Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight Rises literally brought tears to my eyes. It’s a fitting, emotional and exciting conclusion to what must now be considered one of the best cinematic trilogies in history, firmly planting its flag alongside other classic trilogies like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Godfather, Back to the Future and the Lord of the Rings. Like all of those, though, there’s usually a weak link and The Dark Knight Rises is it. Nolan’s film, while a great cinematic experience, attempts to raise the stakes to such incredible, devastating and unsolvable heights, the narrative tends to lose itself from time to time.

It would be near impossible to top the perfection that is Batman Begins and The Dark Knight so, instead, Nolan takes the best things from both those movies, puts them together, and gives audiences maybe not the ending they need, but one they deserve. [Non-spoiler review follows.]

The Dark Knight Rises starts eight years after the events of The Dark Knight and finds Gotham City in a pretty good place. Enter Bane, a man hell bent on raising chaos and doing a pretty good job of it too. His antics force a reclusive Bruce Wayne out of retirement and put Batman, his allies and others, through an almost insurmountable series of hellacious trials.

Obviously, I could say much more, but we’ll keep it vague for now. Suffice to say, there is a ton of story stuffed into The Dark Knight Rises with what feels like less actual Batman than the first film, Batman Begins. Instead, the heroism is balanced by two equally exciting performances by Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Officer John Blake. Each have charisma to burn and keep the movie running on all cylinders.

But even so, the movie is still 165 minutes long and most of that is spent setting up a situation that Batman literally can’t win on his own. Bane, played by Tom Hardy, is at the center of it all: an imposing, frightening character who isn’t quite as interesting as one would expect. Still, he’s a very strong presence, especially in fight scenes, and his plan makes the Joker’s seem like child play. Both Batman, and the audience, feel ill at ease whenever he’s around. When you can understand his voice (which is about 90% of the time), Hardy does a solid job.

As Bruce Wayne, Christian Bale is the best he’s been in this series simply because his character goes through so much more this time around. He’s like us, exhausted and overwhelmed with everything we’re seeing. For Bruce Wayne, that’s a trial, but for the audience, it’s kind of nice. Even with a huge film like The Avengers, you always felt like you had everything at hand. That’s never the case with The Dark Knight Rises. You never ever feel calm and collected. You’re constantly on the edge of your seat, on pins and needles, waiting to see what happens next.

Much of that palpable wonder ends up being explained through long bits of exposition linked together on a wonky timeline. Technically the movie takes place over roughly six months, but it keeps jumping around awkwardly: eight years here, two months there, etc. Along with that, plot holes begin to appear, relationships seem forced (especially female ones) and actions occur quite matter of factly instead of being earned through character and plot.

Even so, it’s a Christopher Nolan Batman movie. Every shot looks great (especially in IMAX), sounds great (Hans Zimmer’s score is just fantastic, itself a true conclusion to a three-film master work) and creates a very enjoyable experience. Just because it’s an experience that isn’t exactly wrapped in an air tight narrative won’t matter to most. It might, however, leave you feeling a twinge of disappointment. Just a twinge. But that’s okay. Nolan himself set such a high bar with the last two films coming even close with Rises is a minor miracle.

The Dark Knight Rises is a film I’ll be revisiting, and nitpicking, for years to come.

/Film Rating: 8 out of 10

 

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About the Author

Germain graduated NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Cinema Studies program in 2002 and won back to back First Place awards for film criticism from the New York State Associated Press in 2006 and 2007.

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