The superhero flick has become a bit of a redundant genre in the past ten years. Since the turn of the century, countless iterations of caped crusader films have hit Hollywood, a great number of which were forgettable CGI-based action thrillers.
That is, until director Christopher Nolan (Inception, Memento) got his hands on the Batman franchise. Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008) helped redefine the superhero thriller with highly cerebral themes and a clear layer of subtext. Not to mention, Heath Ledger’s Academy Award winning turn as the Joker in the saga’s second installment has been hailed as one of the best supporting performances in film history. The Dark Knight Rises concludes the trilogy in tremendous form, living up to the prequels with a phenomenal cast, excellent writing, and great direction.
The film seems to be more of an ending to the trilogy rather than a stand alone sequel like Dark Knight. The addition of Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) brings a fresh element to the series. Rather than focusing on Batman’s “lone wolf” persona, Nolan chooses to make him a part of a much greater effort against the film’s major antagonist, Bane (Tom Hardy). The script, while not the masterpiece that the second film was, is very strong. Catwoman’s character regrettably feels underdeveloped at times, and I found myself occasionally wondering whether she was there only to add variety or whether her character was actually essential to the development of anyone else. The major conflict of the film is pretty standard, featuring a masked maniac intent on destroying Gotham city, and the many cameo appearances by characters from previous films makes for a complex and intelligent plotline. Nolan’s directorial genius shines through, with well choreographed action sequences and cinematography on par with the first two films.
Christian Bale has always seemed like a strange choice for Batman, but he has used his intensive Method style to bring the character of Bruce Wayne full circle. Anne Hathaway brings Catwoman to life more than anyone who has played her previously. The supporting cast features Joseph Gordon Levitt in a little advertised but highly prominent role as a young police detective, and brings back Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine to serve as Bruce Wayne’s faithful associates. Tom Hardy’s Bane is both intimidating and vindictive.
The trilogy’s conclusion ties up loose ends nicely. Most characters reach an emotional climax (though, again, Catwoman’s role as far as plot development is concerned seems questionable.) Audiences will enjoy the nod to the comic books, and the addition of some key batman figures adds depth and variety. Nolan has done it again: a dark Batman thriller that always has substance below the surface.
Rating: 4 out of 5