Christopher Nolan’s superior genius has done it again. The Dark Knight Rises combines intellect with action to make a film that is certainly worth watching again and again. This is not your typical superhero movie—it reaches beyond the comic-book character and dives deep into the wounded human condition. While The Avengers was entertaining and certainly left me satisfied, The Dark Knight is much darker and goes a few steps further. With an impressive cast including Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway, and Tom Hardy, this is a film to be reckoned with. (However, it is definitely not kid-friendly; parents, you have been warned.) While there is not much gore, the violence ranks an eight out of ten, and the terrorist villain, Bane, is terrifying. But through the darkness, it is a movie about hope.
The Batman has not shown his face for nearly eight years after taking the blame for Harvey Dent’s actions in the previous movie, The Dark Knight. Incidentally, billionaire Bruce Wayne has also been in hiding. After Rachel Dawes’ death and saving Gotham City, Bruce doesn’t seem to have anything to live for anymore. That is, until a new terrorist, Bane, reportedly born and raised in a dreaded prison known only as The Pit, appears in Gotham. Much of the peace and control of organized crime has been due to the death of former District Attorney Harvey Dent, whom everyone believes to have died a hero. But Commissioner Gordon and Batman are the only people that know the truth. Harvey Dent died a corrupted man and a murderer—and Batman took the blame for his actions. Now Bane and his army must reveal the truth in order to sow discord among the people and set them against the corrupt aristocracy as well as the police force, which appears to be built on a lie.
Alfred, played by Michael Caine, is one of the most important characters in all three films; he delivers what I think is the best performance in the entire film. Alfred is the only person who truly understood the motivation behind the infamous Joker in The Dark Knight, and he’s the only one who truly understands Bane and what he stands for. Alfred also believes the truth is meant to be shared. But Bruce, as always, does not listen. So, Alfred does the unthinkable—he decides to leave Bruce. After explaining to Bruce that all he ever wanted was for him to be happy and continue living, he says, “Maybe it’s time we stop trying to avoid the truth and let it have its day.”
As Alfred rightly suspected, deception and withholding the truth leads to many of the disasters that infiltrate Gotham City. The current police force is based around the lie that Harvey Dent died a hero. And the political system is still full of deceptive and greedy aristocrats. Bane uses this to create animosity within the populace of the city. If Gotham City is divided against itself, it cannot stand. Bane convinces the people to take control of their city—he gives them false hope—a fact he wishes to make very clear to Bruce Wayne.
Bane wishes for Bruce to suffer as he suffered—he throws him into the same Pit where he spent so many years. Bane explains to him:
Home, where I learned the truth about despair, as will you. There’s a reason why this prison is the worst hell on earth…Hope. Every man who has ventured here over the centuries has looked up to the light and imagined climbing to freedom. So easy… So simple… Many have died trying. I learned here that there can be no true despair without hope. So, as I terrorize Gotham, I will feed its people hope to poison their souls. I will let them believe they can survive so that you can watch them clamoring over each other to “stay in the sun.” You can watch me torture an entire city and when you have truly understood the depth of your failure…then you have my permission to die.
Bruce must suffer greatly, and through this suffering he learns to let go of his grief for his parents and Rachel. Just as he must learn to let go of the rope he thinks will save him while climbing out of The Pit, he must also let go of the grief that tied him down for so long in order to be truly set free and live his life. What Bane can never understand—and what Bruce finally understands fully—is that through failure we can learn to pick ourselves back up. And that hope can also save us.
Catwoman, played surprisingly well by Anne Hathaway, is a fallen girl trying to turn her life around. As Batman says, “Gotham is not beyond saving.” Neither is any one man or woman. Catwoman is a very clear example of this truth. She hopes to clear her record as a thief and begin life anew. At first seen as very selfish and crafty, Catwoman’s dynamic character blossoms amidst her unusual friendship with Batman. He shows her that she can be better than a thief—she can help herself and others and earn reconciliation. Hope is not lost for Catwoman, and she indeed proves herself.
Batman also redeems himself as he saves the city of Gotham. The end of the film is riddled with war, self-sacrifice, and reconciliation—hope does not lead to despair, as Bane wanted, but rather to new beginnings. Life will go one for Gotham City, and so too for Batman—just maybe not as expected.
The Dark Knight Rises is a compelling film for both comic-book readers and serious film critics. It poses many questions surrounding hope and truth, while telling a story of true heroism. The film seems to echo many of the current political issues, as well as address many issues of the human soul. Its length may seem daunting, but for me, it was the only way to do justice to a film such as this. I hope that many of you will appreciate the gravity of this movie as much as I did.
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!