“As a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting,” Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) said of his alter-ego in Christopher Nolan’s 2005 reboot to the Batman movie franchise, Batman Begins.
This statement was then tested in 2008’s The Dark Knight, when the Joker pushed Batman to break his one rule of never killing, to no avail.
Now, in The Dark Knight Rises — Nolan’s final chapter to his Batman trilogy — Batman is up against Bane, a worthy adversary who brings Gotham to its knees, while testing Batman’s body and mind. The film is a thrilling conclusion to the trilogy, with enough drama and suspense to keep the adrenaline building.
Following the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne slips into a slump, hanging up the cape and cowl, and letting Wayne Enterprises slowly decline years after his alter-ego takes the fall for Harvey Dent’s crimes and demise.
Bane (Tom Hardy), a former member of the League of Shadows, comes to town, making Bruce and Gotham suffer for Ra’s Al Ghul’s death in Batman Begins. This brings Bruce out of his own shadow, donning cape and cowl once again.
Overall, The Dark Knight Rises shares its themes more with Batman Begins than The Dark Knight, as the film breaks away from the realistic crimes in the latter film to bring the series full circle in alignment with the story of the former.
The film balances action and drama in the narrative with mixed results. This is best exemplified by Bane, who interrupts the drama as he tears through Gotham with bombs, anarchy and a Sean Connery accent.
But as wonderful as it is to watch Bane push the caped crusader to the edge, the juxtaposition of action and drama was much more compelling in The Dark Knight, and more effective at building tension.
Aside from Hardy’s Bane, and a near auto-pilot performance from Marion Cotillard, the rest of the cast gave excellent performances. Actor Michael Caine grounds the fantasy in real emotion as Bruce’s beloved butler, Alfred.
Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt both surprise and convince viewers with their respective roles as a charming yet deceptive thief in a tight cat costume, and a young detective under Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon. Early on Levitt takes his cue from Batman’s brand of justice, foreshadowing his importance in the end.
Meanwhile, Bale lends more depth to his role as Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises than in his previous two performances. Here he plays a man broken by his own attempt to fix his world. Bale’s role evolves as Bruce pulls himself up and dusts himself off to save Gotham.
Bruce’s rise out of his own broken shell in this film evokes a scene from Batman Begins. When Bruce is a boy, he falls into a well and breaks his arm. Then his father rescues Bruce, comforting him by asking a question and then answering it:
“And why do we fall Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up again.”
The two best performances in the film, however, were delivered by Oldman and Caine, respectively as a police commissioner burdened by the weight and guilt of his own lie, and a butler tormented by the idea having to bury the last living member of the family he’s served for decades.
The Dark Knight Rises is at its best when it delivers the drama through the characters its audience has come to know and love over the last seven years. From the midsection of the film onward, however, Bane and his plans play out more like grandiose action spectacles, than the grounded crime drama in its predecessor.
Nolan’s conclusion of The Dark Knight trilogy satisfies nonetheless, as a well-developed finale to an instantly-classic trilogy.
A – Classic
B – Excellent
C – Okay
D – Poor
F – Forget it