“Monday’s child is fair of face, Tuesday’s child is full of grace, Wednesday’s child is full of woe, Thursday’s child has far to go.”
Welcome to the film version of “Wednesday’s child”. For the conclusion of the ‘Batman’ trilogy from writer/director Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises is first and foremost, filled with woe. It’s a stunning achievement in filmmaking, with incredible visuals, excellent action sequences, superb performances from its lead actors and a score that surrounds and envelops the audience, drawing them into the story being told.
Eight years have passed since the tragic death of District Attorney Harvey Dent, at the hands of Batman or so the people think. Dent has been lionized and practically canonized by the citizens of Gotham City, with “Harvey Dent Day” being celebrated on the anniversary of his death. Also being celebrated is a law that was passed in the wake of Dent’s death that gave police commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) the powers he needed to finally clean up the streets of the city. Eight years later the jails are filled and the people are safe.
Eight years have passed since there was any sighting of Batman. Billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a virtual recluse, holed up in one wing of stately Wayne manor and not emerging. The Dent Day celebration is being held at Wayne Manor and Commissioner Gordon plans to read a speech. The contents of his speech would have shocked everyone, but at the last moment he chooses not to read it.
One of the food servers working the event is instructed by Bruce’s faithful manservant, Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) to take a tray of food up to the East wing, unlock the door, go in, put the tray down and then leave, locking the door behind her. The server is Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and she has other plans. Not just to steal some jewels, but to obtain a full set of Bruce Wayne’s fingerprints she plans to exchange in order to obtain a true ‘fresh start’ for her life. She encounters Bruce walking with difficulty, using a cane and after he catches her with his mother’s pearls, he tries and fails to stop her.
That’s not the only trouble Bruce Wayne faces. He has lost most of his wealth and worse yet, someone is scheming to cause him to lose the rest of it and wrest control of Wayne Enterprises from him. The one person who seems to clearly be on his side is Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), his partner in an energy venture that involves a nuclear device that might solve the city’s energy problems. But it could also become a horrific weapon in the wrong hands.
The man truly behind the effort to bring more woe to Wayne’s life is Bane (Tom Hardy), a big, strong, disfigured man. He wears a metal mask covering much of his face, reminiscent of that worn by Darth Vader. He has assumed leadership of the League of Shadows. You remember the League, introduced in “Batman Begins” and led by Ra’s Al Gul (Liam Neeson). It wanted to destroy Gotham City to cleanse it and that is Bane’s plan as he wants to avenge the death of his mentor. His plans will force Batman to return.
This isn’t your typical action film cast. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman (reprising his role as Lucius Fox) and Marion Cotillard are all Oscar winners. Anne Hathaway and Gary Oldman were nominated for Oscars in their careers. Thus it comes as no surprise that the performances are excellent. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is great as John Blake, a uniformed cop turned detective that becomes one of the right hand-men to Commissioner Gordon. In particular, Hathaway and Hardy are brilliant in their roles, she bringing an element of action-adventure star along with wonderful emotional range while he is perfectly cast as the man who will expose the greatest truth of all about Batman.
You see, The Dark Knight Rises is a superhero movie but all too often people forget that Batman is just a man, not endowed with any superpowers. He is vulnerable and that vulnerability is exposed when he meets Bane and finds a man who is capable of battling with him on his level and more.
Nolan and his brother who co-wrote the script, bring social commentary into the story, as Bane attempts to turn the struggle for control of Gotham into a contest between the haves and the have-nots. Images of the Occupy Movement and those they would label as the “1%” are visible as the struggle intensifies. Those judged to have committed crimes against the ‘people’ are brought before a judge who is solely interested in pronouncing sentence. Their guilt is assumed.
The visuals are awesome and inspiring. So are the special effects. The ‘toys’ used by Batman and Selina Kyle’s alter-ego, Catwoman are impressive. Hans Zimmer’s score is pulse-pounding and set perfectly against the various images it enhances. If this is indeed the final effort by Christopher Nolan in the Batman universe (you may argue that there is or isn’t a sequel set-up, I’ll leave that to you, but logically any movie that generates as much box office as TDKR automatically puts the notion of “let’s do another” into the minds of its producers) then he went out with a flourish. One could pick at a few very minor ‘flaws’ where what we are treated to on screen would be done differently in real life, but this isn’t real life. This is a movie. A superhero movie. A spectacular superhero movie. Enjoy it.