MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Superhero/ Stars: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman, Matthew Modine, Ben Mendelsohn, Burn Gorman, Juno Temple, Daniel Sunjata, Brett Cullen, Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Aiden Gillen, Desmond Harrington, Josh Stewart, William Devane/ Runtime: 164 minutes
I feel it must be said that any attempt to follow-up on a grand truly once-in-a-generation type cinematic experience like The Dark Knight was going to be a very risky endeavor, but then again Christopher Nolan has always been one director who could make a gamble become courtesy of a little magic into a sure thing. Indeed it was Nolan’s odd fixation on dual identities, psychological trauma, and just how dark one soul truly can become that really contributed quite a bit of the realism that helped Batman Begins back in 2005 go over as well as it did with both critics and the general movie going population. However it was when The Dark Knight decided to engage in telling a riveting crime saga based in the world of post-9/11, and in the process provided the late Heath Ledger an opportunity to put on a performance for the ages and astonish the entire world as a result, it really seemed like Nolan had also managed to corner the market on a new genre of comic book films known as “superhero noir”. Now we come to The Dark Knight Rises and this, by Nolan’s own admission, is his final foray into this extraordinary world, and, in the opinion of this reviewer, I think it is safe to say that this is a conclusion that is just as riveting as his first 2 acts to the story. Indeed this is a more-than-satisfying and trilogy-best conclusion to greatest comic book film series ever made. Indeed this isn’t only iconic filmmaking for a comic book film, but iconic filmmaking period. Indeed Nolan may have already shown that he was a true genius, but with this film he simply managed to etch it into stone for all time. Indeed take note: this is true movie magic at work. All you have to do is just sit back and watch in awe and wonder.
The plot is as follows: The Dark Knight Rises opens up eight years since the death of Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, and, quite astonishingly, Gotham has actually managed to find a way to attain an actual degree of peace. Yet for all the people who have managed to settle into and embrace this new time in the history of Gotham, the main individuals who are responsible for ensuring this peace have paid quite dearly for their noble actions. Indeed, as we soon see, Bruce Wayne has become a withdrawn and crippled individual who has no desire to move on from his days as Batman, Commissioner Gordon has found himself not really taking much pride in his work due to the weight on his shoulders in the form of the lie that he and Batman created to ensure Gotham could know the peace it now does, Alfred finds himself falling into sadness and resignation over Bruce’s lack of regard for his personal well-being, and Lucius Fox has been struggling to keep Wayne Enterprises afloat due Bruce investing a huge chunk of money in an energy project, but then, without explanation, shuttering it. Soon though everything in these people’s lives finds itself upended and thrown for a serious curve due to a cat burglar named Selina Kyle who, despite possessing an enigmatic set of motivations, does throw out a warning of a menace that is coming that will bring further doom and gloom upon Gotham. Soon enough, it isn’t long before this new menace manages to come forth from the shadows. A menace that goes by the name of Bane. Bane it turns out is a vicious, ruthless, and jacked to the muscular hilt mercenary who, in addition to a few secrets of his own, has arrived in Gotham with the intent to transform it into a city where those on the bottom rungs of society can take over from those at the top as well as also bring “absolute justice” to the wealthy, powerful, and morally bankrupt by any horrific means necessary. As such he needs to be stopped at all costs and it’s up to Gordon and Batman, with the help of a young cop by the name of Blake to try and thwart Bane and his menacing plans for Gotham before all truly is lost….
Now in regards to the returning cast from the first two films, I honestly feel that trilogy lead Christian Bale manages to deliver a truly powerful performance in this film. Indeed as an older, sadder, and horrifically banged-up both physically and psychologically Bruce Wayne he is not only completely believable and just as engaging as ever, but Bale also manages to showcase a wonderful sense of both reservation and soul in the proceedings. Indeed make no mistake when Batman does choose to come back in this film, it is a wonderful moment of pure joy don’t get me wrong, but this is a film that is much more about Bruce than Batman and Bale manages to send his wonderful interpretation of this iconic character off in a powerful and profound way. Alongside Bale we also get terrific back-up courtesy of an incredible supporting cast; in regards to the returning cast members Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine they all do reliably wonderful work for thespians of their skill level though special mention must be given to Caine. Indeed he might not have as much screen time as the prior films, but Alfred’s arc in this is not only one of the most meaningful and heart wrenching, but Caine also gets one of if not the most truly moving speech in the film; indeed do not be surprised if it brings you to tears as much as the characters.
We also as an audience manage to get powerful work from the new kids on the Gotham City Block Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anne Hathaway as we see that, amongst the new kids, Gordon-Levitt manages to provide audiences with a powerful and confident turn as the integrity-driven and actually amiable John Blake, while Hathaway proves to give a different take on Catwoman than Michelle Pfeiffer did in the role close to 2 decades ago yet is wonderful in her own right. Then there’s Tom Hardy as Bane and it wasn’t ever fair for audiences to expect him to give the next Heath Ledger as Joker performance. Indeed what Bane lacks in the ability to cause psychological terror, he more than makes up for sheer brutality and force. Indeed Hardy manages to give a performance that is absolutely riveting, dialogue comprehension aside, and manages to give Batman a challenger that is not only just as strong as he is, but maybe might be just as smart. In fact the only thing that really separates this pair might just be the fact that whereas Bruce is reluctantly brought back into the fray, Bane is committed to his cause from day one, and as such just might have an edge on Batman that no one ever thought possible before…
Now from the moment that the film opens, there is an overwhelming vibe in the air that this whole series of events might not go down as well as we would like them to. Regardless of the gloom present in the air however, this is one film which proves to be just as engaging as ever. Indeed from the jaw-dropping opening to the astonishment of the Heinz Stadium scene or the amazingly choreographed and just downright hard to watch first fight between Bane and Batman this is a film which is absolutely phenomenal and quite epic in nature. Yet I feel that a quite a bit of that can be accredited to Nolan’s brilliant style of ensuring that everything is as real as possible right down to the casting of thousands of extras and the utilization of real explosions, stunts, etc. Indeed this is a way of doing things that manages to work beautifully for the film while also ensuring that the action beats are realistic, engaging, and absolutely wonderful for an audience to cherish. In addition, I also feel that Wally Pfister’s mesmerizing work in the cinematography department really does aid the film tremendously. In fact I would go so far as to say that the dynamic duo that is Nolan and Pfister is one of the best creative partnerships in cinema.
Now it should come as no surprise to hear this, but this is a film that is both on an emotional and an intellectual level quite powerful as not only are people’s very lives at risk, but also some quite potent speeches are given as well. Indeed it’s worth noting that is also a film which is inspired in a lot of significant ways by none other than A Tale of Two Cities and the influences it leaves can most certainly be felt throughout the film to terrific and powerful effect as the film manages to deliver a potent analysis not only on terrorism and the divide between the various economic classes, but also about how a person can eventually find themselves becoming the very thing that they once feared. Indeed this is also a film which you could argue says a few things about the concepts of capitalism and the financial elite due to a sequence involving the Gotham City Stock Exchange, but perhaps I’m just looking at things that aren’t really there. Yet even with all these serious concepts in play, this is also a movie that knows that it’s just as important to have a little bit of fun be it new vehicle “The Bat” or a seemingly random comment made by Bane in regards to a young person’s singing ability. Yet it is this phenomenal blend of both comic-book fun as well as real-world concepts and themes that have helped make these movies so amazing and iconic.
All in all The Dark Knight Rises manages to conclude a trilogy of truly remarkable films with an even more remarkable and quite inspiring message. A message that consists of be it simply being there for a friend in need when they need someone the most or taking the time to aid a virtual stranger who is stranded on the side of the road, a hero truly can be anyone in the world around us and that is a beautiful thing to remember especially in a world quite like ours. Indeed Nolan’s final foray into this truly epic yet not quite dissimilar world is an extraordinary attempt at ensuring that he is able to provide a wonderful conclusion to a truly iconic series of film. Indeed with awesome gadgets, amazing action sequences, a truly complex but amazing all the same cast of characters, and a narrative that is the very definitions for both gripping and emotional, I promise you that whether you are a fan of this iconic character, this iconic series, or just iconic cinema period you most assuredly will not be disappointed with how all this wraps up. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Dark Knight Rises a solid 4 out of 5.