The darkest chapter by far in the groundbreaking series, as well as the first PG-13 movie I would advise parents to view before their children; The Dark Knight Rises arrived to theaters a few months ago to millions of movie goers waiting with bated breath as to how director Christopher Nolan would end his critically acclaimed revamp of the Batman mythology. Will Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) die? Will Gotham flourish or burn in flames? And, this reviewer’s most asked question, will Anne Hathaway sink her claws into or merely scratch the surface of the role of Catwoman?
To find out the answer to the first two questions, I highly recommend seeing the film. But on the matter of Hathaway, her turn as Selina Kyle was probably the biggest surprise I’ve seen in a movie this year. The Devil Wears Prada star is excellent as the catlike jewel thief, who incidentally is referred to everything feline-related except Catwoman.
Set eight years after the events in The Dark Knight, Wayne – now a Howard Hughes-like recluse – is still nursing himself from his physically and psychologically damaging battle with the Joker. But the city is prospering; primarily because of Batman taking the fall for Harvey Dent/Two-Face’s crimes and murder. Gotham has a gleaming beacon of hope and all seems right until a darkness drifts upon them in the form of Bane (Tom Hardy) – an ultra-strong, destruction driven, genius who intends to bring the city it’s “reckoning.”
Things become darker, much darker at that point. But don’t let the tone of this film scare you away. The Dark Knight Rises is a mind blowing spectacle, with some of the best visual effects ever committed to screen and a knockout finale. Nolan uses the city of Pittsburgh (instead of Chicago as he did with the previous two films) beautifully to evoke the immensity of the struggling Gotham.
Bale gives his best turn as the caped crusader, delving much further into the psyche of Wayne/Batman and his sacrifice to a city that orphaned him as a child. Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman all return in top form and new faces like Marion Cotillard (as a potential love interest to Wayne) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a beat cop who just may get his own franchise one day are added for good measure. The villainous Hardy is also quite good in a very physical, body-driven performance, but of course comparisons to Heath Ledger’s psychotically unhinged turn as the Joker will always result in Bane’s inferiority in the canon of Batman villains.
While The Dark Knight Rises may not reach the same heights as its predecessor, or Nolan’s previous film Inception (his best work to date), it is a fitting end to a stunning series that has changed the way we look at the superhero genre and cinema in general.