Memento

  • Title: Memento
  • Director:  Christopher Nolan
  • Date:  2000
  • Studio:  Newmarket Capital Group, Summit Entertainment, Columbia-Tristar (distributor)
  • Genre:  Suspense
  • Cast:  Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Callum Keith Rennie
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“That must suck. It’s all backwards. I mean, like, maybe you’ve got an idea about what you want to do next, but you can’t remember what you just did.” – Hotel Clerk

“I’m disciplined and organized. I use habit and routine to make my life possible.” – Leonard

Memento is a remarkable movie, because it uses a structure that I don’t think any other film has used. The film is told backwards. It’s also unusual in that there are two films in one. The main story, in color, has each scene taking place immediately before the scene that precedes it. The backing story, in black and white, does move forward in time and is almost a commentary on the other scenes. It also serves to orient the viewer some in any areas that might be really confusing.

The first time I saw Memento, I knew going in that the film would be told backwards – it is what it’s famous for. And even though the film is a little confusing at first, one quickly becomes used to the idea – and it really isn’t as confusing as you might think. The structure forces the viewer to pay close attention to what is happening in the film. The structure also really, really puts an emphasis on editing. And as you watch the film, you end up mentally re-ordering the scenes to put them in context.

However, the structure also emphasizes the character and his point of view. The main character, Leonard (Guy Pearce), is suffering from retrograde amnesia. That is, due to a trauma (we’re told) he can remember his life before the trauma, but he can’t make new memories. Leonard’s life exists in the brief span of a scene, the minute he loses focus, or falls asleep, he forgets everything that’s happened to him. The highly unusual structure, of telling the story backwards, emphasizes this – if you haven’t seen the movie before, you don’t know what happened before either. Therefore when Leonard finds himself chasing a guy – or as he quickly realizes – being chased by a guy with a gun, the audience also has no idea why.

Upon viewing the film a second time, the structure still works. Because the film is told in reverse order, it’s hard to remember individual scenes – so one is, for example, still confused as to why Leonard’s being chased. I was surprised when I watched the film a second time, that the structure still worked and the film isn’t a one hit wonder. I knew the big secret from the end of the film, of course, which I’m not going to reveal in this review. Memento still works as a film even on a second viewing.

Memento is also a film that has a timeless look to it. It’s a story told in cheap hotels, dive bars, and abandoned buildings. Even the one home we see (Natalie’s), although nice, is incredibly nondescript. The anonymous places accentuate Leonard’s situation.

However, Memento is, at it’s center a disturbing film – not because of it’s unique structure, which the viewer quickly gets used to, but because of the Big Secret at the end of the film, The end, which is really the beginning when you think about it. I don’t want to spoil that for movie viewers who haven’t seen it, but once you know, it changes how you view the film. And probably not in the way you think.

Recommendation:  See it! I would especially recommend this movie to film students.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Inception

  • Title:  Inception
  • Director:  Christopher Nolan
  • Date:  2010
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers
  • Genre:  SF, Action, Suspense
  • Cast:  Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“What is the most resilient parasite?  A bacteria, a virus, an intestinal worm? … An idea. Resilient, highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold in the brain – it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed, fully understood, that sticks.”  – Cobb

“Do you want to take a leap of faith? Or become an old man – filled with regret, waiting to die alone?” – Saito

“It’s the chance to build cathedrals, entire cities, things that never existed, things that couldn’t exist in the real world.” – Cobb

Inception is a film about dreams, but it is not the typical film about dreams – such as the person who dreams of being a famous musician then becomes one, or the young man who dreams of becoming a professional sports player – then makes his dream come true.  This film is literally about dreams, and as such, the entire film is a commentary on films themselves.  But for all the meta implications, it’s not a nod-nod-wink-wink type of film that pokes fun at anything.  Rather it suggests a type of caper film, though the caper doesn’t take place in the physical world at all.

Cobb (DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are professional extractors – men who, for a price, will enter a person’s dreams to steal information, often as a form of corporate espionage. However, in this case, when their plans don’t quite work out, the man they are trying to steal from instead hires the two for Inception – the concept of planting an idea in someone’s head, so that they themselves believe that they came up with the idea – themselves.  Like many other caper films, after some debate among themselves, Cobb and Arthur agree to perform the crime – Arthur, because he knows the corporation that hired them in the first place will kill them for being unsuccessful, and Cobb because he’s a wanted man – and Saito has promised to make his charges go away so he can return home and to his own children, if he’s successful.

Cobb and Arthur to find their crew for this special job:  a chemist – to create a special sedative to put the victim under during the crime, Eames – a spy and con-man – to gather information on the victim, an architect – to build the triple-layered dream world, Arthur, and Cobb.  Their architect is Ariadne, a young student of Miles – Cobb’s old teacher, and the grandfather of his children – Phillipa and James.  Arthur and Cobb train Ariadne in shared dreaming.  Cobb finds the chemist and an old friend who becomes their spy and investigator.

The “heist” involves getting Fischer – the victim – on a ten hour flight, slipping him a mickey, then entering his dreams.  The dream will be three layers or levels deep, and at each stage, the crew – specifically Cobb and Arthur (with some assistance from Eames) work different angles into their con to convince Fischer Jr that he should break-up and sell his father’s near monopoly energy company so he can become his own man by building something new.  In the end, Cobb and Ariadne end-up going to a fourth level – Limbo, or the subconscious – for two reasons, for Saito – who was shot in the first level of the dream, then died in the third level (normally dying in a dream would wake up the dreamer – but not when under sedation) and so Cobb can confront his dead wife, Mal – who’s been haunting him throughout the film.  In fact, as the film goes on – it becomes less about the plot to convince Fischer Jr to break-up his father’s company, and more about the question of Mal and Cobb and just what happened between them.

Inception is also circular in nature. The film opens with Cobb washed up on a beach, captured by Asian gunmen, and taken to a wealthy, older Asian man. We will learn this is Saito, who has lived for years in his subconscious world, because time moves differently in the dream world as to the real world. The film, at the end circles back to Cobb on the beach, and Cobb confronting the Asian man. But then the film adds a couple of scenes at the end that leave the film mysterious and open-ended.

The second major point about the film, Inception, and the reason I can watch it over and over again, is it is visually stunning.  Where else would you see roads folding in on themselves? An endless staircase? A freight train moving through a crowded downtown city street? Or the vanishing point of a set being revealed as a mirror, then being moved by a character to form an infinity box?  Yet these impossible scenes, rather than breaking the fourth wall in the traditional sense, are used to clearly show that a particular moment which seemed “real” is actually part of a dream – so they fit into the larger world of the film.  It is truly a visual masterpiece of film.

Recommendation:  Must see!
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Memento

The Prestige

  • Title:  The Prestige
  • Director:  Christopher Nolan
  • Date 2006
  • Studio:  Touchstone, Warner Brothers
  • Genres:  Drama, SF, Historical
  • Cast:  Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Piper Perabo, Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, David Bowie, Andy Serkis, Mark Ryan, William Morgan Sheppard
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  Blu-Ray, R1

“But you wouldn’t clap yet, because making something disappear isn’t enough, you have to bring it back.  That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call… The Prestige.” – Mr. Cutter, narrating

“I love you.” – Alfred Borden
“Not today.  Well, some days it’s not true, and today you don’t mean it.  Maybe today you’re more in love with magic than me.  I like being able to tell the difference, it makes the days it is true mean something.” – Sarah Borden

“I don’t want to kill doves.” – Robert Angier
“Then stay off stage.  You’re a magician not a wizard.  You gotta’ get your hands dirty if you’re going to achieve the impossible.” – Mr. Cutter

“I can recognize an obsession, no good will come of it.” – Nikola Tesla

“The truly extra-ordinary is not permitted in science and industry.  Perhaps, you’ll find more luck in your field – where people are happy to be mystified.” – Tesla

The Prestige is a film about envy, jealousy, and obsession. But rather than jealousy over someone else’s relationship with a third person; or obsession with a person, The Prestige is about professional jealousy and obsession with an idea. Add to that it’s unusual structure, and it’s a fascinating film, that’s intriguing to watch.

This is the story of two stage magicians in the 1890s. They start off as friends, working with an ingenue (or magic trick designer) and a female magician (Julia, played by Piper Perabo) who is married to one of them (Angiers, played by Hugh Jackman). Bordan (Bale) seems to be jealous of Angiers relationship with his wife, though this is not obviously stated. And when Julia dies performing a water-tank trick, after Bordan tied her hands – Angiers becomes angry and blames Bordan for the accident. However, this definitely doesn’t become your cut-and-dried “you killed my wife – I’m going to get revenge” film. Even by the end of the film, we don’t really know if Bordan deliberately tied the wrong knot or if it really was an accident. However, the death of Julia is the spark that turns a friendship into a rivalry – and then into professional jealousy, and finally into obsession. As the film unfolds Angiers and Bordan both one-up each other, and both simply do horrible things to each other – physically harming each other, undercutting each other’s stage acts, and simply just not letting the rivalry rest but escalating it with each act of the film.

The structure of the film is also different.  It starts with the end, then tells the story through a series of interweaving flashbacks that tell the story in short scenes that not only move forward and back in time, but change point of view as well. The film begins with Angiers dying in a stage magician’s trick and Bordan being arrested and charged with his murder. The flashbacks explain their history, their rivalry, and Angiers growing obsession with Bordan’s trick:  The Transported Man. Angiers follows his obsession to Colorado where he meets Nikola Tesla (David Bowie) and his assistant Alley (Andy Serkis), and convinces them to build a special machine for him. Angiers both gets what he wants and gets much more than he bargained for. But, as the story unfolds – and different parts of the story are told first from Angiers point of view and then from Bordan’s, the audience learns more and more about these characters – the doomed characters.

Because the flashbacks are interweaving, as an audience member, not only is one forced to pay very close attention in order to follow the film – but one is also, constantly rearranging the scenes in one’s head. Especially the first time I watched this film, as I watched it, I found myself thinking, “OK, so this goes before that, and this goes before that, etc.”  But unlike other films with a lot of editing and scenes that aren’t presented in chronological order – with The Prestige, that the film’s story is essentially presented in reverse order before returning to the present and then again turning on a dime, everything in the story is crystal clear.  You will not be confused by the story – at all, once you get used to the style and concentrate on the plot.

I’m determined to not spoil this excellent film, but it is also very dark and even somewhat disturbing. To explain just what is going on, and how, would destroy the experience of seeing this film.  It’s excellent, with an excellent cast, incredible direction, and it’s very thought-provoking. However, it is very, very dark.  I mean, I’ve seen film noir before, but the final implications of this film really push the envelope into disturbing territory. Oh, and by disturbing – I do not in any way mean “gross” or bloody, or any of the typical tropes of horror. I wouldn’t even call this a horror film. Do not avoid this film simply because of a prejudice against horror – that is not what it is at all.

Recommendation:   See it
Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Inception

Batman – A Story in Imagery

Batman – A Story in Imagery

I loved the three Christopher Nolan directed Batman films:  Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.  After seeing The Dark Knight Rises trailers but before seeing the film, what really struck me, was the use of imagery.  I’ve been a fan of comics, especially Batman for a long time. I recently read several DC graphic novels in an attempt to catch-up on Final Crisis. But even years ago when I was spending upwards of $10.00/week on comics — it was the storylines and the characters I loved.  The art always came second for me.  Now, I’d guess most fans of graphic art, would say the opposite, or that they needed good art and a good story.  But, for me, yeah, at times I noticed a particularly nice piece of art in a (comic) book or a graphic novel, but over all — I just read the story.

However, when I think about the character of Batman — it’s images that immediately spring to mind. Batman with one knee down, the other up, clutching the broken, bleeding, beaten body of Robin (Jason Todd), his head bowed, in the rain — from A Death in the Family.

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There’s the classic image of  young Bruce kneeling in blood of his dead parents.

Frank Miller

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Christopher Nolan – Batman Begins

It’s always a static image.

Even Final Crisis had the image of a dead Batman, Superman holding his body on the cover (an image which isn’t in the book, btw).

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 And Long Shadows tells a compelling story in both images and words: Superman and Wonder Woman presenting the empty cape and cowl to Alfred.

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Clark, Diana, Alfred, Dick, and Robin — all standing in a circle, their heads bowed in mourning and sorrow.

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Dick, sitting in a chair, loose and almost side saddle, in the Batman uniform but with the cowl off, looking completely bereft.  And that’s followed with a conversation between him and Alfred where Dick says (something like), “I always knew he would die.  But I wasn’t ready for it to be this soon.”  Not to mention my favorite line in the book, which is when Alfred, who’s to the point of tears, says to Clark, “Am I all right? No sir, I am not.  My son has died.”  Over and over, Long Shadows in particular stresses the emotional toil of loss for Alfred, Dick Grayson, and those who knew Bruce Wayne best.

Still, it is the images that are striking in the Batman universe.  Nolan’s films, with their film noir look, or even the apocalyptic images of The Dark Knight Rises, are, even in motion picture terms, surprisingly for action films, at that, often, when you think of them – still images.  Nolan even often has the sound disappear and uses only the soundtrack to convey the emotion of a scene or image in the films.

The Dark Knight Rises

  • Title: (Batman) The Dark Knight Rises
  • Director: Christopher Nolan
  • Date: 2012
  • Studio: Warner Brothers
  • Genre: Drama, Action
  • Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Burn Gorman, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard, Matthew Modine
  • Format: Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“You hung-up your cape and cowl but you didn’t move on – you never went to find a life. To find someone…”— Alfred Pennyworth
“Alfred, I did find someone.”— Bruce Wayne
“I know, and you lost them. But that’s all part of living, sir. But you’re not living, you’re just waiting, hoping for things to go bad again.”— Alfred

“I never wanted you to come back to Gotham. I always knew there was nothing here for you except pain and tragedy and I wanted something more for you than that. I still do.”— Alfred


“I take what I need from those who have more than enough. I don’t stand on the shoulders of those who have less.”— Selina Kyle

The Dark Knight Rises opens with a James Bond-like opening sequence, the CIA flies into some country to “rescue” Dr. Pavel, a nuclear physicist. But Bane, a mercenary, and his men take the doctor from the plane and kill everyone on board by causing the plane to crash. The film then quickly moves to Gotham City.

In Gotham City, the mayor, and Police Commissioner James Gordon are at a celebration / benefit / ceremony for “Harvey Dent Day”, Gotham’s solemn civic acknowledgment of the death of Harvey Dent. The mayor also mentions that the “Dent Act” has allowed Gotham’s police to arrest those involved in organized crime and keep them in jail without parole. Gordon looks at a speech he’s written out, but at the last minute, he folds it up and doesn’t give the speech. We learn later that this speech was Gordon’s “confession” of the truth of what Harvey Dent did after he became Two-Face towards the end of The Dark Knight – as well as the truth of what Batman did and did not do. That is, that eight years ago, Batman took the fall for Dent’s actions, then disappeared.

Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne has become a recluse. He catches a maid stealing his mother’s pearls from his safe, and later realizes she lifted his fingerprints too. Bruce uses his computers in the Batcave to find out who the maid / cat burglar is – she’s Selina Kyle.

A young man’s body is found in Gotham’s tunnels. One of the investigating officers from Gotham’s PD realizes it was someone he knows and goes to St. Swindon’s Boys home to tell the man’s younger brother the bad news. Later, Officer Blake goes to Bruce Wayne’s home. He lets Bruce know that he knows that Bruce was the Batman and that he doesn’t believe “he did what they say he did” – but also casually mentions the boys’ home is no longer receiving aid from the Wayne Foundation. Bruce is puzzled by this and decides to clean himself up and head into Wayne Enterprises and Lucius Fox to find out what is going on. He discovers that Wayne Enterprises is on shaky financial footing, following Bruce’s mothballing of a fusion reactor clean energy project.

Catwoman sells Bruce’s prints… but she’s also prepared for the deal to go south, which it does. She has the bad guy she sells the prints to call her friend outside using the cell phone of a politician she kidnapped at Wayne’s party. When the police arrive, she screams, cries and “acts helpless” as a cover so the police ignore her as a victim and she escapes.

Gordon, meanwhile, is investigating in Gotham’s tunnels. He’s captured by Bane’s men and brought to Bane. Bane isn’t happy about this, kills two of his own men, and shoots Gordon – dumping all three in an underground river or conduit that leads to the sewers and eventually out to the river. But Bane takes Gordon’s speech about the truth of what Harvey Dent did and Batman’s innocence. Blake finds Gordon, washed onto a concrete shore.

Blake tells Bruce Wayne about Gordon getting shot, and Bane’s underground (literally) army. Blake knows that Bruce is Batman and asks him to help. He tells Bruce, “I don’t know why you took the fall for Dent’s murder but I’m still a believer in The Batman, even if you’re not.”

Bruce goes to Miranda Tate’s charity ball, where he runs into Selina Kyle. Miranda was one of his main investors for the fusion clean energy project. While they dance, Selina warns Bruce that a storm is coming.

When Bruce goes to Wayne Enterprises – Lucius Fox shows him “The Bat”, a stealth urban helicopter (similar in design to the Tumbler car, but for the air).

Bane and his gang attack the Gotham stock market. Batman arrives to chase the “robbers” of the stock exchange. However, all he really does is distract the police. One particularly enthusiastic cop decides he rather take down The Batman than catch any of Bane’s men from the stock exchange action. Batman fails to stop Bane’s computer program from uploading into the stock exchange but does grab the Netbook they used. Batman escapes the police in The Bat.

Selina, in her Catwoman outfit, goes after Daggett, the man to whom she sold Bruce’s fingerprints. He’d promised her the “Clean Slate” program to wipe her name, details, and police record from every database in the world. But when she claims what’s hers – he tells her it doesn’t exist. Batman arrives. Batman and Catwoman fight Daggett’s troops, then escape in The Bat.

Batman lets Selina off and returns home. He’s admonished by Alfred, who’s had enough. Alfred tells Bruce the truth – he burnt Rachel’s letter that explained she was going to marry Harvey Dent – to spare Bruce pain. In the ensuing argument – Alfred says he will leave.

The next morning, Bruce is woken up, not by Alfred, but by the front doorbell. And his faithful butler is nowhere in sight. Fox tells Bruce he’s broke and Wayne Enterprises will soon be in the hands of Daggett. The energy project is in danger, though “Applied Sciences” is off the books and all the weapons and tech hidden there are truly hidden.

Daggett meets with Bane – Bane tortures him and off-screen, kills him.

Bruce sleeps with Miranda on the floor of his mansion, before the fireplace – since he has no power or heat in the old house.

Batman meets Catwoman, she takes him to Bane but locks him in. Bane and Batman fight. They are in the wet tunnels, near the underground river/sewer. It’s a wet, dark, echo-y place for a fight. Bane breaks into Wayne Enterprises’ Applied Sciences, blowing the floor. He then breaks Batman’s back and his Cowl – holding it up as a trophy, and making Bruce’s physical and psychological defeat complete.

Blake goes to Wayne Manor but finds it abandoned. However, he catches Selina Kyle at the airport.

Bruce, meanwhile, wakes in the Pit prison. Bane says it’s the worse prison, because with the chimney leading out… there’s hope, in the midst of despair, which for Bane makes the despair worse.

Selina is jailed in Blackgate. Bane takes Fox, Miranda, and a board member into the sewers and to the fusion reactor. When Blake tells Gordon – he asks one of his cops to start an all-out search of the tunnels. He promotes Blake to detective and asks him to investigate Daggett and his enterprises.

Bane gets Miranda to activate the fusion reactor. Bane also lures all the Gotham PD police into the Gotham tunnels.

Bane pulls the core from the reactor, creating a bomb, plus the core will decay and explode in five months.  Blake realizes Daggett’s cement pours were actually laced with explosives.

A boy soprano sings the American National Anthem at a Gotham Knights football stadium, just as he finishes, Bane walks in and blows the concrete, trapping all of the Gotham police force in the underground tunnels. Blake was just a moment too late to get the cops out. The football stadium also collapses as do streets and bridges all over Gotham – and all but one bridge off the island. Bane has Dr. Pavel explain about the bomb, then kills Pavel. The bomb is mobile and “an ordinary Gothamite” holds the trigger. Seeing the police trapped, Blake goes to the hospital for Gordon.

Anarchy soon reigns in Gotham City. Bane and his men let all the inmates out of Blackgate Prison.  His men “patrol” the streets in cameo tumbler cars stolen from Wayne Enterprises. Looting, robberies, beatings, and total chaos take over as Gotham City is left as a city without any government or police whatsoever. The few police not in the tunnels during the collapse are hunted and killed (again, off-screen). A very few start an underground resistance movement. Meanwhile, the US president makes an appeal than Gotham isn’t forgotten, but won’t risk the terrorists in the city exploding the nuke. Also, with all the bridges and tunnels in and out of the island blown, and Winter starting, soon food, especially fresh food, is hard to come by.

Selina is appalled by what has happened to her city.

In Bane’s prison, Bruce is heartbroken by what has happened to his city, but he also begins to re-build his back. In prison, Bruce learns of a child, the child of Ra’s al Ghul and his lover then wife was the only one to escape the prison. This child had a protector in the prison. Bruce remembers what he learned from Ra’s al Ghul, and his heartbreak at the loss of his wife. With the help of another inmate, Bruce slowly rebuilds his strength.

Bruce ends up trying to climb out of his prison twice and failing. The second time, he remembers his father rescuing him from his fall down the well on Wayne Manor property.

In Gotham, Gordon and Blake explain what’s going on to the special forces. Fox and Miranda explain the bomb is a time bomb and it will go off. Bane’s men attack and the special forces guy is killed by Bane.

For the third time, Bruce attempts to climb out of the well – he takes supplies and doesn’t use the rope. As the inmates chant, “rise”, in a foreign language… he makes it. Bruce throws a climbing rope down to the other inmates as he leaves.

In Gotham, Selina beats up a couple of guys who are beating up a kid. Bruce returns to Gotham. Bruce offers her the clean slate program for her help.

Gordon is arrested and tried in the Scarecrow’s court. He’s sentenced to death – by exile.

Catwoman rescues Bruce and Fox. Bruce takes Fox to The Bat to get an EMP Emitter to block the trigger of the bomb.

Gordon’s inching across the ice of the Gotham River when Batman returns and his sign burns on the bridge. Batman rescues Gordon and his men – then rescues Blake. Batman and Blake free the cops. Batman sends Blake to get people out of the city. Selina gets the Batcycle and a route out of Gotham. There’s a melee between Bane’s men and the police.

Gordon searches for the truck (one of three) with the bomb. Blake rescues the boys from St. Swindon’s and does a quick house to house warning.

Batman defeats Bane, demands to know who the trigger is. Miranda is Talia, the child of Ra’s Al Ghul, Bane’s her “protector” from the prison, and she holds the trigger. She knifes Batman in the back. Gordon finds the bomb and tries to block the signal. However, the bomb is still a time bomb. Catwoman rescues Batman. Cops from outside Gotham blow the last remaining bridge, despite Blake’s warnings.

Bruce in The Bat, and Catwoman on a Batcycle challenge Talia in a Tumbler. The heat seekers that chase The Bat hit the Tumbler instead. Fox discovers the reactor’s being flooded – they won’t be able to reattach the core to stop the meltdown. Talia dies. Batman will fly the bomb over Gotham harbor. When Gordan asks who he is — Bruce gives him a hint, and Gordon realizes he’s Bruce Wayne.

Batman literally flies into the sun, and the bomb explodes “harmlessly” over the Ocean.

Gordon quotes “A Tale of Two Cities” at Bruce’s grave. Fox, Alfred, and Blake are all there at the gravesite. Alfred cries and blames himself. Blake quits the force. Gotham unveils a statue of The Batman. The Wayne Estate goes to Alfred, but the house is turned into a home for orphaned children. John Blake is “Robin John Blake” and he gets GPS co-ordinates to the Batcave which he explores. Fox discovers The Bat had an autopilot after all, despite Bruce saying it didn’t. Finally, in a small cafe, abroad, Alfred sees Bruce and Selina — and they see him. And Gordon has a new Bat-Signal.

I loved this movie when I saw it in the theater — three times. What Nolan did particularly well was he managed to create a Super-Hero trilogy, that was a trilogy — with a definite beginning, middle, and end, rather than the normal run of sequels one gets for the genre. I loved how The Dark Knight Rises ties up the story, and I thought the flashbacks were particularly well realized.

Bane’s attack on Batman is much more deeply psychological – and personal (once you know who he is) than the physical attack in the graphic novel set (all three volumes of it, known collectively as Knightfall). In the graphic novel, Bane starts by letting all the villains out of Arkham — Batman has to fight them all, becoming exhausted. Alfred and Dick Greyson (Nightwing) warn him about exhaustion – but stubbornly Bruce doesn’t listen, and thus the steroid-enhanced Bane is able to physically beat him and break his back. Nolan’s film has Bane, step by step, take everything from Bruce: his fortune, Wayne Enterprises, Alfred (who’s manipulated into a “tough love” confrontation that goes horribly wrong), even his city. Yes, Bane breaks his back, and symbolically, the cowl too, thus breaking The Batman, but it’s the psychological devastation that really breaks Bruce’s spirit. And it’s Bruce’s comeback from that psychological “bottom” that makes the film so interesting and triumphant. Bruce is physically thrown in a well, a Pit, and he’s in physical agony and psychological despair… but he comes back, which makes it a heartening film, and a joy to watch. Bruce also seems ready to finally hang up his cape and cowl for good… though the film places enough hints for a “Nightwing” film for “Robin John” Blake.

Another major departure of the film from the graphic novel set is Bane is quite different. The costume is different, his back story is different, Bane’s connected to Talia and Ra’s al Ghul is different, and Bane’s dependence on the addictive steroid, Venom (not to be confused with the Marvel character Venom), is dropped. I was really surprised by that the first time I saw the film, but each time I saw it, I found the connections from Bane to Talia (Miranda) to Ra’s al Ghul, just suit the plot so much better… and bring the entire storyline to a very satisfactory conclusion.

Overall, I really, really liked it. The script crackles with great dialogue, as did the previous two in the series. Though I think Alfred would never leave Bruce, the film makes it work as both a form of tough love on Alfred’s part and really a challenge between father and son. For Bruce to be his own man, he both has to lose everything and he has to regain everything, and that includes his surrogate father. Though I do wish he and Alfred had spoken when they see each other in the cafe. But, on the other hand, they don’t need to. Alfred and Bruce understand each other without having to speak.

Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman was not the “bored socialite cat burglar” or the “hooker trying to make a living” of previous Batman stories (both in print and on tv/film). She’s rough and tough, and she thinks she wants what Bane promises — an end to the wealthy, privileged, useless upper class. But when she sees what’s happened to Gotham, she hates it. Selina realizes that without any law, anarchy rules – and in anarchy, the poor and the weak suffer even more than they did under the rich, something Selina hadn’t thought was possible. This is why she allies with Batman. For once, this Selina does not have any physical attraction to Batman, not until the end, when she and Bruce run off together. Selina even appears to really, really hate men.

A word needs to be said about Anne Hathaway’s costumes too. Her Catwoman costume was great… it looks more like armor than the sexy, sorry, catsuit, of other catwomen, and it has long sleeves and what looks like a corset underneath. I actually really liked it and would like to know more about the construction from the costume designer. Because, wow! Selina’s other clothes were equally impressive, she reminded me a lot of Audrey Hepburn, a classic actress known for her clothes and unique sense of style. The hat Selina wears to the airport is particularly Hepburn-esque. I have no idea if this was intentional, but the styles, mostly in black, looked great on Hathaway.

Audrey Hepburn – in a classic hat.

Anne Hathaway – looking very much like Audrey Hepburn (note the hat).

Anne Hathaway, in a classic outfit.

The score by Hans Zimmer was excellent, as have been all three Nolan Batman film scores by Zimmer. The score for The Dark Knight Rises is haunting and dark and is very effective in how it adds to the film. Also, I thought it was really very neat the way that several times the film becomes almost silent and it’s simply images and music – including the end, after Bruce Wayne’s graveside funeral service. Nolan really knows how to use imagery and light and how to integrate that with the musical score, for a uniquely filmic quality. It’s a rare talent in a modern director and should be celebrated.

Read my review of Batman Begins the first film in Nolan’s trilogy.
Read my review of The Dark Knight the second film in Nolan’s trilogy.

Recommendation: See it!
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

Christopher Nolan on Alfred Pennyworth – Quote

“It’s essential Alfred is a credible father figure because he is the person who *raises* Bruce Wayne… Casting Michael Caine in this role, allows us to create a really wonderfully rounded character, who really can be a true father, surrogate father, to Bruce Wayne.”—Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan, “Batman – The Journey Begins”, DVD Special Feature, Disc 2 of Batman Begins