Changing of the guard part 1: The Dark Knight Rises


After a five year break, understandable in light of the tragedy that hung over the last two films of this trilogy, Christopher Nolan finally completed the story that he set out to tell about ten years ago, a complete story about Batman. In Batman Begins, we witnessed the youthful naivete of the young Mr. Wayne as he took it upon himself to clean up the city that his parents had given so much to. The Dark Knight then presented us with arguably the most dangerous kind of villain of all, one who revels in anarchy and chaos…but intersped with the message that hope can still shine even if some truths have to be hidden. That message, that “sometimes, the truth isn’t good enough…sometimes, people deserve to have their faith rewarded,” really hit home at the time.

But now, The Dark Knight Rises turns that message on its head with the message that sometimes, trust will bring a far greater reward in the end.

NB: Just a warning – as much as I’d like to leave off the spoilers – just as Chris Nolan and the other writers and contributors to The Making of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy did – what I loved most about this film was its ending…so ***SPOILER ALERT***

Let me begin with a brief look at the story itself. There has been a fair amount of controversy over how Christopher Nolan chose to end his Batman series. Sticklers for canon consistency lambasted him for avoiding all mention of the Joker, and others really hated how he brought this tale to a close by setting Bruce free. The former is something I cannot condone: a desire for storytelling perfection should never disrespect human feelings. But even the latter is something I find difficult to understand, for the overriding theme of this trilogy has always been for Bruce to overcome his demons and move on.

The way through those demons this time, came through Bane and his plans for Gotham. Whilst people were probably never in doubt that Batman would eventually rise again and overcome this adversary, it was very difficult seeing Bruce broken. By this point, even Alfred had left his side in a final, desperate attempt to persuade him to abandon the deathwish that he seemed to harbour. But this only made his rise, from the depths of the prison and the despair of watching as the city he so cared about slowly destroyed itself, more poetic and uplifting. Especially when backed by another vocal track composed by Hans Zimmer, reminding me of the love I have for his work on The Power of One

Moving on to that message of trust, the one key character in which the theme resounds is that of Selina Kyle. Though never once called ‘Catwoman’ in this iteration, I found her to be more realistic than Michelle Pfeiffer’s – someone searching for a way to restart a life that had gone off the rails, someone who could really have existed in this world. But what really struck me about her was that Bruce’s faith in her was ultimately rewarded. And in a different sense, she was also the vehicle through which Alfred’s faith and hope for Bruce were rewarded.

This brings me to the finale, where Batman sacrificed himself to save the city. Although only a handful of people knew his real identity, it mattered not. What really mattered for the people of Gotham was that someone valued them enough to give his life for theirs, that someone trusted that they would continue strive towards improving their society. Perhaps, this kind of trust was what was needed to galvanise them to look after their own city, rather than a fragile hope built on a foundation of lies, a house of cards that could be so easily brought down by the revelation of the truth.

The third piece of trust lies with what Christopher Nolan has done. Through to the end, he has created and completed the story of Bruce Wayne that he wanted to tell. The details may not have gone exactly the way he wanted them to – though we will probably never know – but I strongly believe that Batman’s character arc would have been the same even if Heath Ledger had not passed away. Viewers trusted that he would complete this arc, and he and the people working with him have rewarded that faith in a way that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Finally, there is also a sense that he has now entrusted Batman to the next group of people who decide to take up the challenge of telling the story anew, and also the the fans who will continue to find value in that. The developments with Blake, though cliched, were something I also enjoyed. But I don’t see Nolan following up on that himself…and I don’t expect him to. Hollywood is a place where people often do not know when to stop, so it is completely refreshing that this director does. It’s time to give Nolan the thanks he deserves, and trust that whoever follows – years from now, of course! – will again breathe fresh air into this beloved character.

p.s. I’ve been trying to write about this film for months, but it was only after I saw the film that’ll (hopefully) appear here next week that I worked out how I should frame it! Anyone care to guess what that film is?

About karice
MAG fan, translator, and localization project manager. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

One Response to Changing of the guard part 1: The Dark Knight Rises

  1. Pingback: A few brief words on my first forays into the Marvel Cinematic Universe… | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

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