Sasha Stone - Awards Daily - EXTREMELY POSITIVE
For the first time in US history, the Presidential election may be won by twenty or so billionaires who are funneling their resources into the Mitt Romney campaign. When we look back on this period in our history we will be astounded that the land of the free, home of the brave would have ever sold out so easily to the top 1%. But things aren’t just bad here. Ruination has been seeping under the infrastructure for a long time. The rotting starts from below and eventually, no structure on the surface can hold. The children get left behind. They are our future and if we erode the foundation for them, they will have no ground to stand on, no ground to build their world up from, and they will be left on a bridge to nowhere, staring incomprehendingly at the wasteland we’ve left for them.
It is no surprise, then, that with The Dark Knight Rises Christopher Nolan would dive even deeper into what he touched on in the masterful second film in the trilogy, The Dark Knight. With the third, and maybe last, there is no question where the sentiment lies. This is a fierce indictment of the upper class, an unashamed rejection of the old money to which Bruce Wayne had become accustomed, and the illusion that those who protest economic theft really are self-serving thugs. The easiest way to control people is when you superimpose your own agenda onto theirs. The villain here isn’t Wall Street, though; it’s a beefy, ironclaw-faced ball of rage named Bane (an unrecognizable Thomas Hardy) who will take Gotham, swat Batman away like a fly, and hold the city under siege as we await our superhero to pull through and save the day, as promised
Nothing is really as it seems in The Dark Knight Rises. You peel back one layer and another layer is laid bare. Batman (Christian Bale digging out Bruce Wayne like never before). But to find the real Batman, Bruce Wayne must be destroyed. Like the City of Gotham, Wayne is dismantled, literally, piece by piece, body blow by body blow – outsmarted, outmuscled, outgunned. Batman takes a tumble, of course, and it isn’t a spoiler to say that eventually Batman returns, though he’s forever changed.
The Dark Knight Rises puts the “dark” back in “the knight” — for Bruce Wayne to change, for Batman to see things from the bottom up. But to build from the ground up, Batman has to work outside the system and live life as those who really do have nothing. And in many ways, this is where the whole story starts.
While there will be those writers who look at the first layer and decide that Bane and the prisoners he frees to work as his army are an allusion to the Wall Street protesters, the thugs surf the wave of anger that was already in place long before they got there, the wave of anger and frustration we all feel. The movie doesn’t set that right. It doesn’t even try. It lets it be, the same way much of the Joker’s angst was understandable. There is right and there is wrong and there is something in between. The in-between is where Christopher Nolan lives and that isn’t ever going to be comfortable for viewers. He asks questions more than he answers them. Nolan isn’t ready to deliver his own morality so easily to the audience. It’s open for interpretation and it will be interesting where audiences fall. I suspect the debate will rage on. Either way, no other film so far this year, except perhaps Beasts of the Southern Wild, will crack open the can of worms that gets people talking about what the author means like this one.
There isn’t a Joker around this time to make things painfully clear. Because audiences are more conditioned now to see the male figure as the only one who could have taken the Joker’s place, they neglect to see that the one who mostly does that this time around is the brilliantly bitter Catwoman. Hathaway has hinted at what she’s capable of as an actress for a while now. But I suspect that 2012 is going to be the year she becomes a force to be reckoned with. With this and her upcoming performance in Les Miz, Hathaway is going to show many colors in her spectral light. Strutting around in latex, heels and a shock of red across her plump lips, Hathaway moves like liquid mercury. Her Catwoman doesn’t try to tread ground already covered by Michelle Pfeiffer, the best thing about Batman Returns. Pfeiffer’s Catwoman is beaten down until she finally morphs into half-cat to exact her revenge. Hathaway’s Catwoman is smarter than any of her male counterparts and is held back only by the slim figure she cuts. She is the moral weather vane in this film because she teeters on the edge of right and wrong. She has the best lines in the film and if The Dark Knight Rises has any one major flaw it’s that there isn’t enough of Catwoman. Like The Joker, the movie suffers when she isn’t around to liven things up. Hathaway hits the target every time, and finds yet another layer of her iconic figure to reveal – scrappy, resourceful survivor.
We are not left feeling satisfied by the end of The Dark Knight Rises, which is perhaps its greatest triumph and biggest obstacle. There isn’t anyone working in film now like Christopher Nolan. He is an auteur working in the mainstream, proving that it can still be done 35 years after Star Wars. We’re so used to getting everything all at once in movies anymore. But it is a smarter collective Nolan is working for. He never dumbs it down. You’re expecting cliches but you never hear them. How can anyone not applaud a filmmaker who holds his audience in such high esteem? How can anyone criticize fans of Nolan’s who have come to expect such treatment? Is it any wonder we are all so emotionally involved?
New York City has been burned and saved by at least three times by super heroes this summer. Those rescues, by design, become an escapist fantasy where there really are super heroes who can right the wrongs human beings multiply. We need our superheroes now more than ever because our collective future looks more bleak than ever. We need superheroes because our elected officials can’t miraculously fix things. How satisfying, then, to spend a couple of hours where the superheroes do what none of us can. But Christopher Nolan is never going to make it that easy. In his film, our problems don’t go away because the villains are stopped. Because society can’t change, the superhero must.
It really is amazing how some see it as Right Wing... And Others just as clearly as Left Wing. Nolan is too nice with it.