The Dark Knight Rises, the final installment in this incarnation of The Batman franchise, will be forever linked to the murders of innocents by a lone gunman in Aurora, Colorado. This is sad but also ironic because the film is the story of how a vigilant is redeemed through community.
Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has always been an obsessed and troubled person, but at the beginning of the film we see him hurt, withdrawn, and disillusioned. The millionaire has rejected his role as The Batman and become a recluse on his estate. He is not only detached from people but he is in the process of alienating his servant Albert Pennyworth (Michael Caine), the only person who seems to care about him. He begins to break out of his self-imposed exile when his safe is robbed by Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). Wayne quickly finds himself and his empire at the center of a plot to destroy his beloved Gotham City.
Wayne/The Batman’s ultimate redemption comes when he begins to look to others for help, although he makes some poor choices along the way. Although this is truly an epic film with not only believable special effects but masses of people battling in the streets of the city, the filmmakers never loose their focus on the characters. And these characters are not only three-dimensional; they tend to be morally ambiguous and deeply flawed. Even police commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), an “honest cop,” is carrying the guilt of perpetrating the martyrdom myth of “white knight” Harvey Dent (in the second film, The Dark Knight) at the expense of the reputation of The Batman. He is tortured by this, has lost touch with his family, and has become rather world-weary.
Selina Kyle (who is never referred to as Catwoman but fulfills that role) is a petty thief with a thick “rap sheet” and a manipulative streak. Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), president of Wayne Enterprises, seems more interested in creating high tech devices than facing the crumbling of his friend’s empire. Detective John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is pretty much a “straight arrow” and the moral center of the film, but he is troubled by the death of his parents. (Spoiler Alert!) These characters and others, such as the prisoners in The Pit where Wayne is imprisoned, join together to bring The Batman back and save the day.
This is a beautifully produced film with allusions to the French Revolution and Dickens’ The Tale of Two Cities. It is not so much political as apocalyptic. This third film in the series continues themes and characters introduced in Batman Begins and is faithful to the mythology.
Ultimately the film assures us that vigilantes are not the means to bring justice. Only people working together in community can make that happen.