Reviewer's Rating: ★★★★
By JOHN WIRT
November 09, 2012
Writer-director Christopher Nolan doesn’t disappoint with The Dark Knight Rises. This third piece of the Batman saga Nolan launched in 2005 with Batman Begins and pushed to greater heights with 2008’s The Dark Knight wraps the trilogy up with drum-pounding suspense, action tantamount to warfare and more heart than the first two installments combined.
Following the disastrous events of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne is a broken recluse who stays in his mansion, ignoring Wayne Enterprises and his vast wealth. As for Batman, he’s been branded a villain, blamed for the murder of District Attorney Harvey Dent.
Meanwhile, all seems well in Gotham City, the New York-like mega-city that’s gone without the Dark Knight’s protection for eight years. Batman’s old ally, Police Commissioner Jim Gordon, runs the Gotham police department. The city’s jail is overstuffed with criminals.
Yet there’s an undercurrent of dissatisfaction among the people, plucked by the writers from recent news stories about Occupy Wall Street protests and the expanding gap between the super-rich and non-rich.
Powerful, patient evil waits to capitalize on the discontent. Visionary, effective evil arrives in the form of a man who, like Wayne, wears a mask and is practiced in the ways of the martial arts vigilantes known as the League of Shadows.
While Heath Ledger’s villain in The Dark Knight, The Joker, was demented and massively destructive, Bane, the new bad guy in Gotham, is a masked terrorist.
Played by British actor Tom Hardy beneath a mask, Bane bares obvious resemblance to another super-villain in black, Darth Vader. Motivated, merciless and remarkably successful at achieving his terrorist goals, Bane earns super-criminal status.
Nolan’s Batman movies are always many stories above other superhero movies. The director and his co-writers Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer do it again in The Dark Knight Rises by creating complex characters and building a densely woven, escalating series of menacing events within a film that maintains the brooding tone and look of the previous films.
Illustrating the movie’s multi-layered characterization, Catwoman, making her first appearance in the trilogy, is a bad kitty, a master cat burglar whose life of crime has hardened her, though she’s still not so easy to peg.
Joining Christian Bale as Batman/Wayne, A-list actress Anne Hathaway pounces as Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman. The most seductive Catwoman yet, Hathaway looks great in her shiny black cat suit. And there’s nothing cartoonish about this feline fatale. She purrs and scratches.
Series regulars Michael Caine and Gary Oldman return for worthy farewell performances. Caine, co-starring as Wayne’s faithful butler and de facto parent, Alfred, expresses the normally cool domestic servant’s emotions as never before. Oldman is in the treacherous thick of things as the earnest Commissioner Gordon.
Caine, Oldman and another encoring, but less featured in The Dark Knight Rises cast member, Morgan Freeman, are more examples of the quality ingredients Nolan puts in his Batman movies. The latter actors have shelves full of acting awards and nominations, including Oscars.
Joining the movie’s other Oscar winners, French actress Marion Cotillard co-stars as Wayne’s rich, sophisticated and heartbreakingly beautiful new love interest, Miranda Tate.
Depth of story and characters make The Dark Knight Rises’ numerous action sequences all the more exciting and resonant. As a catastrophic deadline looms, Gotham desperately needs heroes and there’s so much for them to do. When the battles rage, a new mode of Batman transportation, The Bat, gets lots of flight time. Like The Dark Knight before it, The Dark Knight Rises, despite being two hours and 45 minutes long, wastes no time. Regardless of a third act twist or two that’s difficult to buy and Bale’s affected, guttural manner of speech as Batman, the movie is a grand slam finale.