When Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins arrived in 2005 it changed the superhero genre forever. It was dark, it was geared towards adults, and it blended a great story with great effects and acting. No one expected Nolan to top Batman Begins, but he did, and The Dark Knight went down in the history books as one of the greatest superhero films ever made. Could he do it again with his third and final Batman chapter, The Dark Knight Rises? In short, yes, and amazingly he did it better than the previous two films.
After Batman took the fall for Harvey Dent’s death he has not been welcomed back to Gotham City. But Gotham doesn’t need his help as the streets are the safest they’ve ever been with most criminals locked up for good. Bruce Wayne, his alter ego, has also gone into hiding and is now a grumpy recluse who barely has the patience to talk to his butler, Alfred (Michael Caine). But when Bane, a beast of a man with a creepy breathing device on his face, shows up and threatens to wipe out the people of Gotham, both Batman and Bruce Wayne must come out of the shadows to fight him.
First things first, Bane is no Joker. He’s not fun. He’s big, mean, and scary, and Tom Hardy is a pure monster underneath the mask. When he and Batman (Christian Bale) go toe-to-toe, it’s painful to watch the beating he gives him. The voice, which they have gone back and dubbed over, is even more haunting.
The addition of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman had me worried. I really had no expectations for her in the role and yet she blew me away with her performance. She played it differently than Michelle Pfeiffer did in Batman Returns and it worked well and left a lasting impression. Although they never do call her Catwoman.
A lot of the film focuses on Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s rookie cop, John Blake. He does a fine job in the part and it would have been great to see more of him. Same goes for Marion Cotillard, who plays Miranda Tate, a Wayne Enterprises board member.
As for Bale and Gary Oldman (who returns as Commissioner Gordon) they deliver equally brilliant performances as they had in the previous films, but with more angst and emotion. Unfortunately Morgan Freeman (who returns as Lucius Fox, head of Wayne Enterprises), did not have as big a part as before and we only got to see him turn on the charisma once or twice. However, it was nice to see Alfred really grow from a secondary character into one of the main characters this time, and Caine’s performance even choked me up a little when he was trying to get Bruce to not return as Batman.
With a near 3-hour running time I never once felt bored or felt that it was dragging. When there’s action, it’s insane action, and when there’s backstory, it’s invigorating and exciting. Even the underlying political message of the 1% versus the 99% was incorporated well and didn’t bring the film down.
Nolan has tightly wrapped up his Batman trilogy and has left a huge legacy behind that will be tough to beat when they inevitably reboot the franchise. Go see it on the biggest, loudest screen possible and be prepared to be rocked.
Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Top image: A scene from The Dark Knight Rises. Courtesy Warner Bros.