Nolan created a nihilist anthem. He dumped Batman gadgetry. Makes every pastsuperhero movie look like a boy’s backyard staging of Star Wars. Bane takes the movie. Nolan plays to Bale’s need to get badly beaten up.
Eight years have passed and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is a Howard Hughes recluse, broken in mind and body. He has aged badly. He wanders around his bare mansion hunched over a cane in his bathrobe. He has a distracting pimple near his eye. Gotham City is in a renaissance and does not need a Batman due to the no-nonsense Dent Law. Former Gotham City D.A. Harvey Dent has become a symbol of heroism for sacrificing his life for justice. Police commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) goes with this fantasy and lets the blame fall on phantom Dent-killer, Batman. Batman has vanished.
By the way, this Dent Law may be illegal, unlawful, or downright fascist.
Rising from the city’s sewers is Bane (Tom Hardy), a brutal, nihilist leader who makes Saddam Hussein’s sons look like crybabies. Bane laughs at Vlad the Impaler.
Bane was raised in Hell’s Level 8 – the Malebolge.
Bane is hidden by a huge mechanical mask and apparently does not eat and ingests life-sustaining nutrients through steroid injections. He’s mad and he has his good reasons. First thing, destroy Gotham’s economy by attacking the Stock Exchange. He’s helped in this endeavor by arch-jewel thief, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), no friend of the rich.
Wayne goes dead broke and he doesn’t care. He is lured back to Bat-life by the always tearful, misty, red-eyed Alfred (Michael Caine). Alfred is such a slave-servant I imagine him dying with Bruce draped over his body like Cleopatra’s handmaidens.
Wealthy philanthropist Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) offers to run Wayne Enterprises on Bruce’s behalf. Meanwhile, traffic cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) becomes Gordon’s foot soldier and Wayne Enterprises CEO Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) keeps making Bat toys. Just in case. Fox has kept busy making a Batman airborne drone-like vehicle and a clunky motorcycle called the Bat Pod.
Paraphrasing the great Frank T.J. Mackey: Respect the toys!
It is hard to see Tom Hardy beneath the mask. Was it really him? I glimpsed him a few times when in close-up. Did Hardy really add 30 pounds of muscle for the role in 4 months leading up to production? Did Nolan use CGI? Let’s recall the work done on Mickey Rourke in Robert Rodriguez’s SIN CITY. There’s a fanboy rumor that Christopher Nolan admitted that there will be CGI use for the physique of Bane.
If that is genuinely 5’9” Hardy in every Bane scene, it is a remarkable performance. With his face hidden, he uses his body to convey dialogue and emotion.
Bane does not get by without his own tearful, misty, red-eyed moment.
With both Batman and Bane wearing face-hiding masks, dialogue is important. But Hans Zimmer’s inner ear busting music makes that impossible. Isn’t Zimmer famous enough without making the music the prominent star? His music is a bully trying to upstage everything.
Yes, Christian Bale is through with Batman and you can see it. Nolan wisely gives Bale plenty of time as Bruce. Batman shows up a few times.
Batman has his own tearful, misty, red-eyed moment.
You cannot read about DARK KNIGHT without the PR regarding Nolan delaying production because he would not proceed until Marion Cotillard gave birth to her son. What is it about Cotillard? She deserved the Academy Award for Best Actress in LA VIE EN ROSE as the starved waif with bug-eyes. Now transformed as a major Hollywood actress, what is her appeal?
Thinking about this, I watched Cotillard from another angle. She has a cruel aura that naturally seeps out of her. There is something off-putting about Marion Cotillard and Nolan recognizes this and has put it to go use in INCEPTION and now DARK KNIGHT.
Hathaway, not yet Catwoman (thank God!), effectively conveys a bitterness. She stays true to her character. Don’t you hate it when a mean character finds salvation and then volunteers in a soup kitchen?
Batman is the star but Bale doesn’t seem to care anymore about this role. He has outgrown it and it shows. I don’t know who was in that Batman suit in the fight scenes or the Bat Pod, but his exaggerated mouth movements were mesmerizing. Batman suffers many indignities and is served several brutal beatings. Bale likes to suffer. It shows a character’s steel.
Finally, the script by Nolan and his brother Jonathan (from a story by the director and David S. Goyer), pushes Batman into a demon-infested dark world where a disregard for money and materialism is paramount. Remember when The Joker burned that mountain of money? Bane has the similar intent of removing the chains of compliant materialism. Even Bruce Wayne could care less about having to finally answer his own door.
There is an apocalyptic, lets-get-going-while-the-goings-good” ending as Nolan wisely will overshadow any re-imagining coming in the next few years.
See it in IMAX.
Victoria Alexander is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association: www.bfca.org/ and the Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/. Victoria’s weekly column, “The Devil’s Hammer,” is posted every Monday. http://www.fromthebalcony.com/editorials.php.
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