Director: Christopher Nolan
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Studio: Legendary Pictures, Syncopy Films, DC Comics
The Dark Knight Rises tops off writer-director Christopher Nolan’s epic Batman trilogy and, trust us, it’s not with a whimper but with a highly satisfying and hugely entertaining bang. Majestic, ambitious, gargantuan and heartbreaking, with over an hour of its 160-minute running time filmed in showstopping IMAX, the movie gives us a disgraced, broken and grieving Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) living in Howard Hughes-like seclusion in his stately but ghostly manse. Likewise battered and on the ropes, Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman in his peak Batman performance) is haunted by his suppressed knowledge about the death of dual-faced district attorney Harvey Dent.
While Gotham City’s empty suit of a mayor (Nestor Carbonell) touts that the city’s cleaned up its act, throwaway kids and adults live under bridges. The rich grow greedier and more powerful. Prisons burst at the seams but high- and lowborn criminals still run rampant. Angry unrest roils just under the surface. Sound familiar?
With a roar, along comes a merciless horde led by hulking Bane (Tom Hardy, charisma and comprehensibility hampered by a face-clinging mask), on a mission to unleash the people’s liberation in the form of a series of acts of terror, including the collapse of Heinz football field during a game and an aerial hostage-taking and hijacking that must rank as the most jaw-dropping, beautifully choreographed action sequences in recent memory. With Wayne's manservant Alfred (Michael Caine, nakedly emotional and flat-out superb) using tough love to try to provoke his beloved boss into pulling himself out of his misery, Anne Hathaway as a wily Selina Kyle/Catwoman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt right up there with the best of them as a crusading cop who reveals an emotional link with the Batman, our hero finally steps back up to fulfill his destiny.
From the start, part of the genius of co-screenwriters Christopher Nolan and brother Jonathan’s vision for their Batman films has been to drain them of camp, make them character-based, give them thematic heft and set them in a gritty, recognizable world. This time, Nolan sets the movie in a world gone mad, with references to the Occupy Movement that give the movie added grit and urgency.
The bold, visionary film jolts us with its sense of scope, scale and social outrage that sometimes suggests novels by Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo. Naturally, everything in The Dark Knight Rises looks and sounds absolutely state of the art, but what sends it soaring is its irresistible emotional pull and resonance, especially when Bale, Caine, Gordon-Levitt and Oldman are involved. The somber but hopeful finale doesn’t just end the series; as a moviegoing experience, it crushes. It's not only a great summer movie, it's the superhero movie, completely and irrevocably redefined.