Let’s be honest: The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t need my review. People are going to see it anyway. But I need to write a review. After the midnight showing I felt overwhelmed, exuberant, humbled. I couldn’t stop talking and thinking about the movie. I got home after 3 a.m., exhausted but unable to sleep. That hasn’t happened since the first night I saw Fight Club in 1999. Before that, it was in 1998, because of the movie Velvet Goldmine, with none other than Christian Bale—but I’m getting ahead of (behind?) myself. You want to know about The Dark Knight Rises.
The Dark Knight Rises is blockbuster and spectacle, yes, but it’s much more. As the final chapter in what is the most popular superhero franchise of all time, it’s also the most anticipated movie of this year (and a few other years, no doubt). As to the other qualities of the movie, I scarcely know where to begin.
I won’t give away spoilers, or even plot summary. Christopher Nolan, the cast, the crew, and the studio have worked too diligently to keep things under wraps for me to undercut their efforts. Much of the bliss to be found in this movie is discovering the little moments as well as being awed by the big ones, and there are plenty of both.
In the interim between The Dark Knight and this film, Nolan made Inception, and if anything, the final chapter in the Batman story is closer to that film than its two predecessors. There is a complex story; there are many complex—but all integral—characters.
Bane is terrifying. While The Joker was evil, the stakes are higher now, and Bane’s sheer force of will causes one to feel that everyone in Gotham is truly in imminent and mortal danger. Even with a weird mask on his face, Tom Hardy conveys much with his reptilian eyes and hulking presence. Joseph Gordon-Levitt will, no doubt, attain new legions of fans through his grounded, gritty performance. Anne Hathaway is a revelation. To all those doubters who openly wondered why she was cast when an actress of Marion Cotillard’s stature was waiting in the wings (I’m paraphrasing) must feel terribly ashamed after seeing this movie. Hathaway’s Selina Kyle is sexy and powerful and mysteriously fragile. As for Cotillard, she will change your mind, too.
The regular cast of players—Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon; Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox; and dear, wonderful Alfred Pennyworth, portrayed so beautifully by Michael Caine—are outstanding. Perhaps the biggest and best surprise is Batman himself, the peerless Christian Bale.
Back to Velvet Goldmine: It was that movie which made me a lifelong fan of Christian Bale. I’m older than the Newsies crowd but no less devout. Here, as both Batman and Bruce Wayne and someone else in between, Bale reminds me yet again why I fell in love with him. Forget the gruff voice and the one-liners, his Bruce lives and breathes and breaks your heart.
I am utterly befuddled as to how anyone could be disappointed by this film. It provides everything I wanted and even a few things I didn’t know I wanted. But “provides” hardly seems appropriate for a movie of this caliber.
I can’t imagine what else people could have wanted from The Dark Knight Rises and frankly, I don’t want to. I realize and accept that the role of the critic is essentially to criticize, but again, that word hardly seems appropriate here. The role of movies is to uplift, even if they crush you in the process. When a movie makes you feel the way that The Dark Knight Rises makes me feel, I am powerless to do anything but share that joy.
I didn’t create The Dark Knight Rises and maybe I don’t have it in me to ever create something like it, but damn it, I’m going to tell you how much I love it. I’m going to try to convey just a fraction of how good it makes me feel. I will probably fail in the process, but I can’t help it. It’s why I do what I do and why I probably won’t ever stop.
The Dark Knight Rises is a glorious, utterly extraordinary movie. I am literally counting the hours until I can see it again. To say anything else would be a lie and an insult.