After the world saw The Dark Knight back in 2008, only one question remained: How is Christopher Nolan going to top that? The bar was set high, perhaps too high. With expectations through the roof, The Dark Knight Rises remarkably comes to a satisfying conclusion and has nicely put The Dark Knight trilogy to rest. Personally, my favorite is still TDK, however, the two films are almost completely different. Perhaps that was the only way for Nolan to make another one is to change the direction and tone. I don't blame the guy one bit. TDKR is able to bring the story full circle and bring one hell of an epic journey to a close and the credit has to go to the magnificent storytelling, a masterful director, and amazing performances.
The Dark Knight Rises picks up eight years after The Dark Knight. Batman (Christian Bale) went from a hero to a fugitive and Bruce Wayne has been in exile, hidden away from Gotham and the rest of the world. He carries the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, a lie that both Batman and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) were hoping would be for the greater good. And it works for a decent amount of time. The anti-crime Dent Act keeps criminals off the street for good and crime is basically non-existent. But all good things must come to an end. A man by the name of Bane (Tom Hardy) emerges to start an army and begin a revolution. He wants to watch the city crumble and will destroy anything in his path to make sure it happens. Bane is an angry man and Batman may be no match for his physical and mental madness.
While Bane is far more dangerous and scary, Anne Hathaway plays Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman) and while she has a few tricks up her sleeve, it is a betrayal that becomes the real game-changer in this film. Kyle is a slick thief who only cares about herself. Or does she? Hathaway's character doesn't take up as much screen time as the rest of the guys do, but she does stand out when she is on it. It's Kyle who is most unpredictable and she keeps her emotions to herself for most of the film. But Hathaway isn't the only female who makes her presence known.
Marion Cotillard plays Miranda Tate who is on the board at Wayne Enterprises and who Wayne himself wants to take over in his place. He trusts her with the most secretive things that his company has to offer. Now whether she will she be able to handle all of this is a different question all together. It does feel like in TDKR, the ladies get to shine, but only in glimpses and never rise to their full potential. Hathaway and Cotillard do a great job with what they were given, but it's the guys who rule this film and the entire trilogy for that matter.
Containing great actors such as Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, and Michael Caine as part of your supporting cast is unimaginable. Freeman is never in too many scenes as Lucius Fox, but his part is pivotal. He has always been the creator of everything Batman, and Freeman brings so much more to a character that could easily be one-dimensional. Oldman as Commissioner Gordon is splendid. I love Oldman and how he makes the Commish come across is uplifting. He is a survivor and never stops fighting for Batman or his city. Oldman relishes in TDK and he pulls out all the stops for TDKR.
Then there is Michael Caine as Alfred, Wayne's closest friend and mentor. They are as close to a family as you can get. Alfred has always been the character to provide some sort of meaning for everything and does so with emotional intensity. And Caine is only in a handful of scenes, but he makes every single one count. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the newcomer and he plays a normal cop named John Blake. He is not afraid to question and confront the system he works for, and he keeps the entire film grounded. He is just a simple guy trying to do the right thing for the city he loves. And for some reason, even with him being surrounded by all of these larger-than-life egos, he keeps his feet firmly on the ground and holds his own. It truly is an example of the ordinary doing the extraordinary.
Tom Hardy is a hard-working actor and has portrayed many colorful individuals on-screen. He deserves all of the recognition for his performances and this one is no exception. We have already seen a version of Bane on film and it was laughable. But Hardy's Bane is ruthless and seeks only destruction. He is not just a muscle-bound fool who goes around smashing everything. He has just as much intelligence as he does muscle, and that's a deadly combination. And the one thing people love to do is compare villains, but I will not do it. Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker is mesmerizing and will go down in cinema history. With that said, Hardy has no choice but to make his own path and vision of who Bane should be and where he comes from. He is a different kind of threat to Batman and Gotham City. He is a physically intimidating beast that is numb to pain, and all of the wreckage and devastation is not for nothing. There is a master plan to it all. While you may not hear or understand everything Bane says, he is the only villain in this trilogy that is able to take Batman to his breaking point. Bane is no joke and neither is Hardy's terrific performance.
Christian Bale is hanging up his cape and mask and does so while going out on top. He is a hell of an actor and now an Oscar winner. And while it is certainly a huge task to become the Dark Knight himself, Bale has really evolved since Batman Begins. And I really believe in The Dark Knight, he broke through to another level of the Batman character. I must say, with each film Bale gets better and better, and he is at his absolute best in this one. It's a significant change-up for him this time around mainly because he is more Bruce Wayne than Batman. Bale is definitely up for the challenge and digs deep in to the complex, troubled soul of Wayne/Batman. I think it is about time he gets at least some award nominations because this version is unlike any other we have or will ever see again.
The Dark Knight trilogy is undoubtedly one of the best trilogies in film history. And part of the reason why is because it was in good hands and under the reign of Christopher Nolan. You honestly forget you're watching a superhero movie due to being so captivated by it all. He creates suspense, thrills, and IMAX action sequences that will shake the theater to its core. At the same time, there is raw emotion and intimate moments that are shared between characters, no matter if they are good or evil. Everything seems to be leading up to something grander, and watching Batman come face-to-face with The Joker was exciting, and waiting in anticipation for Batman and Bane to throw down gets the blood pumping.
This entire trilogy, including TDKR, is full of surprises, but the biggest one of them all is how satisfying the ending is to such an epic story. It's a rare thing, but Nolan has achieved it. It's spectacular entertainment in top-notch form. The Dark Knight Rises finishes with closure and acceptance. And the same should go for all of us who have been apart of this brilliantly well-crafted journey that we will never go on again, but had the pleasure of at least going on it once. What a ride.