Review - The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises (2012), R, 164 minutes - The final installment to director Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy is one that I have been waiting for since I walked out of the theater in 2008 after my first viewing of The Dark Knight.  It was also easily the number one flick on my personal Most Anticipated films of 2012 list, and for good reason.  Nolan shows once again that he is a master at his craft, deftly piecing together character building, story beats, and action sequences to create what just may be the best trilogy finale of any franchise.

The Dark Knight Rises takes place 8 years after the events of The Dark Knight.  Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has locked himself away in the rebuilt Wayne Manor and retired the Batman persona. Gotham has experienced an unprecedented time of peace as Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) has taken full advantage of the Dent Act (named after former District Attorney Harvey Dent) and the power it allows him in locking up Gotham's criminals.  As the city has been lulled into a false sense of security, Bane (Tom Hardy) - an exile of Ra's Al Ghul's League of Shadows - heads an underground army with plans of giving Gotham back to the criminals.  Bruce Wayne realizes that Gotham needs him like it did in the past and he dons the cowl once more in an effort to thwart Bane and his guerrilla army.  Picking up where he left off isn't as easy as he thought it may be, and he gets a good bit of help from some expected sources: Commissioner Gordon, his protege Officer Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and long time Wayne Industries right hand man Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman).  As well as from some unexpected: cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), love interest Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard).

Nolan does an amazing job of introducing the new characters (Bane, Blake, Kyle, and Tate) and giving each of them their own voice in this story.  It helps that he has such an amazing cast.  Tom Hardy has a mask over the majority of his face throughout the entire movie, yet he still manages to convey emotion very well just through the look in his eyes.  Somehow I've gotten this far without mentioning Michael Caine, who returns as Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred Pennyworth.  And as usual, he is the voice of reason behind Wayne.  You can tell that while he is 'the help', he really is family to Bruce, and one scene at the end of the film is very emotional as a result.  It is a scene that could easily come off as forced or overdone in less capable hands, but Cain absolutely nails it.

The Dark Knight Rises is (in my opinion) the best movie of the summer.  The Avengers was excellent and record breaking, but it was so different in tone.  The two films are great in their own ways, but I think Rises gets an edge in that it is able to build upon and harken back to the two films that came before it.  There are so many themes that run throughout this movie that touch back on Begins and Dark Knight, and they are all tied up satisfactorily when it is all said and done.  Rises may not win an Oscar (a la Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), but I think someone would be hard pressed to come up with a third installment from another franchise that packs the punch that this does.  If you are a movie fan on any level, this is an absolute must see.


- I'm not real familiar with the comic book version of Bane, but I do know that in the Knightfall story line, he slammed Batman down over his knee, breaking Batman's back.  So I was pretty happy to see that they worked that into the movie.  I do plan on going back and reading Knightfall now out of curiosity.

- They did an excellent job of making Bane look as menacing as he was.  Tom Hardy is a well built fella, but isn't all that tall in real life.

- I really have only one complaint with the film and that was that it took about half of the movie for me to tune into Bane's voice.  It was very hard to understand at first.  Of course, this could also be due to the sound system in the theater that I saw the movie in.  I hope that upon another viewing I'll be able to better understand him.

- Anne Hathaway was an excellent Catwoman.  There's never been any doubt that she looked the part, but from what I've read of the character in the comics, she was a great fit for the part.  I also loved how they snuck in Selina Kyle's 'sidekick' of a friend, Holly (the blonde girl that was always hanging around her).

- I loved the turn the story took when Alfred got fed up with Bruce and left him to his own devices.  It really made the scene at the end in the family cemetery very emotional.

- The tease that Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character would become Robin (or even Batman in an R.I.P.-like way) was great.  I felt that way even if his character didn't go by any of the names that any comic incarnation of Robin has gone by.  I'm not so much of a comic purist that that bothered me.  I thought it fit in with the story that was being told quite well.  I also think that Gordon-Levitt could fill either role if Warner Brothers decided to use the end of Rises to launch another film in the DC Universe.

- I was glad to see the twist towards the end where Miranda Tate was actually Talia Al Ghul, Ra's Al Ghul's daughter and Bane was her protector.  It just played truer to the comics than Bane being his heir - although, just like the Robin thing, it would have worked just as well because of the way it was presented in the story.

- Christopher Nolan has been an amazing director on this trilogy, but I would be remiss not to mention David S. Goyer as well.  He co-wrote all three installments in The Dark Knight Trilogy.

- I still think that The Dark Knight is my favorite film in the trilogy because of Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker.  I do think that Rises is probably a better film overall from a nuts and bolts standpoint.  It just does such a great job of touching on themes that carried over from the previous films and tying them all together - Batman telling Commissioner Gordon who he really is in much the same way he told Rachel Dawes in Begins, or going back to the question 'why do we fall Bruce?'.


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