Christopher Nolan’s trilogy comes to a close with “The Dark Knight Rises”
Dark clouds are gathering over Gotham.
“There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne,” cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) purrs at one point in “The Dark Knight Rises.” “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.”
That day of reckoning comes all too quickly in the sequel to “The Dark Knight.”
Eight years after the deaths of Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawson sent Batman into hiding, Gotham is enjoying a period of peace and relative prosperity under the leadership of police Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman).
Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), meanwhile, has spent the years in self-imposed exile, virtually a hermit in his own home. Most of his family fortune is gone, invested in a failed clean energy project with Wayne Enterprises board member Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). His career as Batman is over.
“You hung up your cape and your cowl, but you didn’t move on,” butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) chastises a gaunt, bearded Bruce. “You’re just waiting for things to go bad again.”
Then two things happen that pull Wayne back into the game: sneak thief Selina (Hathaway) swipes some fingerprints from his safe — kidnapping a senator in the process –and beat cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) alerts him to an underground army making mischief in the city’s sewers.
Both Kyle and the mysterious, masked terrorist known as Bane (Tom Hardy) want the same thing: a clean slate. But while the cat burglar simply wants to clear her lengthy criminal record, Bane has something more ambitious in mind: by storming the city stock exchange, stealing Batman’s arsenal and busting open Blackgate Prison, he plans to liberate Gotham — then raze it to the ground.
With his city in danger, it’s time for the Dark Knight to don his uniform once more.
An expansive epic that delves into the darkest recesses of the Batman mythos, “The Dark Knight Rises” sets its story of obsession, arrogance and despair in a world reminiscent of our own: torn apart by economic turmoil and led astray by charismatic, manipulative men. Without giving too much away, it’s a plot that pulls elements equally from the French Revolution and the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Director Christopher Nolan punches up the action with intense fight scenes, frenzied chases and several stunning set pieces. (The film opens with a mid-air kidnapping guaranteed to rock your socks.) Only during a few of the movie’s more somber moments does the pace drag.
Just as Nolan demands much of cinematographer Wally Pfister, he commands strong performances from his large, talented cast.
Christian Bale brings his usual brooding intensity to the double role of Bruce Wayne/Batman, whose emotional and physical wounds leave him unprepared for Bane’s brutal assault.
As Batman’s nemesis, Tom Hardy — his emotions masked by a monstrous prosthesis straight out of Japanese anime — must rely on his burning eyes and powerful body language to convey menace. If his voice, oddly tinny and surprisingly erudite, is distracting, his terrifying bulk speaks volumes.
Anne Hathaway completes the trio as a sly, seductive crook whose vulnerability can be glimpsed through occasional cracks in her crafty facade. Whether purring threats or kicking butt in high heels and a skintight catsuit, she proves she can keep up with Batman.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is equally as absorbing as John Blake, an idealistic orphan-turned-police officer who burns with the same anger that Wayne once felt. Like Batman and Bane, he’s driven by an obsession that, if unchecked, can shatter lives, ruin relationships and level cities.
As for the older members of the cast, Michael Caine puts in a deeply moving performance as a man who can’t stand to see his surrogate son destroy himself. (He urges Bruce to start a new life away from Gotham, warning that the city holds “nothing but pain and tragedy for you.” ) Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman — reprising their roles as rumpled cop James Gordon and genius inventor Lucius Fox, respectively — are reliable as ever.
The rest of the vast cast includes Ben Mendelsohn as a scheming industrialist, Matthew Modine as a gutless peace officer and Nestor Carbonell as an oily mayor. And yes, there are a few fun cameos to boot.
With its lengthy runtime and complicated storyline, “The Dark Knight” may not be Nolan’s best Batman movie, but it represents a satisfying (if somewhat pat) conclusion to a remarkable saga. Franchise fans will walk away with a sense of closure, and a conviction that the Dark Knight’s legacy will live on.
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