Rising to the occasion

Following the release of his blockbuster film “The Dark Knight”, director Christopher Nolan was hesitant about returning for a third and final Batman flick, which was understandable. “The Dark Knight” is perhaps one of the most celebrated superhero movies of all time, grossing more than $1 billion at the box office and winning two Academy Awards, including the Best Supporting Actor, which was awarded posthumously to Heath Ledger for his outstanding performance as the Joker.

Nevertheless, Nolan opted to tackle the daunting task of creating a sequel to such a breathtaking film, and “The Dark Knight Rises” was born. Set eight years after the events of “The Dark Knight,” Batman is nowhere to be seen, Gotham is relatively peaceful, and Bruce Wayne, played by Christian Bale, is now a shell of his former self. Wayne, now a recluse and residing in the newly rebuilt Wayne Manor, watches on the sidelines as Commissioner Gordon and the Gotham City Police Department fight crime on their own.

However, when a dastardly villain known as Bane (Tom Hardy) infiltrates the stock exchange and bankrupts Wayne, Batman dons the cowl once again and things get interesting from there. Batman is not alone, though, as Selina Kyle, also known as Catwoman, and John Blake, a rookie police officer played by the talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt, join him in the fight against Bane and his army.

With Wayne sidelined for much of the first half of the movie, it’s no surprise that the majority of the action primarily takes place in the second act, which is reminiscent of the first film of the trilogy, “Batman Begins”. The second act alone is worth the price of the ticket, however, as the action and suspense is just as hard hitting as Bane. This isn’t to say that the second half is perfect. In fact, this is where one of the few flaws takes place, as everything seems rushed following Batman’s first confrontation with Bane. Nolan condensed what could have been a three hour, even a two part, movie into two hours and 45 minutes.

While this did hinder the quality of the movie, there were a few other “issues” that did very little to hurt the film. The first is Nolan’s slight departure from his typical realism, and I stress slight. Nolan introduced some unrealistic ideas such as an entire city’s police force being overrun by terrorists and Batman’s new toy, “The Bat,” a flying Batmobile of sorts. Like I said, this necessarily is not going to ruin the film or cause mass hysteria, but these things seem out of place in Nolan’s Batman. Then again, with Lucius Fox at the helm of a billion dollar corporation, a flying Batmobile is plausible.

The second point in question is the abundance of new characters introduced within the film. In all, there are four characters within the film that are new to the series. This wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that there just isn’t enough time to delve deeper into these characters. The film does touch on the origins of a few, namely Bane, but more depth would have sufficed.

These issues are really overshadowed by the cast; the standouts being Anne Hathaway for her role as Catwoman, and Gordon-Levitt, who, as stated above, was John Blake. Hathaway exceeded my expectations and redefined the Catwoman character. She took a character that was typically added for sexual tension and transformed it into a dynamic and sophisticated individual.

Gordon-Levitt’s character, John Blake, is hands down one of my favorite characters from The Dark Knight trilogy. His entire background, from losing both of his parents at an early age to learning the ways of the force (police force, that is), Blake is one of the few characters I felt emotionally attached to and the one I had the most empathy for.

Tom Hardy’s performance as Bane is a little bit tougher to gauge compared to the others. While it’s difficult not to compare his performance to Ledger’s, it is important to understand these two characters are completely different.

The Joker was a mental threat to Batman, while Bane is more of a physical one, and as far as I’m concerned, Hardy played that to a tee. While he didn’t seem as immersed in the character as Ledger was with the Joker, he still managed to have a tremendous on-screen presence, accomplished mostly through body language. Each time his big and brooding figure appeared on-screen, I asked fearfully, “what will he do next?”

Alas, there is an issue with his voice, as the mask that Hardy wears muffles and distorts Bane’s voice, making it difficult to understand some of the dialogue at times. Keep in mind, this is even with the re-dub, which has actually caused some cases of Hardy’s voice being almost too clear.

As a whole, this movie is probably the most emotionally and mentally stimulating of the three. From start to finish, it was a chore to maintain my seated position in the theater. It is truly a perfect conclusion to a trilogy that could eventually be ranked with the likes of the original “Star Wars” and the “Lord of the Rings” series. Much like those trilogies, this movie, specifically the ending, is sure to get fanboys and casual moviegoers alike to discuss and appreciate a job well done by Christopher Nolan and friends.