Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Morgan Freeman. Written by Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Noland and David Goyer. Directed by Christopher Nolan.
There’s a great piece of fan art floating around the interwebs that takes the three promotion posters of Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, using the bat symbol as the point of reference, and combines them into one piece of art. Bolstered by the words "birth", "fall" and "rise", each piece of the Bat logo is individually recognizable and separate from the others, but when put together, they form a powerful and seamless image. That piece of art perfectly encapsulates Christopher Nolan’s take on the Bat-mythos. While The Dark Knight’s flaming bat symbol both takes center stage and shines brightest, Rise’s visage of the buildings of Gotham forming the Bat Symbol in the skyline, rising above, is the perfect symbol of the dénouement of both the film and the series as a whole.
The advance press of The Dark knight Rises promotes the breaking of the bat, but by the time we’re reintroduced to Bruce Wayne, one could argue that due to the prior actions with the Joker and Two-Face, Batman is already broken. With the concurrent arrival of both Selina Kyle (Hathaway) and the brutal force of nature Bane (Hardy), Wayne is more or less forced back into the Bat suit. Taking cues from iconic Batman comic storylines of The Dark Knight Returns, Knightfall and the less famous No Man’s Land, Nolan crafts his storyline in a way that ties all three films into a fully coherent storyline with no plot threads left unattended. The storyline of The Dark Knight Rises is thorough – at points almost too much so. Though the two-hour and forty-minute runtime sprints briskly, one feels that Nolan, knowing this was his final foray into Gotham, threw absolutely everything at you – leaving no stone unturned. From the mid-air opening scene introducing the menace of Bane to the final battle for Gotham City taking place in front of Gotham’s version of Wall Street (how the whole Occupy movement SHOULD HAVE ended, I may add). Nolan’s portrayal of Gotham City and its inhabitants as an actual character shines through. One could argue that the true damsel in distress throughout the three movies is Gotham itself, with the city being a mirror for ourselves. Ardent comic fans are treated to a respectful take on their favorite characters, with the caveat being that those same fans are also the ones robbed of the impact of one particular plot point.
In The Dark Knight, Christian Bale may have taken a back seat to Heath Ledger’s transcendent portrayal of the Joker, but here, the focus is once again on Batman, as he marches along to his ultimate fate. While no one approaches Ledger’s performance this time around, everyone involved brings something to the party. Bale’s Bruce Wayne/Batman has stayed consistent throughout the series, and here is no different. It’s with that consistency that Bale allows his opposite numbers to shine in their own right. Hathaway’s portrayal of Kyle, while lacking the overt sexiness of Catwomen past, is convincing in the sheer effortlessness of her actions onscreen. It’s a subtle take, which depending on your opinion of what Catwoman (and of Hathaway herself) is, either works or leaves you lacking. Hardy, on the other hand, is absolutely masterful as Bane. In the comics, Bane has always suffered from being billed to be more than he really was. Not here. Hardy takes the limited role of Bat-breaker, and actually makes Bane what he’s always supposed to have been, the brutal force of nature with the intellect to match Batman on every level. The holdovers of Caine, Oldman, and Freeman maintain their performances, though all three seemingly cede screen time to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s John Blake, admittedly in a role that with so much going on, truthfully feels a little superfluous. Gordon-Levitt overcomes that with a strong performance, considering the circumstances.
By the time the credits roll on The Dark Knight Rises, you’ll know you’ve just seen the conclusion of the quintessential cinematic superhero experience. What Christopher Nolan has accomplished at the helm of the Batman franchise was nothing short of making fantasy reality. In many ways, Nolan’s Batman films transcend the concept of the comic movie, creating a new genre all its own. As corny as it may sound, The Dark Knight Rises is the fitting end to the trilogy the fans deserve.