Christopher Nolan does it again.
He weaves a compelling story that grapples with deception, mortality and justice (perverted and otherwise). There were quite a few plot twists, some of which caught me by surprise. He successfully distracted me so I couldn’t see what was really happening.
The story resumes 8 years after Batman has been exiled after the death of Harvey Dent. On the surface, life in Gotham is better. But there is much brewing beneath the surface. Bruce Wayne has become a recluse, and Wayne Enterprises is in financial trouble. Commissioner Gordon has been living a lie that he family knows about. He’s lost his family. The Dent Act was used to put and end to organized crime for a safe city.
Beneath the surface of the city, Wayne Enterprises hides a cold fusion reactor it shut down. Beneath the surface of the city, Bane is planning the ruination of the city. Evil never goes away (until Jesus returns), it just takes a different form.
Bane presents the greatest danger to Batman. The Joker wanted to corrupt Batman, and the rest of Gotham. Bane is out to destroy, to break, both. He doesn’t just want to kill Batman, he wants to make him suffer greatly before he dies. And suffer he will. When first the Dark Knight rises, he is cast down. But like the Phoenix, he rises again to reclaim the city that he loves, but doesn’t love him.
Batman, Bane and Cat Woman are the ones who wear physical masks. Cat Woman is protecting her identity so she isn’t arrest. Bane’s somehow minimizes the pain of past injuries. Batman says he wears it to protect those he loves, knowing evil seeks revenge upon your weakness, the ones you love.
But all of the main characters are wearing masks. One of them is Blake, a young policeman who grew up as an orphan. He saw his parents killed and finally learned to hid the anger in his bones. He recognized the phoney smile Wayne wore when visiting the orphans. Unlike the Commissioner, he figured out who Batman was. Midway through the movie I remember thinking, “will he emerge as a Robin figure?” At the end we learn his first name is Robin.
Gordon has lived the lie for 8 years, and almost tells the truth about Batman and Dent. It has cost him so much. But telling the truth now would cost him far more now. In some ways, Nolan is grappling with the unjust means the State can use to keep its citizens safe.
Bane’s plan would make the Occupy crowd happy. He speaks like a cross between an ACLU lawyer and a Occupy leader. The two evils he sees are the power of the corrupt state to imprison people without due process, and corporate greed. But this only appeals to the greed of the 99%.
When he takes over the city, having turned the reactor into a nuclear bomb to hold the rest of the nation at bay. It looks reminiscent of the French Revolution as those who held power and wealth are brought to shame trials before being executed. The 1% enjoyed their wealth, and used their wealth. The 99% just squander it in a brief celebration. We do not treasure what we have not earned.
Bane did not learn his lesson of his own life. Just as the destruction of the city came from below, so shall the salvation. Just as he overcame serious injuries and crippling pain, so shall both Bruce Wayne and Commissioner Gordon.
Nolan pulls together threads from the previous two films to conclude the trilogy. The League of Shadows has arisen to destroy Gotham in the person of Bane, and his surprising accomplice. They want a reckoning for Gotham and Bruce Wayne/Batman.
Bruce must wrestle with his mortality. Being Batman has taken a toll on his body, even before Bane nearly cripples him. He cannot do this forever. In fact, becoming Batman again seems to be the way out for him. The way out of a life that is a living death. Alfred and Fox keep trying to help him move on, but it doesn’t happen. Alfred even abandons his friend, not wanting to bury another Wayne. So we find an emotional depth amidst the action.
Catwoman wants to start over. This is her motivation, she wants a program called Clean Start. She commits crimes and betrayal, but can’t achieve her ends. She is torn between good and evil. She and Batman are torn as well. There is a push-pull. He sees there is more to her than self-interest, and seeks to pull it out from her, often suffering as a result of her self-interest. He is like us, finding it easier to see another’s problems than our own. Unlike everyone else, she represents his future instead of his past.
Yes, the movie was quite long. But I’m not sure what Nolan could cut out. He and his brother are master story-tellers. Characters you think aren’t very important suddenly become important, must like life.
Bane and Gordon also parallel each other in some ways. They showed kindness to a defenseless child. But both became twisted by their very different idols. Each is a bit of a tyrant, though Gordon a more benevolent one. While Batman cannot call the good from within Bane (who comes across as pure evil), he recalls the good from Gordon. He reminds him that heroes can do something as simple as offering a grieving son a coat to stay warm. Gordon can be that man again, when we forsakes the lies that corrupted him. And yet, Batman is ultimately undoing the damage that he himself did by creating the lie that he thought would bring about good. And didn’t.
Our solutions to problems are often just as problematic as the original problem. We discover this after the 8 year gap in time. But we discover as well that what we’ve done can be undone. The hero can rise, and save the people and city he loves.
Pretty complex for a comic book movie. Then again, the Nolan brothers specialize in the complex.