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When Christopher Nolan rebooted the Batman series back in 2005, it was clear that this was not Joel Schumacher’s cartoony, action-figure promotional abomination. This was something special. Now, seven years later, he completes what many would call the best superhero trilogy ever to be created.

The Dark Knight Rises picks up eight years after The Dark Knight ends, with Gotham blaming Batman for the death of Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne turning into a bit of a recluse. Some of the only complaints of 2008’s The Dark Knight were that Bruce Wayne, and Batman as well, were not very interesting. Bruce Wayne is a very passive protagonist in that film, reacting to the events around him but never really taking charge. Not so in this film. Bruce Wayne finds himself dealing with the guilt of losing the love of his life in the previous film, and he must also deal with the effect the absence of Batman has had on Gotham. The movie opens with the arrival of Bane, brought to life with a frightening and layered performance by Tom Hardy, as Batman must act in order to save Gotham from certain destruction.

Tom Hardy’s portrayal as Bane is top notch. Obviously, the late Heath Ledger’s portrayal as The Joker is widely considered to be one of the greatest performances of all time, particularly for a villain in a superhero movie. Tom Hardy as Bane is on par, and is, in many ways, a more interesting villain. Not only is he menacing, brutal, and extremely intelligent, but Hardy also gives Bane a multi-level performance, showing his vulnerability and his, dare I say it, a soft side.

Along with Bane, TDKR brings in multiple characters that did not appear in the first two films. Another villain, although I use that term loosely, is introduced in the form of Selina Kyle, with an excellent performance by Anne Hathaway. Kyle, also known as Catwoman (although she is never referred to this way in the film), is less a villain in this film and more a foil to Bruce Wayne. Hathaway, who had many skeptics prior to the release of the film, really nails the role. She is athletic, sassy, and has a surprising amount of depth. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard join Tom Hardy in this Inception reunion, playing Officer Blake and Miranda Tate, respectively.

Many people are calling this final installment in Nolan’s Batman trilogy an allegory to the Occupy Wall Street movement, exemplified by Selina Kyle’s line to Bruce Wayne at an extravagant ball, “There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.” The film works on this level, while also working as a popcorn movie, with Nolan’s elaborate set designs, realistically flashy costumes and vehicles, and an assortment of memorable characters.

While The Dark Knight Rises does not quite live up to The Dark Knight, it is still an extremely fitting end to the series. Christian Bale’s sendoff performance to Bruce Wayne and to the Dark Knight is worthy of the quality that the previous two films have established, and the remaining cast, particularly Anne Hathaway and Tom Hardy, do a terrific job, as well. While there are moments in the film that are predictable and there are some occasional slow moments in the middle, this is still a must-see film for any Batman fans, or Christopher Nolan fans, or fans of movies, in general.


Movie Review by Mike Danner mike danner