Bane’s Tears

It was totally worth it.

That was my first thought once the movie was over. It was completely, totally, absolutely worth it. All the hype, all the buzz, all the long months of rabid anticipation have paid off.

I could tell you a lot of things about “The Dark Knight Rises.” I could tell you about how epic it is in scale. I could tell you about how it’s technically flawless. I could tell you about how great the acting is. About how Michael Caine doesn’t get much screen time but easily warrants a Best Supporting Actor nomination, if there were any justice in the world. About how Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman provides a bit of levity in an otherwise incredibly dark story, or about how every time Bane speaks, chills will run down your spine.

I could tell you about all of these things.

But I won’t.

If you’ve read any reviews of this film, you’ve probably heard about all of these things already anyway, and from people much more experienced in describing them than I.

Instead, I’m going to tell you about what this film meant to me.

To put it simply, it meant a lot. Christopher Nolan’s entire Batman trilogy has been something of a dream come true for me and for plenty of other Bat-fans. It’s meant a return to prominence for the Dark Knight, and a return to the character’s dark, serious roots. I walked out of the theater after having seen Batman Begins in 2005 with the incredibly gratifying sense that, after nearly two decades of mediocre-to-terrible Batman films, my hero had finally been done right.

I’ve been a dedicated Bat-fan ever since I got my very first Batman action figure. As best as I can figure, this was around 1992, when Batman Returns was in theaters. I had no idea then who Batman was, all I knew was that my uncle was very kindly going to buy me a toy, and the dude with the pointy ears looked coolest. I still have that action figure. His joints are loose and his colors are faded, but he’s still kicking.

The biggest part of my Bat-education when I was a kid was the still-awesome Batman Animated Series, which I think ran in its original incarnation from around 1992 to around 1994. I could look that up, but I’m lazy so I’m not going to.

Man that show was awesome. To this day, the voices of Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamill as the Joker are the voices I hear in my head whenever I read a Batman comic. I remember that show also scared the hell out of me sometimes — there were a few episodes that were incredibly creepy. The entire series recently become available on DVD, and I had fun reliving those memories. That series is also the primary reason I have always had a huge crush on Catwoman, and needless to say, Anne Hathaway was a worthy successor to the Animated Series’ Catwoman, who had always been my favorite.

But enough with the nostalgia. I’ve seen “Rises” three times now (once in IMAX, which was AWESOME) and I can safely say that anyone who tells you they were disappointed by it is completely full of shit.

Aside from the sheer dizzying scale of the film, here’s part of what makes it so impressive: it feels like a natural continuation of the story begun in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. In so many cases, sequels feel tacked-on or unnecessary, and rarely make any sense plotwise. Take the Matrix or Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, all of which were largely unnecessary and mostly incomprehensible.

Not so with The Dark Knight Rises. It builds upon the story begun in the previous two films in a way that feels organic and logical. Everything that happened in BB and TDK is important and has an effect on the story of the third film. So many times with sequels, the story that was established in the earlier films is ignored or restructured in order to make room for a half-assed plot in a movie that would never be as good as the original in the first place (look at Spider-Man 3 for an example of this). This is not the case with Christopher Nolan’s third Batman film. Everything that happened in the previous two films is acknowledged and unchanged, which makes these three films feel cohesive and strongly connected to each other, like they’re really all part of the same story.

That’s really all I have to say on the film for now. There’s plenty more I could say about the plot, but I won’t give it away for those of you who haven’t seen it yet (and if you haven’t, seriously, go see it ASAP). Between Nolan’s epic Batman trilogy and the similarly excellent “Arkham Asylum” and “Arkham City” Batman games, it is a good time to be a Bat-fan.

A word about Bane. I’ve read some reviews and such online that didn’t like Bane, the movie’s primary villain. That his voice was too hard to understand or his character was underdeveloped or some such. I disagree. While there are some differences between Bane’s portrayal in this film and his comic book backstory, I can easily forgive those differences. The version of Bane in this film makes sense because it is so strongly connected to the previous two films. And even if his backstory isn’t the same as it was in the comic book, it doesn’t really matter because the essence of the character remains unchanged.

Tom Hardy’s performance in the role reminded me of Hugo Weaving as V in V for Vendetta, since the mask he’s wearing for the entirety of the film means that you can’t see his facial expressions. But give Hardy and Weaving a lot of credit, both of them invest a lot of emotion into characters that could seem like mindless automatons. Both performances are strongly dependent on body language and vocal inflections, and in my opinion, both actors knocked it out of the park. Watch Bane during the final battle with Batman, and as how he becomes more desperate, he starts to fight more ferociously, like a wounded animal. It’s something I didn’t really notice the first time I saw the film, which is why you really need to see it more than once. And in the end, a single tear from Bane is enough to humanize the most monstrously evil cinematic villain since, well, since the last Batman movie.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a movie to watch (namely, The Dark Knight Rises).

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