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The Dark Knight Rises

by on July 19, 2012
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A spectacular epic, “The Dark Knight Rises” fully succeeds in meeting the high expectations of its predecessors and makes for one of the more satisfying summer entertainment experiences since “The Dark Knight” three years ago.

Picking up 8 years after “The Dark Knight,” “Rises” finds Gotham city enjoying a boom period where organized crime is virtually off the radar in the city thanks to the Dent Act, which allowed police to imprison most of the city’s scum and incarcerate virtually all of them.

Batman (Christian Bale) is off the radar, a pariah who took the blame for Dent’s fall and is believed by most to have murdered the famed district attorney. Bruce Wayne is left hobbled by his experience with the Joker and Two Face and has become a recluse. His company is limping along, a shell of what it was when Bruce was in control.

But the city’s peace is built on a spectacular lie, and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) is considered a hero but carries the guilt of allowing someone else’s dirty hands to wash his. Meanwhile, police officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) sees the city becoming complacent and suspects Batman may not be the villain he’s being made out to be.

Bruce’s grip on his company is slipping quickly, although Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) suggests Bruce has an ally in Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) and a possible romantic interest as well.

Enter Bane (Tom Hardy), a masked hulk of a villain with his own plans for Gotham, which, if you’ve seen the trailer has something to do with ashes but nothing to do with a smoking ban.

The film also features Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, a catburglar who sure knows how to fight. She stings Bruce and is much more an influence on him than she’d like. Hathaway makes for a tremendous Kyle, using none of the gimmickry or flamboyance Michelle Pfeiffer brought to the role in “Batman Returns” but creating every bit as memorable a character.

The triumph of “Rises” is once again that it manages to be a huge action superhero epic, but remains focused on character along with its rather thickly layered politics. There’s a heavy undercurrent of the “99%” versus the “1%” that has dominated much of our political landscape the past few years. But Bane is no social champion, and his attempts to introduce anarchy have disastrous results.

The Bruce/Alfred relationship again gets center stage here, at least early on, and it’s one of the few downbeats in the film that their relationship is dropped for the sake of advancing the plot later on.

The action is amped up and is a mixture of aerial combat (there is no Batmobile this time around, though several Tumbler vehicles are serviced). Instead Batman uses the Batpod from the last film, and the Bat, which is best described as sort of a wicked jet/helicopter hybrid, maneuverable like a plane with a propeller underneath rather than on top of it.

Visually, Nolan improves his action sequences greatly, pulling the camera back and showing the actors fighting rather than quick-cutting, close-up blurs of hands, feet and elbows flying. The vehicular sequences, on the other hand, are as spectacular as ever.

The battles between Batman and Bane are big and brutal but still personal and intimate. Bane dominates Batman physically and mentally alike. If he’s not as memorable a villain as Heath Ledger’s Joker, Hardy at least creates a worthy match and a more menacing, deadly one.

Lest I pile on too much praise, there are a few instances where leaps in logic are made that strain credibility a time or two, but I’ll admit I am willfully and freely overlooking them in favor of the film’s hefty action sequences and crackling emotion throughout. Occasionally, the film feels exhausted carrying the weight of its themes, but it’s satisfying nonetheless.

The film, and the trilogy, wraps up nicely and, without giving anything away, is brilliant both narratively and from a marketing perspective given all of the hype and speculation leading up to the film’s release. If you’ve kept up with the news, you’ll be OK, but I’d recommend against looking at actual spoilers.

“Rises” definitely has a feeling of finality, and reports and marketing materials suggest that Nolan is closing out the series. If that’s the case, he certainly does so on a high note. It’s a huge film with lofty ideas that are executed almost flawlessly, save a few clunky moments here and there. As it stands, “Rises” sits not just at the top of the superhero-movie and summer-movie heaps, but is near the top of the list for best film of the year.