The Dark Knight Rises
Bottom Line: The Dark Knight Rises…rises but never falls.
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Alon Moni Aboutboul, Anne Hathaway, Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Matthew Modine, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Tom Hardy
Editor’s note: Unless you honestly believe that “Bruce Wayne is Batman” is a spoiler (God help us all if that is so), then yes, this is a spoiler-free review.
I do love films very, very much. Otherwise I would not be devoting so much of my life to writing about them. I do have some cinematic pet peeves, however. My biggest, by far, is the art of “threequels”. It’s as if the filmmakers have a lazy idea that they can construct a great movie, follow it up with another great one, and then–now that they have the audience’s attention and anticipation–burn away all the guarantee for a great third entry with a continuing sequel that works more for money than for story. I could write a book about how frequently this occurs in the film industry. Christopher Nolan makes his epic Batman interpretation a rare exception, though. Admittedly, it isn’t the best of the trilogy; it’s close to nothing in comparison to 2008′s THE DARK KNIGHT, which is considered by many to be the greatest superhero film ever made. As the “superhero movie” begins to solidify as its own single genre, consisting of a fair range in quality like any other genre does, I would not likely hesitate to place THE DARK KNIGHT RISES in the top five.
We waited four years (a lifetime) for this massive conclusion, but the story takes off after twice that amount of time has passed. The film opens on the eighth annual holiday established to commemorate the life of Harvey Dent (played in THE DARK KNIGHT by Aaron Eckhart), the former district attorney of Gotham City. The city has been convinced that Dent was murdered in vain by Batman (Christian Bale), and has therefore branded him the enemy. Now they have someone else to fear, a man named Bane (Tom Hardy) who seems to communicate through an electronic voice box. Upon learning of this uprising terror, Bruce Wayne decides to return to his double life as the Batman (I am deeply sorry if I just spoiled the movie for all of you) and present himself as a hero come to save Gotham from destruction.
Director Christopher Nolan is aware of how to successfully assemble a great cast. We are greeted many of the memorable faces from previous entries (Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman) as well as some outstanding new ones (Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy). It’s actually very surprising that the name we’d least expect to enjoy in a film like this, is the one who shines brighter than everyone else. It’s Miss Hathaway in her fantastic performance as Selina Kyle. Not once is “Catwoman” mentioned in the film, but she represents the character even better than Michelle Pfeiffer did in BATMAN RETURNS. We assume within the first minute of her character’s appearance that she is intended to represent the fierce, feline female that we have seen so many times before, without the corny use of a special suit or overemphasized “puuurrrrr-fect”s. It’s quite impressive how well this is done. A close second would be Tom Hardy as Bane. We can forgive him for not being as classic as Heath Ledger’s Joker. Otherwise we’d be holding it against him for being unable to top an utterly unbeatable delivery. His electronic voice box also muddles his dialogue quite a bit. But we’re talking about a character who doesn’t need very many lines at all to succeed.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is, in whole, a well-rounded conclusion. At two hours and forty-four minutes, it takes its precious time to put a lid on the presentation of well-known, contemporary mythology. Ironically, this is the most engaging entry in the trilogy, despite significantly exceeding the run times of the first and second entries. Better yet, it ends on a very strong, albeit surprising note. Again, there’s no fun in seeing it if I spoil anything, so I won’t. The film commences like a fresh sheet of paper, then grows darker and more thrilling with every passing scene, rarely ever blemished in its conveyance. Many thousands words ran through my mind as I sat in the theater, and “disappointing” was never one of them.