Written by J.T. Johnson
When “Batman Begins” was released in 2005, it was successful in telling the ultimate onscreen origin story for the Caped Crusader. Then, “The Dark Knight” hit the ground running in 2008 with a great crime drama that also featured Heath Ledger’s incredible portrayal as the Joker. Now, director Christopher Nolan ends his Dark Knight Trilogy with “The Dark Knight Rises”, an exciting if slightly uneven film that is a great conclusion to Nolan’s universe.
It has been eight years since the world has seen Batman (Christian Bale) after he set himself up to take the fall for Harvey Dent’s murders in the last film. The lie, co-conspired by Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), has apparently worked. With Dent firmly established as a false martyr, the city has cleaned itself up.
Of course, this is not truly the case. A masked villain named Bane (Tom Hardy) has shown up in order to prove that Gotham is still corrupt and in need of saving. After Bruce Wayne decides to return as Batman, Bane also makes it his special mission to break the Bat once and for all and take over the city.
The film has many twists and turns and definitely takes its cues from some of Batman’s biggest stories. If anyone was looking for the inspiration behind the story, they should pick up “Knightfall”, “The Dark Knight Returns”, and “No Man’s Land”. With these stories as the script’s backbone, Nolan has successfully captured an epic tale.
Now, comparisons to “The Dark Knight” are inevitable. In this regard, it is regretful to inform that this film doesn’t quite match the excellence found in that film. It has less to do with any particular characters or the plot and more to do with pacing. This film introduces several scenarios and characters at once and it’s hard to see at first where the story might be going.
Not only is Bane trying to destroy the city while Wayne struggles to return as the Batman, but Gordon is trying to deal with being an aging soldier, a new character named John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is an idealistic cop who Gordon quickly trusts and Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) is a cat burglar who is trying to clear her name. And breathe. With this many elements, the first hour struggles to tie all the threads together and the movie is weaker as a result.
However, once the action gets going and the characters do fall into their places, the film never lets up. Batman has one new gadget called the Bat, a sort of helicopter that is just as impressive as the Tumbler and the Bat-Pod. The great thing about the Bat is that, like the other two vehicles, this machine feels right at home in Nolan’s universe.
The performances are back in full-swing as well. Hardy is great as Bane and it was great to see how Nolan adapted him to this particular world. He is not the insanely muscular beast found in the comics, but he is still a force to be reckoned with and is a genuine physical and psychological threat to Batman.
Bale once again turns in a great performance as both Batman and Wayne as the character struggles to come to terms with his self-imposed “retirement” and his inevitable return to the cape and cowl. Wayne has been out of action for several years and it also doesn’t help that his previous crusade against crime has left a few permanent scars. His decision to return as Batman has also caused a new strain between him and his loyal butler, Alfred (Michael Caine).
Caine adds another interesting element as his relationship with Bruce has changed. He wants Wayne to give up his reclusive life and go out into the world and get a real life. Caine is great at playing the sadness Alfred feels when Wayne goes the other way and becomes Batman against his wishes.
Hathaway is quite formidable as Catwoman this time around. The anti-superhero was played abysmally by Halle Barry in 2004′s “Catwoman” and it’s great to see her being taken seriously again for the big screen. Although, there is one slight problem in that she is not quite as developed as other characters. With all the attention paid to setting up the other players, it was a surprise to be let down by Kyle’s rather anemic development beyond the fact that she’s just a bad girl trying to clear her name.
One of the best performances in the film comes from Gordon-Levitt as Blake. This is a cop that has the same skills that a younger Gordon may have once had. The biggest difference between the two is that Blake still believes in Batman and the work he did with Gordon in cleaning up the streets. Gordon-Levitt’s performance helps make the character’s genuine development even more believable.
Overall, Nolan has crafted one of the better trilogies to come along in quite some time. The film dares to give a few twists on the established Batman mythos while at the same time remaining true to the source. It may not be the most polished film in the trilogy, but it is definitely one satisfying conclusion.