There, now you can breathe easy, because one of the most anticipated movies of the past five years is actually a treat to watch. While it may not be absolutely perfect, it succeeds where it absolutely needs to succeed, and the result is a satisfying, thrilling, and intense conclusion to one of the greatest superhero franchises ever put onscreen.
If you forgot where we are now in the trilogy, it is important to remember going in that Batman is still believed to have murdered Harvey Dent by the people and police of Gotham City. Unable to show himself, Batman/Bruce Wayne has shut himself inside his manor for eight years. Now, with the terrorist mastermind Bane threatening to establish a terrible new reign over the city, the Caped Crusader has to determine once and for all what it means to wear the cowl. Is it a symbol of justice, a symbol of redemption, or a symbol of vengeance?
(Good Lord, that sounded like the back of a movie box! That was awesome!)
All the hype aside, I had three big worries going into Rises (Aside from the very real possibility of having to see it alone; most of the key players were out of town, and my own father initially rejected me before eventually coming around. For a good 24 hours I was in panic mode.). One, I was worried that with the eight-year timeline gap between this movie and its predecessor, the movie would take too long in catching up the viewer and start out sluggishly. Two, I was worried that Anne Hathaway would flop as Catwoman. Finally, I was worried that the conclusion would leave me wanting more (or even worse, wanting a re-do). I did not want to be wishing for more Batman, especially when this was supposed to be the pinnacle of the Dark Knight story.
Thankfully, Rises put just about all of my worries to rest. We will go in order here. The first twenty minutes or so, aside from an absolute killer introduction to Bane, are a little slow. After all, there is no Batman, and the movie needs to catch everyone up on what has been happening in Gotham for the past eight years. It is somewhat annoying, especially given the aforementioned Bane scene and the looming threat that the viewer knows he will pose. You want to hit the ground running, but Rises does not quite let you loose right away; it needs to lay the groundwork first.
Second of all, Anne Hathaway is positively brilliant as Catwoman. She captures every single side of Selina Kyle’s personality, and somehow manages to find the perfect balance between the comic book character and Christopher Nolan’s adaptation. Batman fans will love her, movie fans will love her, and I think everyone will breathe a collective sigh of relief that they finally did Catwoman proper (some will say Halle Berry was hotter, but still). Her performance might be the best of the film if not for Tom Hardy’s Bane, but we will cover what a BAMF he is later.
You know what? Screw it. Bane was so freaking awesome in this movie we are going to talk about him right now. I will say first that comparisons to Heath Ledger’s Joker are both unfair and inevitable. The reason they are unfair is because the Joker and Bane are completely different villains. The Joker is more of a behind-the-scenes and screw-with-your-head villain while Bane is more of a screw-with-your-head-right-in-front-of-you-because-I’m-so-badass villain. Ledger had more room to act as the Joker, whereas Hardy sits behind a totally sick muzzle/mask and intimidates the living crap out of you. Both were immensely successful in portraying their characters, end of story.
Now we can just revel in Bane. In a word, he was commanding. Every single scene in which Bane was present, you knew it. The Vader-esque breathing, the ruthless stare, the cold eyes, he was nothing short of a presence. At least three times during the course of the movie I was attempted to lean over to my father during a Bane moment and mutter, “This is the most badass thing I have seen in a long time.” Goodness, he was a BAMF. He continually felt like a legitimate threat to both Batman and Gotham, and as you will see, he proved to be just that. He was complex, he was dominating, he was powerful, he was everything a supervillian was supposed to be, and you cannot ask for much more than that.
Finally, we can talk about the overall conclusiveness of the trilogy. In short, Rises finishes the job and finishes the job well. Batman is forced to define his legacy, and with it he defines the series. I will not give anything away (and anyone who does should be severely punished, you guys have no idea, huge pet peeve, but I digress), but just know that the series ends in a satisfying way. You walk out of the theater not feeling shorted or slighted in anyway. This is something that was given a lot of thought by Christopher Nolan, and it shows. It is a job well done.
To be fair, we have to cover the film’s shortcomings. I think that overall, Rises is a victim of its length (almost three hours!). A few things are shorthanded, a few characters (Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s rookie cop in particular) are underdeveloped, and quick explanations are offered through sometimes clunky lines of dialogue. As I said before, the beginning is a touch too slow, but things pick up quickly enough that you will not lose interest. So while the movie could have used a small degree of polishing, these flaws are ultimately akin to the grammar mistakes on an otherwise stellar essay; the content is magnificent, and that is all that really matters at the end of the day.
The Dark Knight Rises ends Christopher Nolan’s trilogy in brilliant fashion. If you thought Batman Begins was better than The Dark Knight, as I did, then the final installment is likely to be your favorite. The conclusion boasts an unforgettable villain, a strong supporting cast, Christian Bale’s best performance of the franchise, and an articulate story that concludes the tale of the Batman in an absolutely epic way. I give it an 8.5 out of 10, and the nomination for one of the top 10 best superhero movies ever. You will not be disappointed, you will not be let down. Go see Rises right now.