Dan's Review: The Dark Knight Rises

A grand finale to an awesome trilogy.
The Dark Knight Rises (Warner Bros.)

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language.

Starring Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, Josh Pence, Liam Neeson, Nestor Carbonell, Alon Abutbul, Matthew Modine, Tom Conti.

Written by Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer, based on comic characters created by Bob Kane.

Directed by Christopher Nolan.

GRADE: A

REVIEW:


The greatest 'Comic Book Summer' is drawing to a close with the grand finale in Chrisopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. After the nominal success of Batman Begins (2005) and epic runaway hit The Dark Knight (2008), expectations were high for the final chapter: The Dark Knight Rises.

The story picks up eight years after the capture of the Joker and the death of Harvey Dent (Two Face). Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is a broken man; a recluse content that most crime has been cleaned out of Gotham City due to legal reforms enacted in the name of Harvey Dent. During a party at his home, a cat burglar named Selina Kile (Anne Hathaway) robs Wayne's safe, stealing his dead mother's pearl necklace - and a set of his fingerprints.

Meanwhile, a powerful masked terrorist named Bane (Thomas Hardy) captures a nuclear scientist in a daring mid-air operation, with designs on blowing up Gotham in an act of redemption for its greed, crime and overall lack of social morals.

As Wayne and Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) track Kile, they discover Bane's plot to  bring Gotham to its knees. Wayne and Gordon are assisted in their investigation by Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Alfred (Michael Caine), even though Wayne Enterprises has suffered through financial downturn. Joining the crimefighters is Gotham police officer "John" Blake (Joseph Gordon Leavitt), who impresses Gordon and is promoted to detective. Wayne also develops a romantic relationship with Miranda (Marion Cotillard), one of his company's investors who is trying to fund the development of a clean energy nuclear reactor (which Bane plans to exploit for other purposes).

When Bane pulls the trigger on the big Gotham takeover, he traps most of the police force underground and cuts the city off from the outside world. The big takeover allows Gotham's citizens, criminals and innocents to form their own lawless society where kangaroo courts are held, the wealthy are stripped of their possessions and the corporate elite are made to pay for their crimes, often by execution (take that, Occupy Wall Street). Bane also kicks the living crap out of Batman, snapping his spine and depositing Bruce Wayne in the same underground prison he grew up in. Wayne recuperates over several months with the help of another prisoner (Tom Conti), trying desperately to climb the stone walls so he can return to Gotham and stop Bane's plans to nuke the entire city.

(Spoliers follow)

Wayne succeeds and returns to Gotham where he tries to recruit Selina ("Catwoman") over to his cause. He also plots with Blake, Gordon, and Fox to take Bane down before his nuclear bomb goes off.

A huge battle ensues.

Go see the movie for the rest...and by "go see the movie," I mean, "as soon as possible, and probably many times," because The Dark Knight Rises is AWESOME.

Christopher Nolan's vision of The Dark Knight Rises is a perfect ending to the Bruce Wayne story. Nolan's Batman is not some sort of campy comic book send-off; it's stripped of all pretense and focuses in on one man's struggle with his own tragedy and the ideal of real, tangible justice. The Dark Knight Rises picks up perfectly where The Dark Knight left off, and finishes the story arc from Batman Begins. Speaking of Batman Begins, there are a lot of pivotal plot points taken from Nolan's first installment in the series, including Wayne's history with the League of Shadows and its leader Ra's Al Ghul (Liam Neeson, who makes a new cameo along with flashbacks to Batman Begins).

Some may flinch at the absence of a transcendent villain like Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight Rises, and also take issue with the mask worn by Thomas Hardy as Bane. To them, I say, "So what?" Did you really think Nolan could find anyone to top Ledger's incredible performance? It's good thing they didn't try, and allowed Wayne's story of justice and Gotham's redemption to play out instead of burdening us with too many villains, or a villain that tries too hard.

Some will take issue with Bale's signature "gravel" voice whenever he's in the Batman suit, but I think it's time to let that ship sail. It's part of the character, now, so live with it. Bale's performance is noteworthy and improved since the trilogy began, and his supporting cast is right there with him. The addition of Joseph Gordon Leavitt is also very welcome, and gives The Dark Knight Rises and ending that will leave Batman fans squealing with glee.

A lot of people have asked me if The Dark Knight Rises is better or worse than The Avengers, Summer 2012's other comic book movie blockbuster. To them, my best answer is: they are two very different kinds of movies. One is a great moral tale of crime and justice, while the other is tale of superheroes who form a great union to save the earth. If you pressed me, I'd say the The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises are in a virtual tie in terms of overall cinematic quality, and have given geeks like me the best movie summer of our lives (not to mention a Spider-Man reboot that wasn't bad, either). No matter how you rank them, this should be one great lucrative year for Hollywood ("you're welcome," say comic book creators and fans).

The aforementioned ending of The Dark Knight Rises is the grandest payoff of all. The last 10 minutes of the film are devoted to an epilogue that all Batman fans want and deserve.

I was skeptical that Nolan would be able to improve upon The Dark Knight, but I was wrong.

He has truly risen to the occasion.

*The Dark Knight Rises opens everywhere at midnight on July 20. Megaplex Theaters will hold a Dark Knight Rises party Thursday night.


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