There Cannot Be True Despair Without Hope: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

So I am admittedly pretty late to this film as far as the blogging game is concerned, considering that pretty much ever non-classical oriented blog I follow touched upon this film within days of its release.  I am also open in not being entirely thrilled with Christopher Nolan as a director, although I am more than willing to offer him praise for his cinematic grandiosity and willingness to try for something big every time, more than a few of my friends and fellow cinephiles are remiss to even offer him that much praise.  The Dark Knight has become somewhat of a cult film, not that it was lacking a huge acclaim, but the death of Heath Ledger seems to have cemented it as a bit transcendent of traditional film criticisms and considerations, not very different from what James Dean's death has seemed to do for Rebel Without A Cause.  The Dark Knight Rises, thus had some rather incredible expectations to film, mostly revolving around a demand that the villian prove equatable or grander than that of Ledger's Joker, a task that was doomed from the start, considering that on paper and in performance The Joker at least relating to The Dark Knight truly is something rare in cinema, on the same level as your Tyler Durden's and your Monsieur Hulot's all be it in a different genre and via a different manifestation.  Detached from all I know about this trilogy and my own personal relationship with the films of Christopher Nolan I am not entirely opposed to what viewers are given in what is assumedly the final installment for this particular manifestation of "The Batman."  Sure it suffers from some plot cohesion throughout and certainly throws special effects and the tools of melodrama into those voids, but the exceptional acting on the part of all involved, not to mention Tom Hardy who gives a performance equal to that of Heath Ledger, even if the awful choice for Bane's voice manages to throw it off a bit.  The film, even if Nolan denies its validity, invariably focuses on a heavy bit of political rhetoric and goes a long way to show that just because a film engages with a large viewership does not necessarily mean that it needs to dumb its material down or offer traditional roles.

So where does this particular installation of The Dark Knight Trilogy pick up, well we are shown a Gotham City still reeling from the loss of their long deceased knight in shining armor political figure Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), while the city seems on the verge of complete cleanup from criminal activity, even if Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) seems to demand a cautious eye be kept on the streets.  Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has decided against retaining his role of Batman, primarily because the alias has become the scapegoat for Dent's death, instead; living a life as a recluse and fending off attempted robberies by a catlike female burglar named Selena (Anne Hathaway).  Meanwhile Bruce Wayne's shrinking wealth has lead to the freezing of funds towards an orphanages where Officer Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)  a "hotheaded" policeman found shelter as a child, leading him to come into the world of Wayne Enterprises, which also happens to be the company at odds with tycoon Daggett (Ben Mendelshon) seems rearing to overtake, going so far as to request the help of superhuman escaped convict Bane (Tom Hardy) in his endeavors.  Bane, however, has his own set of plans which involve breaking Batman and his place of power in Gotham City, in the process attempting to return power to the hands of its people, in a marshall law form of political and societal rule. While the narrative deals with these emerging issues, as well as Officer Blake's attempts to find his own identity within his role as law enforcer, Bruce Wayne struggles with how best to reemerge as The Batman, especially since to do so assures his being apprehended by law enforcement.  Eventually, though the aid of Selena, who by now is clearly to be Catwoman, he is able to encounter Bane, who does indeed break Wayne's back and locks him at the bottom of a prison, from where he escaped by climbing out of after some time.  Upon emergence from the prison, Wayne returns to full-on Batman mode coming to the point of having Bane in his death grips only to discover that the true enemy was much closer at hand than even he realized.  Bane and his group have managed to set a large scale nuclear bomb to explode in the city and it is up to Batman to sacrifice himself to assure its detonation far from Gotham City, a task that leads to his assumed death, but if the closing moments of the film suggest anything, his legacy is far from over.

I could afford this portion of my post to discussing the political elements of The Dark Knight Rises, but this seems to be a considerably contentious ground to cross and the readings I would favor have been done to a heavy degree, although I was rather fond of this one, even though I am not entirely committed to the more Christian inclined elements of the argument.  Instead, however, I want to consider the philosophy of despair and notions of imprisonment that seem to help manifest the character of Bane, who is half-Nietzche and half-Camus in his rhetoric.  The notions of hope and despair, at least in the way Bane visualizes them seem straight out of the texts of Beyond Good and Evil, in so much that he seems to suggest for good to exist there must also be bad and vice versa, except Bane applies these ideas directly to finding a way to maneuver through darkness, something he believes Batman has taken for granted, yet he also shows Batman that it is his own ties to the light (i.e. goodness) that seem to make him so susceptible to weakness, clearly making specific reference to his deep loss earlier in life, as well as years earlier with the loss of his love interest.  Bane too is interesting because he seems to thrive off of despair, yet one cannot ignore that he lives within a exoskeleton that helps him ignore physical pain on a large scale, thus freeing his mind to deal with his own existential woes, ones transcendent of the physical.  As for the notion of climbing out of a seemingly inescapable prison one cannot help but consider Camus' Myth of Sisyphus in where a man is cursed to push a boulder up and down between two hills for eternity never achieving any progress.  The climb out of this prison proves similar not in that it results in Wayne's being returned to the bottom, but that he realizes that the prison is only a small scale of the climb that he must make within Gotham City or even his own personal life, something that is endless, until it is of course interrupted by "death."  The prison too does help to conceptualize Nietzsche in that it creates an oppressed group of lesser "bad" individuals who are separated from the good and suppressed not through the panoptic gaze of traditional prison setups but through their assumption that their is some good in the world, yet their badness makes it out of reach and only an impossible vision to obtain.  This assumption of obtaining goodness/freedom is enough to keep most prisoners dwelling at its bottom, although when an individual does break out it proves, as is the case with The Dark Knight Rises, to completely throw notions of darkness and light into complete chaos.  Mind you this film is nearly three hours long so my apologies for missing any major key points in my brief synopsis.

Key Scene:  As over-claimed as it may be, the football stadium scene is so cinematic and surprisingly detached for most moments from either Bane or Batman that it almost seems out of place in the film.  Yet, certain statements and events bring viewers back to its very real attachment to Gotham City.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable film and hopefully a praiseworthy completion to a sound trilogy.  Of course, we cannot be for sure where this particular vision of the franchise will go as the ending opened up possibilities for Robin becoming a fixture of Gotham City as seen by Nolan.  Rent it or buy it depending on your preference for blockbuster films.

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