Comic Book Villain: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

With a more powerful antagonist and the stakes higher, THE DARK KIGHT RISES is the epic closing chapter of director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. The unstoppable Bane has arrived in Gotham City to break Batman’s body and soul. Audience’s expectations have been built up because of Nolan’s previously near-perfect two installments; deservedly so because of Heath Ledger’s award-winning performance. Viewers will come away with a very satisfying conclusion to this action-packed franchise.

Eight years have passed since the finale of THE DARK KNIGHT and Batman vanished into the shadows. Blamed for the death of Gotham’s savior, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), playboy billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has given up the cape and cowl, secluding himself into his mansion. With the crime rate gone down to the Dent Act, is there really a need for the vigilante? Bruce comes out of hiding when a seductively cunning cat burglar, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), steals from his private quarters. Police Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) unexpectedly uncovers the diabolical plot of the physically menacing Bane (Tom Hardy), a masked terrorist. Forced out of his self-imposed exile, Bruce must become Batman again to save his troubled city, but he is clearly no match for Bane.

With screenwriter David S. Goyer (the BLADE franchise), Christopher and Jonathan Nolan have once again collaborated on bringing Batman’s mythology to the film screen. The first chapter, BATMAN BEGINS, is based on Frank Miller/David Mazzucchelli’s BATMAN: YEAR ONE. The sequel, THE DARK KNIGHT, is inspired by Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale’s THE LONG HALLOWEEN and Alan Moore/Brian Bolland’s THE KILLING JOKE. THE LONG HALLOWEEN follows the rise and fall of Gotham’s mob families as the freaks take over the city. Parts of the Jeph Loeb’s dialogue were actually used during the rooftop scene between Batman, Dent, and Gordon in THE DARK KNIGHT. In THE KILLING JOKE, due to his multiple personalities, The Joker doesn’t know who he really is. He just makes up a story that seems plausible to him, which serves as the basis of Ledger’s performance.

There is already a long list of actors who have done a great job with the Joker. You can choose Ledger, Mark Hamill, Jack Nicholson, and Cesar Romero. Goyer and the Nolan bothers have gone back to basics – like in BATMAN BEGINS with Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy), Zsasz (Tim Booth), and Ra’s Al Ghul (Liam Neeson) – by focusing on villains not usually seen on the big screen. Bane is not someone you would expect in a movie, especially after the disastrous BATMAN & ROBIN. There is a huge reason comic fans were very upset by Bane’s portrayal in Joel Schumacher’s disastrous flop. In Chuck Dixon/ Doug Moench/Graham Nolan’s KNIGHTFALL, Bane is the one who broke Batman’s back, crippling and humiliating him to the rest of Gotham. Fans only had the one episode, “Bane,” in BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, which took him seriously. Now in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, Hardy portrays Bane as both the physical monster and a criminal mastermind.

In the KNIGHTFALL storyline, Bruce Wayne/Batman is being systematically assaulted by Bane, who is obsessed with destroying him. Bane unleashes Hell by breaking out every single villain in Batman’s rogue gallery from Arkham Asylum. Not only is Batman grieving from the death of Clark Kent/Superman (the DEATH OF SUPERMAN took place at the same time), every criminal is putting pressure on him all at once. Bane and Batman have their anticipated rematch in CONTAGION, in which a lethal plague consumes the Gotham inhabitants. Batman confronts his deadliest foe, Ra’s al Ghul, the madman who created the deadly disease. Ra’s al Ghul has finally found a suitable mate for his daughter, Talia, in Bane. Batman and his allies travel across the globe to stop the League of Assassins from releasing the pure strain of the virus.
During the film, in a highly memorable sequence, Bane triggers the explosives, cutting off the bridges of Gotham to the outside world. Bane has forbidden everyone from entering into and exiting the city. This integral plot point comes from NO MAN’s LAND. In this storyline, after a major earthquake hits Gotham, the government abandons and isolates the city. Jim Gordon and his team of police officers attempt to reclaim Gotham piece by piece by beating the gang leaders. Gordon then marks the reclaimed territory with graffiti; which he does again in the movie.

The movie starts out slow due to its establishment of its many supporting characters, including Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) and John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). If you are a comic book fan, you can kind of see where the story is heading. The plot twists aren’t going to be a surprise, but fans will definitely be rewarded. Hathaway does a great job as Selina, the cat burglar whose only allegiance is to herself. Interestingly, notice how no one in the film actually calls her “Catwoman.” The best fight scenes in the movie are the brawls between Batman and Bane, who says the famous line from  the comics, “I will break you.”

THE DARK KIGHT RISES has such an epic visual grandeur for an ambitious superhero movie. Director Christopher Nolan bids farewell to the Batman franchise, while leaving the Superman lore in the capable hands of filmmaker Zack Snyder (THE WATCHMEN). THE DARK KNIGHT is the smartest installment in the trilogy, but THE DARK KIGHT RISES is this critic’s personal favorite.

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