I saw this outstanding movie last night and wanted to share a few thoughts about it. When a movie is as big an event as this one is, it becomes challenging to say something new and original about it. After all, if everyone’s writing about it, why bother?
My answer? Because the movie is important.
I don’t want to portray myself as a sage or some deep thinker, and I usually avoid commenting about current events. You know where this is going, right?
As I sat in the theater last night with two of my best friends, I found myself—briefly—glancing at the Exit sign and worrying—again, briefly—about some gutless maniac bursting into the cinema and shooting us. Paranoid, I know, but after what happened in Colorado, I’ll bet I’m not the only one who has had a similar thought.
Then I got to thinking about the rope scenes in The Dark Knight Rises. I don’t think this is a spoiler, but if you want to go in completely unspoiled, I guess you should stop reading now. But I promise I won’t give away the ending.
There’s a moment when Bruce Wayne is locked up and listening to two men share advice, wisdom, and a very important frame story involving Bane and other characters (for the uninitiated, Bane is the primary villain of TDKR, essayed brilliantly by Tom Hardy). One man tells Bruce Wayne (forgive the rough paraphrasing) that his problem isn’t that he fears death—it’s that he doesn’t fear death. It’s the reason, the man explains, why Bruce Wayne failed to accomplish his escape on his first two attempts (involving, fittingly, a leap of faith). The primary reason for Wayne’s lack of fear, the man says, is the fact that Wayne has had a rope tied about his waist. Lose the rope, the man says, and you’ll gain the necessary fear.
An interesting theory.
Which brought me back to my nervous glance at the Exit sign and the tragedy in Colorado.
I know that mental illness is a whole different ballgame, and I’ll not pretend to comprehend the minds of the mentally ill. But I will say that there are many people in this world who don’t understand how precious, how beautiful, or how fragile life truly is.
It’s why movies like The Dark Knight Rises are so important. Far from trivializing human life, this film affirms the immeasurable value of it. Rather than championing anarchy and the selfish fulfillment of one’s basest desires, the movie chronicles the dangers of being seduced by those dogmas and the inevitable damage such choices inflict. If that sounded puritanical or preachy, my apologies. But I happen to appreciate the underlying idea that the answers to our problems don’t lie in senseless acts of violence or an “I’ll get mine at all costs” mentality. The answers, though not as sexy as explosions and brutality, can be found in mundane ideas like behaving responsibly, helping those truly in need, and most of all, in valuing human life.
I love the way that evil and nobility are depicted across social classes. The inmates who escape from a maximum security prison are ferocious, to be sure, but so are the suits who fund Bane’s sinister plots. Similarly, Bruce Wayne’s father (seen briefly in a flashback) and Selina Kyle (otherwise known as Catwoman, portrayed marvelously by Anne Hathaway) come from opposite ends of the economic spectrum, yet both demonstrate a capacity for heroism and selflessness. The film’s refusal to canonize or demonize one group or another is refreshing and real and is one of the many things I appreciated about it.
So what did I think about the film as entertainment?
It kicked bootie. I loved Batman Begins; it was an 8.9. The Dark Knight was even better, a 9.7. I give The Dark Knight Rises about a 9.4. Not a perfect film, but a darn good one that better be nominated for Best Picture. It won’t make up for the egregious snub of The Dark Knight, but it’ll assuage the pain a little bit.
Christian Bale is better than any other actor at making potentially boring roles fascinating. Watch him work in 3:10 to Yuma, then watch him here. Being tortured and weary can be incredibly annoying traits in a protagonist, but Bale manages to pull off the combination beautifully. He’s the best actor of my generation, and I’m thankful I get to watch him perform.
Tom Hardy is a beast. His Bane could not have been any better, nor could anyone else have made Batman’s defeat look so likely. (And yes, I still think Heath Ledger is the best Batman villain, and I hate that I felt the need to say that—Hardy deserves to be judged on his own merits).
Joseph-Gordon Levitt deserves special mention. I won’t say too much here, but I’ll just say this: I’d like his character to have his own franchise. Levitt was pitch-perfect.
And Christopher Nolan?
He is one of the best directors in the world. He belongs in a very select class of artists that, in my own humble opinion, represents what might be the greatest era of living directors ever. Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson, Quentin Tarantino, The Coen Brothers, Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher, Alexander Payne, Woody Allen, Danny Boyle, and Darren Aronofsky are all making amazing films. And that’s not even an exhaustive list. Where does Nolan rank? I don’t know. I do know, however, that no one else could have made this film. He’s a supremely gifted and hard-working filmmaker. Like Bale, he’s among the best of the best.
Go watch The Dark Knight Rises. If you find yourself glancing at the Exit sign, don’t feel bad. In fact, you should feel good. You’re not cowering at home because of those who don’t value human life. Nor do you underestimate how evil people can be. You glance because you care, and because you care, you fear. But you don’t let fear rule your life; you let a little fear help you appreciate how amazing life really is.
None of us have ropes around our waists. We’re making this perilous climb in a world that presents constant risk and reason for worry. But there is also reason for hope because we’re all capable of good. We’re capable of caring. We’re capable of loving life and loving each other.
I’ll stop now. But do watch the movie. And do love each other.