June 8, 2023

Feature – The Curtain Closes on Christopher Nolan’s Batman.


The months leading up to the release of The Dark Knight Rises have been brutal. It’s been four years since Batman defeated the clown-prince of crime and what happens next is something of a mystery. Director Christopher Nolan, true to his form, has done an extremely nice job of keeping his actors silent regarding the storyline further building the anticipation. As the final days finally ticked away, what are audiences left with in the aftermath of baring witness to this piece of cinema? Is this an appropriate conclusion to one of the top grossing trilogies of all time or are we left with something a little disappointing?

Beginning in 2005, Batman Begins offers up a fresh albeit dark and shrouded take on the caped crusader. The Film Noir sense of mystery coupled with Nolan’s impeccable cinematic-eye allows Batman to enter a new world more closely linked with reality. Audiences are shown the training one must endure to pike up the cape and cowl, both physically and mentally.

The Dark Knight continues this style visually while further exploring the characters that inhabit this universe. Batman and Bruce Wayne are more clearly divided as two separate identities that make up the lone individual. The arrogance of Wayne is in full force as he proceeds to act the way less economically well off folks would imagine, flying off with an entire Russian ballet the night of their recital. Once the mask is on Batman is in peak vigilante form with the trust of Gotham behind him.

Developing these characters has led to the final saga of Nolan’s Batman and the question of how to conclude a story no one wants to see end? Batman is eight years removed from crime fighting following his psychological tête-à-tête with the Joker and Harvey Dent/Two-Face. Since Heath Ledger’s unfortunate and untimely passing in 2008, Nolan made it unmistakably clear there would be no referencing of the Joker in the final instalment. This means no Joker and no Two-Face. So where does Nolan go from here?

Like Batman Begins Nolan has chosen to explore another incredibly nuanced character in the Detective Comics (DC) universe. Bane is a well-known character to fans of the comics but not one so well known by the general public. Some may remember Bane from Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin, but like everything in that film that too should be erased from memory. Nolan began this sort of character casting when he chose Ra’s al Ghul to be Batman’s foe in the first instalment. This is brilliant because it allows a larger audience to be brought in on a new and relatively unknown storyline.

In anticipation for The Dark Knight Rises release I made the decision to avoid anything and everything that has been made available to solve the mystery of Rises plot. Teasers, trailers, articles and interviews were all avoided so that nothing would spoil the cinematic experience I have been waiting seven years to witness. Too often these days the clips included in a film’s trailer reveals far too much of story that it becomes annoyingly easy to piece together the story arch. Now that the film has seen its release I have been left to wonder if my slightly insane habit of plugging my ears, closing my eyes and humming to myself every time the trailer precedes a film in theatre or pops up on a television spot weren’t without merit.

Turns out, I made the right decision.

Avoiding all things Batman before Rises release allowed me the rare opportunity to enter into a theatre with an open mind on what is to come. The first scene instantly grabs my attention as Bane’s introduction is made. The one bit of “spoiler alert” that I received before the screening is Bane’s voice being difficult to hear though that was quickly forgotten as his voice proved to be as clear as sand in an hourglass: calculated, methodical and impossible to stop or ignore. The nearly three hours that would follow seemed more like a ticking clock than a marathon and the wait I patiently endured seemed over in an instant.

What should have been a joyous occasion for so many fans of the trilogy turned out to be far more sinister and depraved. A dark shadow has been cast engulfing the release. It seems a joker is still out there even if he’s not seen in the film and his punch lines are still without humour.

Aurora, Colorado, U.S.A. The midnight release of The Dark Knight Rises saw nearly as many deaths off screen as there were on screen. According to reports, James Holmes, 24, bought a ticket to the screening and entered with the crowd. While in the theatre Holmes is believed to have exited through an emergency door, propping it open so as to return to the unsuspecting audience. After donning his own costume, protective ballistics gear, Holmes re-entered the movie and unloaded a barrage of bullets from his arsenal of weapons. This dark incident has left 12 dead and 58 others injured.

Nolan has released an official statement on The Dark Knight Rises website:

Speaking on behalf of the cast and crew of The Dark Knight Rises, I would like to express our profound sorrow at the senseless tragedy that has befallen the entire Aurora community. I would not presume to know anything about the victims of the shooting but that they were there last night to watch a movie. I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is an important and joyful pastime. The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me. Nothing any of us can say could ever adequately express our feelings for the innocent victims of this appalling crime, but our thoughts are with them and their families.

I, too, believe the theatre is a sort of home. It is a place to meet with like minded people you may otherwise never speak with and share a unique experience under the same roof. Everyone suspends his or her reality to allow the fantasy to take over. This tragedy in Colorado moved straight from reality to something surreal. Holmes horrific hijacking of Batman will forever be linked to these films leaving all who watch a memory nobody wants to remember.

The reports in Colorado affected me in a way I couldn’t fully realize until I was sitting in a theatre the Sunday of opening weekend. Though the massacre happened over 4300 miles away I found myself looking around the cinema more than usual for things that struck me as unusual. What started as anticipation was turning into paranoia. For the first time this home away from home felt tainted, unsafe. It wasn’t until I was surrounded in darkness that my nerves eased and I began to feel the excitement I knew so well.

Initial thoughts while I exited the cinema were positive. This was a visually magnificent and cleverly written film with great performances by everyone involved. Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anne Hathway — Gotham’s newcomers — blended seamlessly with the universe, which doesn’t surprise considering the first three worked on Nolan’s previous project, Inception. No, my questions about the film came a few days later as I found myself pondering more and more about Rises while once again watching the previous two films.

The most noticeable change from the first film to the third isn’t Bruce Wayne’s age but the character of Alfred Pennyworth. Michael Caine is charming as ever as Alfred as he watches “Ma’ster” Bruce pick himself up once again and rise to his potential. This doesn’t last long as Alfred makes it clear he will not serve Wayne if he tries to take on Bane. It is here that Alfred becomes completely out of character. Yes, he loves Bruce like a son and of course he doesn’t want anything bad to happen to him but that’s not necessarily his role. Alfred is there to pick Bruce up when he falls and offer guidance when his mind is clouded. He is loyal to the end, just like he was in previous films encouraging Bruce to “endure.” Alfred leaving in Rises is a powerful sentiment but one that would not happen. Nolan seems to be sacrificing a universal truth for universal sentimentality.

No matter his motivation, Nolan has delivered to audiences a film that is sure to be on the minds and lips of everyone for weeks to come. Whatever your thoughts are on the trilogy Nolan has made it clear this is the last Batman he will be directing. I know I’ll miss him at the helm as his vision of Batman added a new spark to my love of the comics I grew up reading but I’m glad to see him go out on top. Like many great series the final film suffers most because it is just that, the last one. Any remaining questions are left unanswered forcing fans to carefully comb through all three in the hopes of finding an answer. The seven years leading to the final battle for Gotham have been grueling but never disappointing. Still, it’s a shame to have to say this: The Dark Knight Rises is the worst of the series.

David Rowley


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