I anxiously anticipated Christopher Nolan’s end to his Dark Knight trilogy. We hadn’t yet become accustomed to the Marvel method of filmmaking, so trilogies were usually expected with movies like this. As I mentioned in notes for the Dark Knight, the film, as I understand it, was meant to feature the Joker very prominently in the story. However, recasting Heath Ledger was not in the cards, so the script was rewritten with a new villain. But my biggest question with that in mind is whether or not the character of Bane was swapped in the Joker’s place with some retooling or did it require a major overhaul? But then again these are rumored stories, so who knows how much of it is true.
In any case, I was in for another Nolan Batman. All of our remaining cast members return and all perform at their top capabilities, as usual. As far as the newcomers go, let’s start with Catwoman. After the abysmal failure of the Catwoman movie, I guess I can understand why this film wasn’t keen to make her a comic book accurate Catwoman. She’s just a cat burglar with an outfit that kinda sorta looks like it has cat ears but it’s not really cat ears. And while Anne Hathaway does an admirable job in the film, I’m not blown away with her either. Furthermore, I think the film could have worked without her in some ways. She genuinely feels like she’s in the film so Bruce has a proper love interest by the end. But I didn’t rewatch the film for this so I may be forgetting an important plot point.
I like Joseph Gordon Levitt in this. He’s a great actor and I really dug his role in the film. However, the whole “Robin” line at the end felt shoehorned into the script. Just because he was a pseudo-sidekick in the film and he was taking over the Batcave by the end, doesn’t mean he needs to be name dropped as “Robin”. Why would he need to be Robin if he’s clearly taking over the mantle of Batman. At least that’s what was implied. Batman is a symbol, remember? Idk. It’s such a pointless moment and added nothing to the story at all.
When Tom Hardy was announced as Bane, I was like, “Oh ok,” mainly because I was not aware of him. I had seen several films he had been in, but couldn’t have told you who he was in those films. I couldn’t have recognized his face in a line-up and this film was not going to help with that. And I applaud them for that honestly. It’s so common these days for a hero to just pop their mask off because we have to SEE the emotions of the actor. But I guess you CAN see his eyes, so there’s that. Plus, Bane doesn’t seem all that emotional about things so probably doesn’t really matter.
In regards to the voice, I can take it or leave it. Before a trailer even released, there was this BIG deal going around about Bane’s voice and how no one could understand it. Then the trailer released soon after. And while I didn’t QUITE understand him initially, I caught it the second time around. But it didn’t matter. In the early days of fan outcries that didn’t get all the major attention but were starting to find their foothold in Hollywood, demands for Bane’s voice to be changed came through. Luckily, Christopher Nolan gave two shits about what Batman “fans” thought of HIS vision. And while some will still no doubt complain about the voice to this day, you can’t deny it’s now iconic status.
Marion Cotillard felt like an odd addition to the film, initially. With Catwoman running around the rooftops of Gotham, what purpose was there to add ANOTHER love interest for Bruce Wayne? But then internet spoilers cleared that right up for me. Yes… this was one of the first few films to be spoiled for me thanks to the lovely folks on the internet. Scream 3 was actually my first spoiled film, but that was more of a blessing in disguise. Lessened the blow of disappointment, you know? In any case, the reveal of Miranda’s true identity being that of Talia Al Ghul was pretty damn cool, even though all the signs were there.
Hans Zimmer returns for a third time sans James Newton Howard for the score and does just fine on his own. I especially love the composition labeled Gotham’s Reckoning that it built around four beats that repeat via drum and even vocal chants while the rest of the instruments play around it, slowly building to an intense crescendo that continues to build the composition even further with an intense string piece adding to the sense of tension.
The story here seems to be a loose combination of Batman stories Knightfall and No Man’s Land and the Nolan Brothers along with David S. Goyer creates a pretty solid narrative from the source material. Most reviews I’ve seen for this film either praise or lambast the story. While we all go to the cinema for a Batman-centric film, I think Nolan was attempting to tell a Bruce Wayne story juxtaposed with that of Gotham’s fragile state equal to his own at that time. And yeah, there is an absence of Batman but Bruce Wayne is Batman and Batman is a mortal, so it’s not like we’re getting robbed of some big superhero spectacle.
That said, there is something to seeing him in the cape and cowl that gets us pumped. And I get why the audience would feel let down over a lack of it. But I appreciate Nolan’s attempt at something unique. His films grounded Batman in a way that we’d never seen before. He was telling stories that posed a bit of “what if” to the real world. At the end of the day, there IS a nice polish to it, a sense of heightened reality. I just think being mad at a Batman movie for not having enough Batman, despite a solid narrative, is a bit silly. Even though I get where the argument is coming from.
This is a story showing the people of Gotham reclaiming their city, figuratively and literally. This is a story about Bruce Wayne being able to let go of his crusade and live a somewhat normal life. I felt it was a bold move to “kill” Batman. I figured he escaped from the explosion. He is Batman after all. But the arc was complete for the character and that, for me, was truly satisfying. I’m glad we didn’t see a continuation of this universe because we don’t NEED to see Officer Blake become Batman. We just needed to be reminded that Batman is not a man, but a symbol.