Written by Mark Gundle (Guest Writer)
It’s a rare thing to see the “threequel” perform as well as its two predecessors. Spider-Man 3, JurrasicPark III, Superman III, and many others have brought ruin to their franchises. Fortunately, such a trend has been bucked in recent memory, a notable example being Toy Story 3, and another notable example being the third Lord of the Rings film (11 Oscar nominations can’t be wrong, folks). Much of this comes from trying to outdo the second film in the series. So what, then, could one expect going into The Dark Knight Rises, knowing what a truck-flipping juggernaut The Dark Knight turned out to be? As it turns out, going in expecting it to be as good or better wasn’t too far off the mark.
Taking place eight years after The Dark Knight, the film sees Batman’s return to action as a masked terrorist called Bane emerges to destroy the city, implied to be the first since the conspicuously-absent-from-mention Joker. Knowing the police are in way over their head, the reclusive billionaire takes up the cape and cowl one more time to save the city. Complicating his quest for justice are the sultry Catwoman, and the mysterious corporate mastermind Miranda Tate, who has big plans for a joint venture with Wayne Enterprises.
The story, while somewhat predictable to those familiar with Batman canon (most specifically the No Man’s Land, Knightfall, and of course The Dark Knight Returns story arcs), does introduce a few new elements that had more than a few hardened Bat-Fans guessing and occasionally voicing their disbelief right in the theatre. It chugs along at a decent pace, pays great respect to both the source material and the series’ established history, and has (vague spoiler ahead) the single most satisfying conclusion to a trilogy this writer has EVER seen.
And as with any good movie, the story’s only as good as the characters that are caught up in them. Christian Bale turns in another great performance as the raspy-voiced Batman, though this time I found his performances as Bruce Wayne to be far more engrossing and engaging than the ass-kickery that was the Caped Crusader. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman all return to their roles with equal drive, and they’re all every bit as fun and heartstring-tugging as they were in the last two nstallments. Tom Hardy does his best with a mask that leaves only his eyebrows, eyes, and body to perform and enunciate for him, and I personally found it a good bit of work, despite the naysayers. But special mention has to go to Anne Hathaway, who not only transcended everything I’ve seen her in, but has done the previously-impossible and trumped her predecessor Michelle Pfeifer as the defining image of Catwoman.
Further, Christopher Nolan’s stated preference to practical effects over CGI helps add to the realism of the film and further engages the audience, and it’s a choice that has worked well over the series and doesn’t disappoint here. They got the Bat (Batman’s latest wonderful toy) to actually fly, they got buildings to actually explode, and it all helps further the world-building that the cast and crew create. Sure, they could’ve used a computer. Sure, they could’ve done it all in a computer lab. And while none of it quite lives up to the Holy Shit Quotient provided by flipping over a semi-truck, they do plenty to bring the poor, unsuspecting viewers along for the ride.
One thing I could complain about, however, was the score. Hans Zimmer is a genius, make no mistake, and I’ve never heard a score of his I didn’t absolutely love. But as has been said before, music is supposed to complement a film, not overwhelm it. Not every moment needs a blaring band to back it up, nor does it need to be an especially complicated piece; the music in Batman Begins was an odd mix of subtle and explosive, The Dark Knight’s score nailed the formula set by its predecessor, but this latest installment feels like it’s constantly hammering you with EMOTION! GRAVITAS! FEEL THE NOIZE!!
All told, the final installment is worthy of the Dark Knight name, and more than worth the price of admission. Don’t wait for the DVD. Don’t go and Redbox it. Go and see Batman’s final fight as it was meant to be seen.
But if you’re reading this review, odds are you weren’t going to wait anyway.
FINAL VERDICT: 4.9/5