I wanted to calm myself down before giving a review of Dark Knight Rises, the latest in the highly acclaimed Batman trilogy by Christopher Nolan, because as a movie it does nearly everything correctly as a motion picture experience, and I found it absolutely stunning. Dark Knight Rises would be a great film even if you watched it on an iPod, because it’s about as close to a perfect movie that can be made. However, knowing that this film was going to be a spectacle that deserved the biggest screen with the best sound system I could find, I watched the film from my favorite movie theater in the Cincinnati area—the Regal Theaters in Deerfield Township near Mason.
There are very good movie regional movie theaters, the Showcase Cinemas in Springdale come to mind followed closely by the AMC Theaters at Newport on the Levee. For a theater to be great it needs to place its movies on a pedestal to be watched in a temple of honor. The hallways taking the viewer to their movie need to help pave the way to a mythic experience, because that’s really what people expect from the price of an expensive movie ticket. I’m not a fan of the Rave Theaters simply because they are typically dirty from large amounts of teenage traffic, particularly at the one in West Chester. The floors are sticky, the seats feel used, and the events leading up to the movie are cheesy and low-class. I’d compare the experience to a drive-in movie only it’s inside instead of outside. They were built to be majestic, but they are just not cared for, they take the moviegoer for granted, which is a big mistake. The Regal in Deerfield Township is everything that a movie theater should be. They are clean; they have nice big theaters with very good screens. They have wonderful seats, large isles, wonderful pre-movie entertainment and large hallways leading up to the individual theaters. The theater itself sits on a large hill and has colossal columns outside the ticket windows to provide a majestic appearance. I’d liken it to a great temple designed for storytelling.
When Dark Knight Rises finished I sat till the final credits scrolled across the screen feeling that I had maybe witnessed the best movie I had seen in twenty years. It was a true masterpiece. The last time I enjoyed a movie as much as Dark Knight Rises was Jurassic Park in 1993 where I came away from that movie pleasantly surprised and deeply satisfied. There have been a lot of movies since then, many of them good to very good. But none of them have had the visual impact, and story line punch that Dark Knight Rises had. Being a fan of Christopher Nolan’s last film, Inception I expected this latest Batman film to be good. I also expected it to be good because of the previous two Batman films, The Dark Knight, and Batman Begins were very good, but Dark Knight Rises goes to the extra trouble of being simply fantastic.
It was more of a visual novel paying homage to such classics as Tail of Two Cities. But during the entire film I kept thinking that it was more of an action packed rendition of Atlas Shrugged. If it can be forgotten that Dark Knight Rises is based on a comic book character, the theatrics are very heady stuff. It’s a deeply intelligent film. It’s filmed with a philosophy that does not wish upon a star of blind hope, but is grounded in a gritty reality that hits the core of virtually every human being alive—the desire to be more than we are to serve a purpose that matches our imaginations.
I have read comic books all my life. But I didn’t follow the story of Batman very closely. I personally leaned more toward the character of Zorro over the years being more of a western oriented story which I prefer over the technical expertise of Batman—Don Diego and Bruce Wayne are essentially the same type of character. Zorro made the sign of the ‘Z’ whereas Batman had the Bat Signal. Both are wealthy men who work their bodies and minds into improvement to perform superhuman feats. Bruce Wayne and Don Diego are Nietzsche’s overman, they are Ayn Rand’s “men of the mind.” They are human like anyone else, but achieve a level of mental and physical prowess that exceeds what most human beings attempt, and they use their personal wealth to mask their social intentions of mankind’s preservation. But under Christopher Nolan’s direction, Bruce Wayne takes the next evolutionary step into a deeply compelling character.
The mentor of Bruce Wayne from Batman Begins is Ra’s al Ghul who is an international criminal mastermind intent on restoring perfect environmental balance to the world by destroying most of humanity. Ra’s al Ghul is at the head of an international terrorist organization called the League of Shadows which was the intended destination of Bruce Wayne in the first film. This is a very contemporary theme as there are many real life characters that have Ra’s al Ghul’s world view that the environment must be preserved at the expense of mankind. Actually this is the debate of our age and has led entire nations into communism, socialism, dictatorships and is in direct conflict with capitalism, which Bruce Wayne represents as a billionaire.
In Dark Knight Rises Batman’s ultimate nemesis is Bane, who comes out of the League of Shadows as an ‘evolved’ man himself, not afraid of anything, and presenting compelling problems. He presents to Gotham City an option of communism, while using it as a distraction to actually purge the world of human overpopulation. Bane immediately reminded me of Stalin in the former Soviet Union except with a theatrical overtone. Bane is the most effective villain since Darth Vader from the Star Wars films. Banes synthesized voice was striking and as a character. He won me over in his very first scene where he confidently put himself on death’s door in a plot as maniacal as the ultimate villains from any ten James Bond films. Bane was a wonderfully evil character. There is absolutely no mistake about it. He is the opposite of Bruce Wayne in every category except that both men were trained by the League of Shadows.
In the Star Wars films it is the conflict between the Sith and the Jedi that drives the constant yearning to always know more about those movies that has made them so enduring. There is a truth in Star Wars as movies and books that hold the essential arguments of our age about spirituality, heroics, sacrifice, and political structure. The Sith are evil as it might be typically portrayed and the Jedi are the good. But at times the Jedi are too sacrificial, and they allow evil to emerge because they are not aggressive enough to stop it. And the Sith have appeal because they are all about aggression to achieve their intentions at any cost. In these Batman films it is the League of Shadows which actually hits much more closely to reality than any work of fiction being produced today. Listening to the merits of the League of Shadows it is easy to draw modern comparisons to al Qaeda and the current Occupy Movement being driven by political anarchists, socialists, Marxists, communists and the environmental movement.
Bane’s character was fleshed out well before there was a current ‘Occupy Movement” on Wall Street. The call for these modern parallels comes from literature that has been pouring out of Europe for a long time, most recently The Coming Insurrection by The Invisible Committee. So Dark Knight Rises cannot be said to reflect those modern movements that has started to emerge in Greece and Spain with violence. Many countries in Europe are currently collapsing under the weight of socialism financially, which is driven by underground political groups reading The Coming Insurrection. Christopher Nolan definitely has his finger on the world’s pulse as he and his brother came up with a plot that is hauntingly timely considering much of the script to this latest Batman installment was written way back in 2004 and 2005. The creators of Dark Knight Rises observed the conditions of our modern world and saw that comic books had predicted much of our current trouble back in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s so they brushed them off into the incredibly relevant motion picture adaption that take the next theatrical step.
Cat Woman played by Anne Hathaway was excessively gripping. Anne was caught herself last year as a ‘Wall Street Occupier’ disguised in the crowd before being caught on film. Cat Woman was openly a socialist at the beginning of Dark Knight Rises. She is built up as a character that the audience will most likely identify with. She like many young people have been taught that society owes them something and if they don’t get it legitimately, then they’ll take it. Cat Woman has some really terrific scenes with Batman, the ultimate capitalist about the nature of money and the social role of the rich. Bruce Wayne as Batman finds her compelling and doesn’t lecture her on her social errors which was a wise choice. Instead, Cat Woman learns like the rest of the audience what the horrors of her idealism can, and will lead to. Playing a kind of biblical Judas, she trades Batman over to Bane only to witness through Batman’s demise how Gotham City is destroyed by removing the only man who can protect it.
The question of why only one man can stop Bane is the general premise of the novel Atlas Shrugged, and it is explored in Dark Knight Rises epically. The personal quest of Bruce Wayne realizing that nobody but him can save Gotham from the mobs that have been collected under idealism is potent stuff in this film. There are some deep and meaningful insights that Bruce Wayne had to endure and overcome that are the themes to most of the articles I write here at Overmanwarrior’s Wisdom, and I was eating it up like popcorn. Specifically, the point in the film where Bruce Wayne is crippled, and barely kept alive—tortured into watching the violent demise of Gotham City from a hellish pit. It is in this pit that the classic mythic motif of death and resurrection takes place. Wayne faces down the ghost of his former mentor Ra’s al Ghul and discovers that Bane learned to be such a monstrous provoker of evil from this very same place, and the only way to beat Bane is to survive the way he did, to become even stronger than he was before. Batman discovers that his weakness was his success, and that he has been failing because he does not fear death. There is a part of Bruce Wayne who wants it all to end, who wants the pain to go away, and it is in that trait that is holding him back from defeating Bane.
It is in a love of life that we ultimately live and fight for each moment. Without that love, life takes on a darker meaning, and this is what poisons much of the world. Batman didn’t know it, but Bane was fighting from a position of love and therefore had more passion. It was in that passion that Bane had so much strength, and it is what Bruce lacked. At the beginning of the film, this is why Bruce Wayne is a broken man hiding as a recluse in exile. He has a broken heart, and his body and mind reflected it. To heel, he had to want to live. This is the heart of Dark Knight Rises.
As usual, Hans Zimmer conducted a masterpiece of film music. He is the next best thing to hit Hollywood films since John Williams. I enjoy all his soundtracks, and Dark Knight Rises was simply fantastic. The use of percussion was so pulsating throughout the film that my adrenaline often wanted to ram my head through a wall in excitement. Some of the combat scenes were simply epic in large part due to Hans Zimmer’s music. There were many moments that reminded me of Braveheart, and it was Hans Zimmer’s music that sold the scenes wonderfully.
Dark Knight Rises is filmmaking at its very, very best. Such a movie only comes along every so often, and will resonate in our culture for many years, and for good reason. I personally read many comparative religion books, political commentaries, economic theories, legal jargon, and world history. But I have always found a truth in comic book stores and national conventions that evades most social insiders.
There is a very good reason that young people flock to video games, movies, and comic books in greater numbers than they ever have before. They often don’t know the reason, but they are simply searching for a truth that they require to advance their lives. Many of them will not discover it. They will listen when someone tells them to ‘grow up’ get a job, and serve society. But the truth they are looking for is the one that Bruce Wayne was forced to discover in Dark Knight Rises. It’s a love of life that everyone must find. And before anyone can save anybody, they must first save themselves.
I was the last one out of the crowded theater at the Regal. My family had left me sitting right in the center of the large theater. I was happier at the conclusion of the film than I had been in a long time because when I am asked why I write all this work online for free, it is to cover many of the themes that were shown in Dark Knight Rises. I felt I had just watched a book that I had wanted to read for many years, and had been trying to get people to see by putting the information out for free just so people could discover their own love of life and not find themselves crushed by the Banes of the world.
I had so much positive energy flowing through me that I was reluctant to stand up because I might leap over the rail and bounce around the empty theater like an electron in a particle separator. I had to sit still to calm myself down. The projectionist looked down from his booth wondering if I was OK and seeing that I was left me alone. I sat in the theater for five full minutes in complete silence. No usher came in to clean since we had seen the last show of the evening. It was 11 PM. I have been hungry for Dark Knight Rises for such a very long time. I am glad that a director like Christopher Nolan had been given a chance, and the substantial budget to put on the big screen a spectacle that had all the heart of an independent film, with the epic scale that only a well-funded studio picture could provide. I know all too well how incredibly difficult it is to assemble anything close to what Nolan made for Warner Brothers and ultimately the world. But he did it, and I thank God that he did.
Dark Knight Rises is simply the best movie currently out. It is the best film I’ve seen in 20 years and that says a lot. There are many films that are very good, but Dark Knight Rises is on a level of its own. If you have not seen it do not waste another minute. While it’s true that we are all busy in life with projects of our own, work that must be done, families to raise, and social events to engage in, everyone should see this movie. Believe me—there isn’t a film that more accurately frames the problems of our day better than Dark Knight Rises. It is not a simple comic book adaptation. It is an epic myth that takes on virtually every major contemporary problem with a boldness that is unprecedented. It is the very best that Hollywood has produced and is a wonderful export of American ideas that can be shared with a world in deep need of the message. It is more than a movie; it is a life-sustaining essence that is deeply meaningful if the layers of entertainment are peeled away so that we can swim in a much-needed truth. If I had a ranking system of one star through five—one being the worst, five being the best—I’d give Dark Knight Rises TEN STARS (**********)
See Dark Knight Rises once—then see it again, and again, and again, and again, and again until they finally pull the film from theaters. I can say this; I will go out and buy an entirely new television and sound system so that when Dark Knight Rises is released to video, I can watch it on Blue Ray at least once a week using the latest technology and I will turn that sucker up all the way! I like the movie that much! But it will never be as good as the first experience in the Regal. That is why when the lights came up and everyone left the theater I was still sitting, because I did not want to leave that seat, or the theater. I wanted the magic to continue on forever, because I’m not sure I’ll ever in my lifetime see another movie as good as Dark Knight Rises.