3 Stars — Powerful
The Dark Knight Rises, the third film in the Batman trilogy, is superior, with its return to the more classic Batman tale after the second film’s focus on the disturbing psychopathic Joker and the death during filming of Heath Ledger, the actor who played him.
Directed and written once again by Christopher Nolan, his brother Jonathan and David Goyer assist him in the screenplay. The result is an action film with well-developed characters and depth in the storytelling. It is this combination that makes these films powerful.
Picking up the story eight years after the ending of The Dark Knight, we are introduced to the villain who we soon discover has the same training as Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) in the League of Shadows, Bane (Tom Hardy). With a mask that creates a “Darth Vader” effect in both appearance and voice, Bane clearly is a cruel mastermind of a plot to destroy Gotham. This had also been the goal of League of Shadows leader Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson) before Wayne killed him.
Having been placed in a unique prison that would allow anyone to escape if they could scale the wall, Bane explains that it was the hope that created the despair and that he was going to give Wayne and Gotham hope only to increasingly realize they were all going to be destroyed. It is this central theme that creates the depth of the struggle both within Wayne and in the city.
The ensemble cast is excellent and, although it is said that this is the last in the trilogy of Batman films Nolan intends to create, it is clear that the stage is set for the continuation of the DC comic characters as we are introduced to Catwoman and Robin. Complex and troubled, both Selina (Anne Hathaway) and Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) reveal a moral compass that shines through.
Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) continues to be a leader who trusts in Batman but who has his own disappointments and frustrations. Miranda (Marion Cotillard) is introduced to us as a beautiful member of Wayne Enterprises’ Board and a woman in whom Wayne places his trust.
Additionally, we still have the business acumen and research genius of Wayne Enterprises CEO Fox (Morgan Freeman) supporting Wayne with Batman equipment, as well as his lifelong butler and loyal companion Alfred (Michael Caine). In all of these characters, there is depth and complexity not usually seen in action films.
The battle between good and evil is never an easy one. It takes courage and often requires sacrifice to face evil, and such courage must come from the soul. This truth is demonstrated repeatedly throughout the film and adds another depth of understanding for us as viewers. Though there will always be evil, it requires us to reach deep within our souls to stand against it. May we all have the courage and be willing to make the sacrifice to stand against evil wherever it is found.
» When Wayne became a recluse after the last film, it is implied that he did so because there was no evil to fight. Do you believe that was the case or was he overcome with anger?
» The ability of Robin to know who Batman really is by looking at the smile Wayne pastes on his face is said to come from a shared pain. Do you find it true that you can identify the pain of others who have traveled your same path?
» Have you ever encountered evil? If so, did you have the courage to stand against it? How did you do so? Did standing up against evil require a sacrifice?
— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.