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THE DARK KNIGHT RISES – Movie Review

Like many, I have been eagerly anticipating The Dark Knight Rises, the finale to Christopher Nolan’s masterful Dark Knight trilogy.  However, coming off the heels of The Dark Knight, which featured an Oscar-winning performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker, there was a lot for this film to live up to.  This is the last film in the series, and in order to be successful, it needs to give the fans a real sense of closure with the characters and universe in general.  And while it definitely doesn’t top The Dark Knight, nor is it a perfect film, The Dark Knight Rises is as good as summer blockbusters get, and serves as a satisfying ending to the series.

The film picks up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, where Gotham is in peacetime.  Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has been out of the public light during this time, as he is still recovering from the sadness and dread he felt from the events eight years before.  However, as a rebellious army led by Bane (Tom Hardy) starts to terrorize the city, it’s up to Bruce to rise up as the legendary Batman to put an end to it.

The acting, like in all Christopher Nolan films, is terrific.  Bale once again delivers as Bruce Wayne and Batman, this time conveying more raw emotions.  He shows us a different side to the character and portrays it effectively.  As he lives his life as a recluse, we’re connected to him as a character and want him to rise up as the Dark Knight to stop the evil at hand.

There are a lot of newcomers to the Dark Knight universe; all of them welcome additions to the series.  Many were apprehensive about Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, but she pulled off the role beautifully.  She found a great balance between a strong, commanding charisma while maintaining a light-hearted, banter-filled relationship with Batman.

Tom Hardy as Bane makes for a truly menacing, effective villain that imposes the biggest threat Gotham has ever seen.  Hardy had a hurdle to get over through his performance, as there is a mask over his face.  He had to rely on his voice and his eyes, which work to great effect in his performance.  He’s physically intimidating and feels like a definitive threat, while coming off as intelligent and creepily charming through Hardy’s voice work.

Another standout is Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake, a good-hearted cop who still believes that Batman is a hero.  He tries to help the citizens of Gotham as Bane’s army takes over, and he makes for some of the most compelling screen time in the film.

The emotional core is what drives the film to great heights.  There is a realistic sense of dread, hopelessness, and danger at every moment, heightened by the brilliant cinematography.  The vast scope and bleak color palette convey this right to the audience.  And as a result, the action scenes are so much more rewarding.  The fights are character-driven with a realistic sense of emotion and stakes.  The final 15 minutes are some of the most intense I have seen in years.

The film also runs at 2 hours and 45 minutes, which seems daunting on the surface.  However, Nolan wastes no time, as every scene adds something to the plot and is thoroughly investing throughout.  There are a few plot points and story beats that felt a bit contrived and convenient.  However, that barely detracts from the film.  This is a movie that is equal parts entertaining and powerful.  It has high respect for its characters, and closes one of the best movie sagas of all time on a pitch-perfect note.

FINAL RATING: 4.5/5

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