Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises is a thundering finale to what is, undoubtedly, the greatest comic adaptation to film. His denouement is so epic, yet so personal and pertinent to our time, you truly forget you are watching a story of a masked vigilante. TDKR by itself is not the equal of The Dark Knight. That tale, the rising action, is the best singular film in the trilogy and stands firmly on the shoulders of Heath Ledger's titanic performance as the Joker. TDKR is the catharsis, the purging of all the issues laid down so brilliantly in the previous films.
This is a spoiler free review. TDKR has some HUGE surprises, MAJOR revelations that will catch many fans off guard. I implore everyone to do their best to walk in cold and experience the true majesty of this film. In fact, I can't believe that the real plot of this film hasn't leaked out yet. That's a beautiful thing. Trust me. It makes the movie much more memorable if you don't know what happens. Avoid spoilers at all costs.
The Dark Knight Rises begins eight years after the events of the last film. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) has been falsely propped up as the savior of Gotham City. His death, along with the policemen who died with him, galvanizes the public to virtually eradicating crime. And to lay the blame squarely on the Batman, who has not been seen since. Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), burdened with the weight of this deception, knows that the peace is a sham, that Gotham is still on the precipice. He finds a kindred spirit in a young officer, John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who knows that the city will need Batman again.
Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse. Weak, hobbled, he rots away in Wayne Manor until an encounter with a burglar dressed as a maid alarms him. A beautiful, sly brunette, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), has stolen his mother's pearls...and his fingerprints. As he traces down this Catwoman, he learns that the League of Shadows is not destroyed. That it is still a threat, and is now led by a terrifying, hulking brute called Bane (Tom Hardy). This spurs Wayne to come out of retirement and don the cowl once again. However, this enemy is unlike any other Batman has ever faced. His loyal companion and caretaker, Alfred (Michael Caine), fears that his master may have finally met his match.
The word 'rise' in the title is truly the arc of the film. There are many damaged souls in the plot that need to rise above their demons in order to be set free. First and foremost is Bruce Wayne. Even as he resurrects Batman to fight again for Gotham, he is still the wounded orphan beating bad guys to a pulp. One of the most memorable scenes in TDKR is a brutally honest reckoning with Alfred, who has no desire to bury another Wayne. He desperately wants his young master to unshackle himself from his burdens and find happiness. This is also the goal of Selina Kyle, who has lived in poverty, made a life of stealing from the wealthy, but is overcome by her past. She is a slave to Catwoman as much as Bruce Wayne is to Batman.
The 'rise' theme continues unexpectedly with anarchy versus social justice. The prescient issue of our time is the vast gap between the wealthy and the poor. Who knew the 1% and the 99% would be a topic in this film? As Bane and his cohorts execute their villainous plan against the city, they target the wealthy and unleash the spite of the poor on them. I thought these were some of the best scenes in the film. Nolan shows how anarchy and terror can never resolve any injustice, economic or otherwise. The mob mentality is given a wide berth here and it's pretty scary.
TDKR is akin to a slow boil that congeals to a tasty stew. The runtime is a whopping two hours and forty-five minutes of unrelenting plot development. There's a lot going and Nolan takes no shortcuts to get there. He's building to a considerable resolve. This slow drip of story mixed with character exposition is pure genius. I don't think we actually see Batman until thirty minutes into the film. Nolan's skill as a filmmaker is just so damn good.
Audiences are going to love this film. I would be hard pressed to find a fan that isn't completely blown away, especially by the awesome ending. I am not sure if it will put up Avengers numbers because it is so thematically dark. If you're not seeing The Dark Knight Rises this weekend then you simply aren't a fan of cinema. I think I'll go stand in line for the midnight show.