Review of The Dark Knight Rises

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The third and final installment in Christopher Nolan's Batman film series, The Dark Knight Rises is the sequel to 2008's The Dark Knight. Christian Bale reprises his role as Bruce Wayne (Batman) while Gary Oldman, Sir Michael Caine & Morgan Freeman all return to play their respective characters as a terrorist leader called Bane arrives in Gotham City, pushing its hero to breaking point and beyond. Anne Hathaway plays Catwoman.
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Movie Review: "The Dark Knight Rises"

-- Rating: PG-13 (acts of violence, intense action and sensuality)
Length: 164 minutes
Release Date: July 20, 2012
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Genre: Action/Adventure/Crime

As the epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan's ("Inception" and "The Prestige") Batman trilogy, "The Dark Knight Rises" is a triumph on many levels. From just a filmmaking viewpoint, the sets, costumes and camera work are impressive. There isn't a single weak link in the cast. The story is elegantly and intricately woven like a spider web. It is a film that begs for further viewing and thoughtful discussion.
There are a lot of action sequences, and they start right from the film's beginning, which introduces the Bane character using a bait-and-switch scenario with the CIA. A jaw-dropping midair aircraft jacking, on-board shootout and decoy plane crash all assault the senses of the audience within the first few minutes of the film. Bane is associated with the mysterious League of Shadows, an organization first introduced in "Batman Begins." Although he is burly and quite intimidating with his strange facial mask and voice box, Bane speaks eloquently and commands utter devotion from his followers. Actor Tom Hardy is no Heath Ledger, and Bane is no Joker, but he brings a sense of measured and calculated sanity to Bane.

At this time, Bruce Wayne is living the life of a crippled recluse. Batman took the blame for the death of Gotham's beloved district attorney, Harvey Dent. Wayne also suffers from the death of the woman he loved, Rachel Dawes. The once prosperous Wayne Enterprises falls into financial trouble despite the best efforts of Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). One reason for this was the shelving of a fusion energy reactor, a project deemed too dangerous by Mr. Wayne. This reactor becomes the MacGuffin driving the film's plot.

Even with all of the impressive eye candy, the film achieves what many of the genre lacks or just fails to properly balance-emotional resonance. As one example, Michael Caine's performance as the long-suffering and caring butler, Alfred, is capable of bringing tissues to many an eye. He tries to convince Bruce Wayne that Batman is not the answer to Gotham's problems and that he needs to return to society as himself. Alfred's greatest wish is to see Bruce happy with a woman and to have a family of his own someday.

Anne Hathaway is not only stunning as Catwoman, but she commands attention whenever she appears on screen, from her first "Oops" that was uttered when she was caught mid-robbery by Mr.Wayne. Her presence is just felt by the audience, and she adds a bit of lightness to a film that takes itself very seriously. Even though she displays a lighter devil-may-care attitude, her shame and desire to clean up her criminal records bubbles to the top.

The story takes a contemporary and brave route as themes of civil unrest, economic despair, class warfare, spirituality, morality and sacrificing for the greater good are adeptly explored. Gotham seems lost in uncertain times, and the people are ready to cheer the downfall of the bankers and well-to-do class. Later, with Armageddon literally available to him at the push of a button, Bane offers to give the city back to the people, but in reality he has set himself up as a dictator. The formerly oppressed end up becoming the oppressor, or as the saying goes, "Ultimate power ultimately corrupts."

Batman is not just a superhero story. Bruce Wayne has always been about protecting people, and this final installment gives closure to many of the storylines of people that he cares about. Yet this need for protection is also mirrored in the story of the antagonists, Bane and someone who is revealed as a surprise. Wayne also has to overcome himself by getting out of his own way. A large philosophical question haunts him and the audience: How hard will a man fight if he is not afraid of death?

This is a satisfying conclusion to the Batman trilogy as it intersects and makes connections with "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight." For instance, Commissioner Gordan suffered immensely over the fact that Batman took the flak for him and that Harvey Dent was viewed as a hero. However, he redeems himself as he places himself in mortal danger in the search for the unstable reactor. The film leaves the doors open for the characters, with beautifully constructed final scenes. This may not be the last time we see Batman, Catwoman and Robin.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars