"The Dark Knight Rises" is the third and final installment in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy and it's set 8 years after "The Dark Knight". Bruce Wayne has given up being Batman as well as completely exiling himself from society after taking the blame for all of Harvey Dent's murders in the previous film. He then chooses to become Batman again after learning of a new threat to Gotham City, a masked terrorist named Bane who is dedicated to completely wiping out Gotham. This movie features the return of previous cast members from the trilogy, with Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Marion Cotillard serving as new additions to the series.
I remember when I first saw this movie in theaters and I personally loved it along with a good majority of people who saw it. Most people seemed to find it a more than satisfactory end to the trilogy, but since its release its seemed to draw some backlash with many people finding it as not only disappointing, but just a bad film in general. I've rewatched this movie many times and upon watching it for the sake of this review, I've come to this conclusion: I still think this movie is great.
The thing that I personally love about this movie is that it succeeds in being a story that's focused solely on Bruce Wayne and how his decision to be Batman is having an effect on everyone. Bruce's decision to give up being Batman plays into the conflicted feelings Commissioner Gordon is having over portraying Harvey Dent as a hero, as well as how his butler Alfred feels about Bruce going back into the field. This isn't shown any more clearly than the scene in which Alfred decides to leave Bruce after failing to convince him not to be Batman again, a scene that's very emotionally resonant due to an excellent performance from Michael Caine. Unfortunately, this leads to less screen time for Caine compared to his roles in the previous two films, but he makes the most of what he's given and Alfred as a character helps shine light on the more humanistic aspects of Batman and how vulnerable he is without someone like Alfred by his side.
The thing about this movie that divides people is the fact that Batman doesn't have a lot of screen time. This is true as we see more of Wayne than we do Batman, but I actually liked seeing that since this movie puts a lot of emphasis on Bruce Wayne's journey in becoming Batman again. In fact, I'd even argue that even when Batman does show up a hour into this film, it's not even really Batman so much as it is Bruce Wayne wearing a suit and trying to convince himself that he's Batman despite his physical ailments and distorted psyche. When Bruce is thrown into the pit for the movie's second half and he's trying to overcome his injuries and climb himself to freedom, we get the returning motif of fear and how he can actually use it as an ally to help him become Batman again. I'll tell you, the scene where Bruce manages to finally climb out of the pit is a scene that always sends chills throughout my body. Hans Zimmer's score is amazing to listen to mixed with the "Deshi Bashara" chant and given everything that Bruce has gone through, it's great to see him learn what it takes to be Batman and prove himself as Gotham's true hero.
The new villain introduced to this movie is Tom Hardy's Bane, a villain who's more of a physical challenge to Batman than anything else and we see that demonstrated on more than a few occasions. At first we see small things such as him simply choking one of his men or swiftly taking out a group of security guards, but we get to see him at his most formidable in his first fight with Batman, a fight scene that's very brutal to watch. There's no music and all you hear is the sounds of punches being thrown and Batman's continuing frustration as he realizes that he's no match for Bane. Simply put, Batman gets his ass kicked, Bane snaps his back, and throws him down the aforementioned pit. I love Bane as a villain because he's intimidating, he gets shit done, he's brutal, and he shows a very authoritarian style that cleverly parallels notable real life dictators. Tom Hardy is amazing in the role as his performance about doing things such as emoting solely with his eyes as well as playing off of the potentially ridiculous voice, but I actually like the voice very much. Overall, Bane is one of many great villains in this trilogy despite the controversial twist at the end of the movie which I'll discuss later in this review.
Another new character that I really liked was Selina Kyle/Catwoman, played perfectly by Anne Hathaway. Catwoman is more of an anti-hero who doesn't take sides, she just has her own set of beliefs that tend to lean towards the more moral side of things despite her cold demeanor. That, and the face that she's like another version of Batman. She can sure as hell handle herself in a fight, she plays off of Batman extremely well, and there's the side of her that's generally heroic and for the greater good even though one small misstep can push her over the edge and make her out as the villain that most people already view her as.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a police officer named John Blake, a very important character as he essentially will be Batman's replacement by the end of the film. He's aware that Bruce is Batman and there are plenty of times where he can be seen as a younger Bruce Wayne. He lost both his parents at a young age and he's one of the few good cops in the city who actually believes in fighting corruption and serving true justice. Hell, there's even a small scene in the movie in which Blake takes a life and immediately shows regret over it, something that you'd just as easily expect from Wayne. It's slightly ambiguous as to who Blake's crime fighting persona will be once he takes over for Bruce, but I'll get into that once I start discussing the ending itself.
Back to Bane, his plan is basically to hold Gotham City hostage with a nuclear bomb and also just watch as the city tears itself apart from the inside. When you think about, Bane's speech about the oppressed rising up and taking back their city is really all he needed to say in order to unleash Hell on the city. As the Joker said, "When the chips are down, these 'civilized' people will eat each other." And that's exactly what's happening. The threat of a nuclear annihilation is just an added bonus for Bane. This leads into the climax of the movie, a climax with a lot going on, but not too much. You see as Commissioner Gordon and John Blake are gathering an army of their own to take back Gotham from Bane and you really get the sense that this is Gotham's final stand. The sense of finality is built up very well and when it all comes to a head, it plays out in grand fashion.
Once Bruce is back in Gotham and he's taken up the role of Batman again, we get a great scene where he ignites a flaming bat symbol, thus calling out Bane for the whole city to see. This leads to a final battle in the streets of Gotham with Bane's army going up against all of Gotham's cops as well as Batman and Bane fighting in the midst of it. Their second fight isn't as brutal as the first fight, but it gets very intense near the end when Batman actually manages to break Bane's mask, the thing that supplies him painkillers after a gruesome face injury. Bane goes berserk as he tries to fix his mask while simultaneously pummeling Batman, but Batman prevails and subdues Bane, leading into the twist that Marion Cottilard's character of Miranda Tate, supposed ally and love interest of Bruce Wayne, is conspiring with Bane as they are both members of the League of Shadows, Ra's al Ghul's organization from "Batman Begins". Not only that, but Miranda Tate is actually Ra's al Ghul's daughter, Talia al Ghul. The one thing that people hate about this twist is that it supposedly makes Bane less badass and makes him seen as more of a servant than the main villain. I personally don't see that at all as I saw it as more of a Emperor/Darth Vader dynamic from "Star Wars" instead of just Bane being Talia's bitch. After that reveal, Talia leaves Batman with Bane as she goes to secure the nuke from Gordon and Catwoman. This brings us to the one disappointing thing about this movie and that would be Bane's death. He ends up dying after Catwoman just shows up on the batpod out of nowhere and then blowing him away in a very rushed segment where his death is almost a "blink and you'll miss it" moment. I would've preferred something more like his mask getting completely ripped off and him slowly dying as pain is the major theme in this movie, but oh well.
Batman and Catwoman now engage in an very intense, nail-biting chase scene as they try to chase down Talia and the nuke all while John Blake is trying to evacuate people off of Gotham before the nuke blows. This all makes for a very exciting climax and it ends with two notable things. One is Talia's awkward death scene after she crashes her truck and Cotillard does her worst impression of someone falling asleep. The second is a bit more impactful and relevant to the story as Batman decides to fly the nuke out to sea and let it detonate, presumably killing himself in the process, but not before another emotional scene in which Batman reveals his identity to Gordon, a revelation that adds much more depth to their relationship. Watching these scenes in the theater for the first time was actually rough to watch considering how invested we all got into Batman and the sight of the nuke detonating presumably with Batman in it while everyone was watching made for a very emotional sequence. After that, we're shown the aftermath of everything as Gotham is saved once again and the city mourns Batman as his name is finally cleared. The people who knew Bruce was Batman (Alfred, Gordon, John Blake, and Lucius Fox) are all shown to be grieving in their own ways until they each get a piece of information that indicates Bruce to be alive and well. Lucius finds out that the Bat was on auto-pilot as it carried the nuke to sea, Gordon is given a new bat signal, Blake receives coordinates to the bat cave, and Alfred personally sees Bruce himself starting a new life with Selina Kyle at his side.
I think this movie makes it very clear that Bruce is alive and well and that Alfred isn't just hallucinating for whatever reason. That part isn't meant to be ambiguous in my eyes. The ambiguous part is concerning who John Blake's crime fighting persona will be now that he's Bruce's successor. It's revealed that Blake's real name is Robin, an obvious nod to Batman's crime fighting partner in the comics, but that's just it: It's only a slight nod. I don't think Blake will become Robin nor will he go on to become another variation such as Nightwing. I choose to believe that Blake will be another Batman as Gordon is in possession of a new BAT signal, as well as this trilogy's emphasis on Batman being an incorruptible symbol that can live on forever. If Blake decides to just become Robin (naming your persona after your name is a dumb move anyway) then the message of the entire trilogy is lost.
With everything said about this movie and the trilogy as a whole, I think "The Dark Knight Rises" is a great conclusion to a great trilogy. It completes the arc that is Bruce Wayne's journey in the beginning, the fall, and the rise of Batman as a symbol and how it would go on to affect Gotham City for better or for worse. The trilogy completes this story as best as it possibly can and what we get is one of the better film trilogies ever made as well as what I think is the best comic book film series of all time.
Rating: Better Than Sex!!