Calling The Dark Knight Rises ambitious is an understatement. Christopher Nolan’s final chapter in the Dark Knight Trilogy is epic in length, far-reaching in scope, complex and literary in its themes. Picking up eight years after the events in The Dark Knight, Batman has not been seen since the night Harvey Dent died. Yet, a new threat emerges in Bane (Tom Hardy), a terrorist determined to overturn the social classes of Gotham and make the wealthy confront their sins. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne is coaxed out of a self-imposed exile by sexy cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). Plus there’s stuff involving beat cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and wealthy industrialist Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard).
The first two-thirds of The Dark Knight Rises balance and pace all of these elements incredibly well, thanks to Nolan’s assured direction and very good screenplay; it’s nearly flawless. However, once the film moves into its final act, it begins to come apart. The action set pieces run long and the screenplay loses focus. The previous two chapters — Batman Begins and The Dark Knight — were concerned with exploring psychological realism and pushing the conventions of the superhero genre, but The Dark Knight Rises relies too heavily on those genre conventions without doing anything with them. Sure, it’s well-crafted, but it comes across as somewhat hollow.
That said, the rest of the film is borderline great. Nolan draws parallels and connects the previous two films thematically in a way that’s quite impressive. The film also has standout performances from those new to the series, particularly Hathaway and Hardy, whose Bane is as frightening and captivating as Heath Ledger’s Joker.
It may be heavily flawed at the end (and contains an egregious cheat), but The Dark Knight Rises is ultimately a satisfying conclusion to Nolan’s ambitious re-imagining of the Batman mythos.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012, USA/UK, 165 mins). Directed by Christopher Nolan. Written by Jonathon Nolan and Christopher Nolan. Starring Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Micahel Caine, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman.