Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy has the best qualities of comic book adaptations. After a shaky cinematic history, Gotham’s Dark Knight finally gets the respect he deserves with Nolan’s three films: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and the final installment, The Dark Knight Rises. Fans are given a fitting farewell in this final film, which ties up loose ends and provides a natural conclusion for our winged hero.
The Dark Knight Rises finds Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) as an eccentric recluse at his sprawling mansion. No one has seen him in years and he’s become an outcast from high society. His only contact with the outside world comes via Alfred (Michael Caine), who has grown concerned with Bruce’s mental state.
Bruce emerges from his self-imposed exile when he encounters Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) who slips into his house disguised as a maid and makes off with a set of his mother’s pearls and a very valuable copy of his fingerprints. But why would someone want Bruce Wayne’s finger prints? Possibly for an elaborate scheme involving stock trading, weapons technology and the complete breakdown of Gotham civilization.
This is where we meet our villain, Bane (Tom Hardy), the meanest respirator-wearing bad guy this side of the Death Star. Bane stands for chaos, for torture, for suffering, for all the things that Batman fought against. It is this evil leader who spurs Bruce into dawning the cape once again and setting out to save the city with the help of Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and a righteous, dedicated cadet named John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).
They learn that the target is Wayne Enterprises’ new energy project, which happens to involve a nuclear reactor with enough power to level the city, should it fall into the wrong hands. Thankfully, Bruce has Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Miranda (Marion Cotillard) to help him keep the project under control, but there’s no stopping the disastrous chain of events set in motion in the first few minutes of the film.
I’ll avoid any spoilers, but suffice to say that fans of the series will be delighted to see the twists and turns, back stories, flashbacks and appearances from past villains like Cillian Murphy and Liam Neeson that pay off the cinematic greatness established in the previous two films. Understandably, there is no pay off for the Joker, but we can’t help but long for a quick clip, a deleted scene, even a photograph of the late great Heath Ledger in the iconic role.
Legends like Caine, Oldman and Freeman turn out stellar performances in every scene and Hathaway, Gordon-Levitt and Cotillard fire on all cylinders as well. Bale brings us the morose loneliness of Bruce Wayne without going emo and gives us a hero that kicks serious ass, even with that exaggerated, growly voice.
Nolan’s trilogy proves that a superhero adaptation can be treated as a serious film, not just a fun explosion fest. He’s made Batman the respectable cinematic superhero, the one that film students and comic book fans can both appreciate. I pity whatever studio tries to license the franchise in the future because it would be pretty damn hard for any Batman film to compare to one of Nolan’s masterpieces.