Christopher Nolan. Every sane filmgoer worships these words today. He has changed Hollywood filmmaking forever. To expect The Dark Knight Rises to go a notch higher is only fair. The pressure on Nolans shoulders is massive and I felt no shame in expecting him to deliver. Why not? If in Nolan we dont trust, whom do we trust in?. But then I told myself, he has already given his best attempt at a Batman film and it's called The Dark Knight (2008). Expecting the same would be boring and expecting more would be unfair.
The opening scene shows the mark of a true fan of the Bond films. We meet Bane (Tom Hardy), the villain who says he is the borrowed time Gotham has been living on. We meet Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) 8 years post the events of the previous film. The first hour of the film is a quiet drama and a great one at that; it slows down to give the entire trilogy some perspective. Truth be told, midway I realized a vague sense of disappointment. Goddamn it! All that pragmatism was going out of the window. The film wasnt challenging enough. (Intellectually or technically). The bag of tricks Nolan had fashioned over the years is missing, be it telling a film backwards or intercutting between four different times and spaces. I never thought about having expectations about that, assumed it would invariably be there. I was definitely surprised to see Nolan deciding to tell it straightforward this time. I wondered if he is dumbing himself down to make a blockbuster.
Then came a fight scene between Bane and Batman in which they talk about the weapons of theatricality and deception that the League of Shadows has taught them. Bane tells him not to use these theatrics. When I look back, this is exactly what Mr. Nolan has done. He ditches all the show off, the ambiguity, stuff that made people sit up and take notice of him. Can we all love him when his storytelling is absolutely naked? Now that he has experimented, made commercial successes, made commercials successes AND experimented at the same time, do we have room for some movie magic? He works with genre conventions not by turning them on their heads like he usually does but by embracing them. Although he achieves this in a way you may not expect.
Bane is a movie monster, not a movie villain. He reminded me of Darth Vader. Im embarrassed to admit that he scared the living daylights out of me. His voice itself made me shudder let alone the things he said. (You have my permission to die). Most villains have been threatening to want to destroy Gotham in this trilogy. Here it has actually been planned out. Anarchy isnt on his mind like the Joker. He isnt conducting social experiments either. He wants terrorism. He wants destruction. He wants a political holocaust. The men in power are the targets of his carnage. There is one jaw-dropping sequence of serial bombings. Joker said to Batman we are quite alike you and I. Bane and Batman, these masked men are polar opposites. Batman is presented with a physical challenge, and hence a test of spirit.
Hans Zimmer gives us lessons in how to create music for the third part of a trilogy. He re-imagines the themes from the first two films mixes them with some original beauty (Gothams Reckoning sends a wave of goosebumps throughout my existence).
Anne Hathaway as Catwoman is an absolute knockout. This character has been re-envisioned to dazzling results. Femme fatales have been a favorite of Nolans since he started making films. The characters of John Blake and Miranda Tate played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard may seem superfluous but have a lot to do with the triumph of the final act. The film that was on its way to become a war movie makes you reconsider the actions of a few characters (Including Bane) and suddenly it becomes a human drama. Michael Caine who can now be permanently called Alfred, made me shed a couple of tears. The emotional surprise is the best magic trick Nolan unleashes.
This isnt a film. Its a time bomb. It ticks and it ticks until it explodes. It is this explosion that is worth all those years of anticipation. I was glad to be proven right about my presumption that The Dark Knight Rises will change Hollywood filmmaking forever. Just not in the way I thought it would be. It may not leave you asking existential questions or warrant a dissection of each scene to unravel a mind-bending plot, but it is a film that rings true. It will remind Hollywood that you dont need 3D to make a blockbuster which some recent films might have presented a case for. You can make the worlds biggest blockbuster in 2D. No show offs. Just a great story told exactly the way it should be. There is movie magic here in its most pure form in a film that can truly be called an epic. Christopher Nolan has not made the film we wanted. But the one we deserve. He rises. He rises to the status of a modern filmmaking god.