The Dark Knight Rises

For a long time, we comic fans wondered if we would ever get a decent super hero movie.  Sure, Bryan Singer‘s 2000 adaptation of X-Men was a step in the right direction.  The same could be said for Sam Raimi‘s Spider-Man.  But even with films like these giving comic fans the world over something to hope for, two observations gave us all pause.  First, for every good superhero movie, we were given ten horrible adaptations (Catwoman, Hulk, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, etc).  Secondly, no super hero franchise seemed to provide us with an exciting and emotionally satisfying conclusion.  As good as X-Men and X2: X-Men United were, X-Men: The Last Stand was a tangled mess.  Likewise, Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 were amazing achievements, but Spider-Man 3 was so bad that Marvel was forced to scrap the franchise and start fresh.  So after director Christopher Nolan brought Batman back from a hell of Joel Schumacher‘s design with 2005’s Batman Begins, there was a solid reason to wonder where he was going.  The fear grew even more after he raised the bar with 2008’s The Dark Knight which broke box office records, had an immeasurable effect on the culture, and forever altered the public’s view of what a superhero film could be.  Tonight, we were given the opportunity to see if Nolan could break the threequel bad-luck streak with The Dark Knight Rises.

WARNING:  THIS REVIEW IS PURPOSELY VAGUE AS TO KEEP IT FREE OF SPOILERS.

The Dark Knight Rises picks up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight.  With Batman pegged as the murderous villain who robbed Gotham of District Attorney Harvey Dent, Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) has been able to clean up the streets in the name of his fallen brother-in-arms.  The Dent Act allowed Gordon to all but wipe out organized crime in the city, leading Gotham to a new era of prosperity.  In the wake of these changes, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse, disappearing from the world at large.  But when a terrifying and mysterious new villain named Bane (Tom Hardy) comes to town, everything changes.  After a spectacular attack on Gotham’s stock exchange, Bane plunges Bruce Wayne into poverty and Gotham into class warfare that threatens to destroy the city from within.  With his city, his company and his family’s name in danger, Bruce is forced to step out of the shadows and try to stop this villainous enemy with the help of his tech-savvy confidant Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), a skilled cat burglar named Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a sharp and honest beat cop named John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), his trusty butler Alfred (Michael Cane), and a wealthy Wayne Enterprises investor, Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard).

After all the worry and concern about whether we would ever see a fitting end to a superhero trilogy, I am proud to say that the wait is officially over.  What Nolan does with The Dark Knight Rises is nothing short of spectacular.  This film, scripted by Christopher and his brother Jonathan, is not the light friendly fare of The Avengers.  Instead, we are treated to an ambitious 164 minute drama that keeps a laser focus on unfolding a story that gets to the deeper heart of the Batman mythos.  While it may not have the wild electricity of The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises instead works to bring an emotionally satisfying conclusion worthy of his previous films.  Unafraid to burden the audience with plot, Nolan charges forward with a story that pushes every character to their breaking point and beyond, successfully bringing his Batman trilogy to an enthralling crascendo that provides us all with much deserved closure.

Likewise, the cast absolutely shines.  Bale, who spends most of the film as Bruce Wayne and not the titular hero, turns in a layered performance filled with pain and struggle.  The weight of his responsibility forces him to confront the choices he has made and Bale delivers subtlety amidst the destruction.  Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle also turns in a stunning performance.  She manages to strike a perfect balance between sexy slink and guarded vulnerability that allows her to be so much more then just another hot girl in a skin tight costume.  Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman are, as usual, fantastic.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard both bring intelligence and conviction to their characters and Michael Caine delivers one of the strongest performances of his career, especially in a monologue that will soften even the hardest of hearts.  While comparisons will undoubtedly be made to Heath Ledger‘s epic turn as The Joker, Tom Hardy’s Bane is easily the most fearsome villain Batman has ever faced.  Smart, powerful, and in every way Batman’s equal, Bane is a terrifying mountain of a man who seems to always be one step ahead.  For every trick Batman has up his sleeve, Bane has an answer and, while not nearly as energetic as The Joker, his cold stare, steely voice, and raw power make him a force to be reckoned with from beginning to end.

While those searching will no doubt find fault in The Dark Knight Rises, the power of the film is undeniable.  From the bombastic visuals to the intimate and emotionally dramatic moments, The Dark Knight Rises is everything a successful finale should be.

RATING:  9/10

~ by Andrew Craig on July 20, 2012.

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