite some of Bane’s lines ending up a bit ham-handed (like when he tells Bruce Wayne in The Pit that he has destroyed his body, and now it’s time to destroy his soul).

My biggest complaint for the whole film is some of the scripting, especially that of Batman’s. Yes, there has always been a certain degree of campy scripting inherent in Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Campy lines are inherent in every comic movie, but that does seem to be some of their charm. Unless it’s shitty movie. In which case, campiness is never ignored and is constantly a point of ridicule. I’m not going to get into the double standard here, but only mention that it exists.

Many of you may wonder if Anne Hathaway’s performance as Catwoman really was up to snuff. In a word? Abso-fucking-lutely. I consider myself a relatively well-versed Catwoman fan and I found Hathaway’s Selina Kyle realistic and appropriately on the razor-thin edge of sociopathy as I think the modern versions of her are meant to be. I don’t agree with Christopher Nolan’s assessment that she should get her own spin-off movie however. Hathaway’s Cat (she, after all, is never actually referred to as “Catwoman” – at least if she was, I didn’t notice it) was a bright gem in the crown of this film, but not the brightest, and not one that should be stretched past its limits.

I don’t feel like talking about Marion Cotillard or Talia in-depth, but will only say that The Boy called that shit as soon as he saw her on the cast list. Props.

Now let’s talk about Joseph Gordon-Levitt (gorgeous, gorgeous man) instead shall we? A believable, interesting and overall really good addition to the cast as John Blake. As intense fans will know, John Blake was a child who appeared once in a few panels of an old Batman comic book (actually it was a coloring book, but whatever). He was a kid who was bringing home a good report card to his dad, but it gets stolen by the Joker. The child John Blake is morose because now his father will never know

Nut up or shut up, kid.

Other than this tiny reference, John Blake does not exist in the Batman universe. So Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character was created for this film, but with a clever reference to perhaps make devout fans have a chuckle. Also most likely to throw us off the scent of what his character really represented. Someone to take up the cowl of Batman, of course.

We all knew it, some of us dreaded it, but in the end, it was inevitable. The reveal of his true name as Robin was… quaint. The cool part? Him following the coordinates to the Batcave, bursting in and then rising up on the platform as the final frame. Impressive, and a great use of thematic imagery.

Rising out of darkness, out of oppression, out of fear, out of Gotham itself. That’s the point. That’s what “rise” means to me. All directors, actors, writers, and producers have certain ideas that they are trying to convey, some of them obvious, some subtle, and some open to interpretation. Bruce Wayne – the man, not the playboy billionaire he pretends to be, nor the Caped Crusader he embodies, but the man himself – is portrayed most prominently in this film as opposed to the previous two. As Bruce Wayne reminds himself of who he is, and who he wants to be, he is able to both rise away from the darkness of Gotham, while simultaneously saving it for one last epic time.

You don’t have to like¬†Batman, DC Comics, any of Christopher Nolan’s Batman universe, Christian Bale, or any of the other actors or recognize that there is talent, true talent in The Dark Knight Rises. I’m not saying that it’s deserving of Best Picture (though I will be irritated if Tom Hardy isn’t at least considered for nomination of Best Actor). Rather, I’m just pointing out that it’s deserving of respect, even if it’s not a favorite movie.

Honestly, I hope every single person loved it as much as I did.

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