So, we have come to the end of the trilogy. Whether or not it was envisioned this way by director Christopher Nolan or not doesn’t matter. The fact is that The Dark Knight Rises is the end of the series by Nolan. It is also an excellent film that manages to cap off this amazing run of three movies that re-imagined the Batman in a gritty and “realistic” style that tried to ground the unbelievable story of Bruce Wayne and his alter ego in a nearly-believable world that we could relate to.
The movie takes place eight years after the events of The Dark Knight where Batman battled the Joker and Harvey Dent was turned from Gotham’s white knight into a disfigured monster known as Two-Face. Batman took the blame for Dent’s death and the murders of several policemen and has been missing ever since. Bruce Wayne, meanwhile, has become a Howard Hughes-style recluse that no one has seen in as many years.
Gotham, meanwhile, has become almost crime free. Commissioner Gordon is also a hero, having brought peace. The prison is filled with criminals prosecuted under the Dent Act and Gotham has turned itself around.
Then, two things happen. The first is that Selina Kyle shows up in Gotham. Kyle is a cat burglar extraordinaire and is so good that she walks right into the reclusive Bruce Wayne’s room, steals his mother’s pearl necklace.
Then, around the world, a seeming exchange of a hostage ends up revealing the existence of a powerful force called Bane. Bane is a terrorist who is ruthless, vicious and capable of breaking a man’s neck with one hand. He has plans for Gotham because it seems he has come into control of the League of Shadows – the group that Batman battled in Batman Begins. He wants to fulfill the goals of that organization and destroy Gotham. However, Bane is so cruel that before he destroys Gotham in fire, he wants to utterly break its population and its hero.
The movie is epic in scope and execution. The screen is filled with sweeping images of Gotham (really Pittsburgh with some digital manipulation). The gadgets are even more spectacular and the potential outcome of the battle between Batman and this villain is even more in doubt and the very existence of Gotham hangs in the balance.
Nolan has done well. He has managed to elevate the superhero genre into something almost respectable. He began with Batman Begins and rebooted the franchise in a way that set a new standard. Then he brought the entire genre to levels above costumes and origins with The Dark Knight into something akin to the finest crime and detective films in movie history. Now he concludes the trilogy with an epic battle between Batman and a true force of nature in the form of Bane.
Bane, in the comics, was super strong and actually broke Bruce Wayne’s back, making him paralyzed. The Dark Knight Rises manages to pay homage to that seminal part in the comic book history, but changes things just enough to make it its own.
In fact, this movie feels like one for the comic book fans. Characters show up in this film that only the most diehard fans will appreciate. There are hidden characters, as well, that you watch throughout the film and only realize, at the end, who they are and can appreciate with a knowing nod and a wink.
The film is excellent. The action is spectacular. The final moments are edge-of-your-seat and thrilling.
All of the actors are excellent. Bale manages to shine as Wayne and Batman, as he has all along. Michael Caine, as Alfred, really should garner some kind of nomination. Truly shining in this one is Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, turning in one of the best portrayals of Catwoman ever done.
However, the film is flawed. It does not quite rise to the level of perfection that was achieved in The Dark Knight. Perhaps that is just because, however, important Bane is to the Batman legend, he is still not the Joker. The Joker, in many ways, defines the character of Batman. Bane is just a powerful thug, even in the comics.
Tom Hardy plays Bane. He does a great job despite the fact his face is hidden behind a mask the entire time. And, I am sad to say, as much as I hoped it would not be the case, it is often difficult to understand what Bane is saying behind that mask. Many of his speeches are muddled and muddy and key words are missed.
What’s rather strange is that the muddled words happen with other actors. Gary Oldman, as Jim Gordon, is also hard to understand at times. And, of course, Batman still has that rough voice that many criticized in The Dark Knight, is also hard to understand at times.
Although the movie does not approach the Everest-like heights of The Dark Knight, it does not let the fans down. Anyone who has come this far with Batman in this particular journey will likely not be disappointed. The movie may not sing, but it does manage to hum quite well and that may be about the best any of us could have hoped for given the standard set by the second film.
So far, in a summer season filled with promise and delivering mostly so-so and disappointment, this one manages to surpass the others. Of the movies out so far, this is one of the best of the summer blockbuster season.
As a side note, a preview of the movie Man of Steel was shown before the movie in the theater I saw. The movie is a reboot of the Superman movies, however, it may be a few moments before you even realize that it’s Superman. The movie is set for a 2013 release and is produced by Nolan, but directed by 300 and Watchmen’s Zac Snyder. If the teaser preview is, in any way, an indication of how good the movie will be, then Superman fans should be excited for next summer.