“The Dark Knight Rises” concludes trilogy on a strong note
In 2005, eight years after director Joel Schumacher’s “Batman & Robin” seemingly put an end to the “Batman” movie franchise, a little-known filmmaker by the name of Christopher Nolan presented a new take on the caped crusader. The result was an unforgettable trio of films that put Nolan on the map and revolutionized the way that we look at not only comic book films, but entertainment in general.
What makes Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy stand out from any other DC or Marvel adaptation, even the previous “Batman” films, is how grounded in reality the films are and how the films focus primarily on story, character development and social and emotional motifs of all shapes and sizes. “Batman Begins,” for example, is a relatively intimate look at the power of fear and ability to overcome it. “The Dark Knight” upped the ante, focusing on the everyday struggle between hope and chaos.
Therefore, it is only fitting that the third and final installment is presented on an epic scale, mixing together weighty themes like pain and sacrifice. It’s not flawless, but “The Dark Knight Rises” is an altogether satisfying conclusion to a spectacular trilogy.
The film picks up eight years after the conclusion of “The Dark Knight.” As one character notes, it’s “peacetime” in Gotham. The “Harvey Dent Act” has resulted in the arrest of nearly every criminal in the city and it appears as if there’s little to worry about, nonetheless, some find themselves on edge for one reason or another. Commissioner Gordon (the always welcome Gary Oldman) is the only one who knows the bleak truth about Harvey Dent, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has shut himself up in Wayne Manor and there’s a storm slowly brewing below in Gotham’s sewers.
Said storm comes in the form of Bane (Tom Hardy), a massive figure with a complex mask that covers up all but his eyes and portion of his head, as well as a grand scheme to enclose the city and take down Gotham’s elite. Wayne, meanwhile, sees the need for Batman’s return, even if it comes at the cost of his own life.
Running at 165 minutes, “The Dark Knight Rises” is thoroughly engaging, if a tad excessive. The film’s cinematography and many action sequences are nothing short of spectacular (the much advertised football stadium scene and the last half-hour, which packs in car chases, street fights and startling moments of revelation, are notable highlights).
Unsurprisingly, the acting is uniformly excellent. Despite a surplus of new cast members (many of them holdovers from Nolan’s most recent film, “Inception”), everyone gets their moment to shine. As quick-witted jewel thief, Selina Kyle, Anne Hathaway has a lot of fun with her role, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers a committed performance as a young cop with an admiration for Batman. Although Michael Caine (Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred) spends most of the film offscreen, the few moments that he shares with Bale’s Wayne pack a devastating punch.
Where the film falls a bit short of its predecessors is in Nolan’s handling of the many plot developments. Bane takes center stage, but there are at least a dozen other subplots with which the audience must navigate, which ultimately render the film overwhelming and subsequently lacking in some of the emotional heft of the previous installments. It doesn’t help that Bane, despite being the deadliest adversary of the series, is also the least interesting (a shame, since Hardy does a noble job). When we’re not struggling to understand what he’s saying beneath his mask, we’re too focused on other characters to care much about the hulking foe.
That being said, the pros far outweigh the cons; “The Dark Knight Rises” is a gripping, exhilarating conclusion to one of the best trilogies ever made, and effortlessly outshines almost everything we’ve seen this summer (save for, oddly enough, “The Avengers”).
4 out of 5 Dolphins