By Jake O’Bannon
Have you ever been in a church service where the pastor gives away the main point of the sermon at the beginning rather than in the conclusion? Their goal is to put out what they want you to know right off that bat – they want to make sure you know what they are trying to tell you. Well, I am about to do the same to you, so here it goes: The Dark Knight Rises was the best movie of the summer and concluded one of the Top 5 movie trilogies of all time.
Am I making a decision based on the fact that I am a “Batman-Super-Fan?” Probably. But at least I am admitting that to you up front, right? Don’t get me wrong: I have reasons for my obsession with the third installment of the Christopher Nolan Batman series. The reasons come down to three simple categories: casting, writing, and the trilogy as a whole.
Christian Bale (Batman) and Tom Hardy (Bane) alone make for an appealing cast, but when you add Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine, you have a Dream Team. And speaking of the Dream Team, let’s play a game. Think about whom you would pick if you were able to choose each of the characters in The Dark Knight Rises. Seriously, it could be anybody. Nicholas Cage could be your Bane, the lead singer from Nickelback could be Commissioner Gordon – it’s up to you!
The funny thing is, when I play that game I cannot think of anyone else besides the actual cast to fill those spots. I believe that is a testament to how well casted this film truly was. There is no denying that the cast was pretty much made up of an ensemble of past Nolan movies like The Prestige (Bale and Caine) and Inception (Gordon-Levitt, Hardy, Cotillard, and Cillian Murphy), but there is also no denying the power of that crew.
Take for example the biggest question mark of the film going into the premiere: Anne Hathaway. When I saw she was going to play Catwoman all I could think about was the fact that Ella Enchanted was going to be tagging along with Batman. But honestly, she was stunning. She played the role with both ferocity and sensitivity (characteristics of an actual cat, am I right?). The leads were unbelievable as well, with Bale continuing his role of the Dark Knight, and Hardy portraying one of the most haunting villains I have ever seen (though I still give the nod to Ledger’s Joker). But my biggest surprise from the film was Michael Caine, who plays Alfred the Butler. Do you ever have moments in a film where you can’t wait for a character to make an appearance? This is how it was for me with Caine. Each and every scene he was in brought me to the verge of tears, and his presence alone brought a sense of both calmness and passion to the screen. I cannot compliment the casting and the acting in this film enough.
Listen, I understand that there have been some scattered negative reviews of the film. But how could there not be when it followed one of the greatest movies of all time (The Dark Knight)? Here is why I cannot give this film any kind of negative review: The Dark Knight Rises cannot be looked at as just one movie because it is the conclusion of a narrative. Through Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises, director Christopher Nolan has created a whole new image of Batman. Instead of the confident, somewhat flawless Batman of the past, we find a Batman who is unsure of himself. This Batman is not only the hunter of evil, but the hunted of good. This Batman takes on the role that is necessary for the greater good, no matter what it does to his image.
As far as I’m concerned that’s the formula for a true hero – someone who looks outside himself in order to look out for others. Nolan’s Dark Knight gives us an image of that through his trilogy. The movie was fantastic, but the trilogy as a whole was a masterpiece. I could go on and on about minor details in the film, or how Nolan changed superhero movies forever, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the film: “A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a little boy’s shoulders to let him know that the world hadn’t ended.” Let the words of Batman be a reminder that any one of us can be a hero. Are we available to rise up to that challenge?