The Dark Knight Rises, 2012.
Directed by Christopher Nolan.
Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Eight years after taking the blame for Harvey Dent's crimes, Batman has disappeared and his alter-ego Bruce Wayne now lives as a recluse. However, when Gotham comes under threat from a ruthless terrorist known as Bane, Bruce is forced to take on the mantle of the Dark Knight once again to protect a city that has branded him an enemy.
Arriving in the summer of 2005, Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins was a landmark film that not only managed to restore confidence in Warner Bros.' live-action feature film series, but also served to influence the entire superhero genre. Although only a modest success theatrically, Batman Begins quickly built up a solid reputation and firmly laid the foundations for 2008's box-office behemoth The Dark Knight - a sprawling crime epic that transcended traditional comic book adaptation and immediately became the benchmark for the superhero genre. Now, four years later, comes the epic conclusion to Nolan's Batman legend, as the British filmmaker brings the curtain down on his 'Dark Knight' tale with the The Dark Knight Rises, and while it doesn't quite manage to reach the lofty heights of its predecessor, it's certainly a fitting end to what will surely go down as one of the finest trilogies ever committed to film.
The Dark Knight Rises picks up eight years after the previous film, with Batman branded as a criminal and Bruce Wayne living as a recluse in Wayne Manor, still heartbroken over the death of Rachel Dawes. In his absence, Gotham City appears to be thriving, with the powers afforded to the police by the introduction of the Dent Act enabling them to clean up the streets and smash organised crime. However beneath the surface a storm is brewing - one that's manifested by the brutal terrorist leader Bane; with an army of mercenaries at his disposal, Bane enacts a plan to take control of the city and bring it to its knees, which forces Bruce to dust off the Batsuit and take to the streets once more as Gotham's Dark Knight.
That's about as much as you need to know about the story going in, and if you think you've managed to piece everything together from what we've seen in the trailers, then rest assured you haven't. The Dark Knight Rises will keep you guessing throughout its entire duration, which really flies by as Nolan throws us head first into another rich, multi-layered tale that barely wastes a second of screen time to deliver one of the most exhilarating movie experiences of the year. There's so much crammed into The Dark Knight Rises that it could easily have lost its way, so it's testament once again to Nolan's skills as a director that he manages to juggle all of the various plot strands with ease before building to a soaring finale that contains some of the very best moments the trilogy has to offer.
As you'd expect with such a heavyweight cast, the acting is spot on through-out, with Christian Bale delivering what could be his best performance of the three films (particularly as Bruce Wayne) and Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman all continuing to excel in their respective roles. As for the newcomers, Heath Ledger's mesmerizing turn as the Joker was always going to be an impossible act to top, but Anne Hathaway gives it the best shot as Selina Kyle / Catwoman, while Tom Hardy makes for a suitably menacing and monstrous Bane, even if his voice does prove a little distracting at times. Marion Cotillard's Miranda Tate is a welcome addition to the cast, but it's Joseph Gordon-Levitt who is given the most to do and adds another impressive performance to his CV as the idealistic Gotham cop John Blake.
Despite being among the very best that 2012 has had to offer, The Dark Knight Rises is not entirely beyond criticism. As I've already mentioned, Bane's character is let down by his voice, and while it might grow on me with repeat viewings, I did find myself struggling to decode his dialogue at times. Sadly, I was also a little underwhelmed by Batman vs. Bane; don't get me wrong - its brutal, and you really feel every blow, but for such an epic showdown... perhaps my expectations were just too high, but I was hoping for something a little more. Furthermore, with so much happening, it was inevitable that some characters would find themselves a little underused and unfortunately it's Alfred who seems to have come up with the short straw; I had my reservations when Michael Caine was first announced in the role, but he's really knocked it out of the park in all three films so it's a shame we didn't get to see more of Alfred. I can't say I was a fan of how the character was handled here, either.
So then, small criticisms of what is easily one of the best comic book adaptations to have graced the screen, and a worthy conclusion to a trilogy that truly deserves to be up there with the likes of Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings in terms of overall quality. It's also bound to inspire endless debate among the Batman fan community, so while the legend may have ended, we'll still have plenty to discuss before the Dark Knight returns. Of course, the biggest question is, who in their right mind would want to succeed Christopher Nolan as custodian of the Batman franchise after this, but we'll save that for another time. For now, just enjoy The Dark Knight Rises... it could be a long time before we see another one like this.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Gary Collinson is a writer and lecturer from the North East of England. He is the editor-in-chief of FlickeringMyth.com and the author of Holy Franchise, Batman! Bringing the Caped Crusader to the Screen.