Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises

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Christian Bale as Batman in The Dark Knight Rises

Christian Bale as Batman in 'The Dark Knight Rises' - Photo © Warner Bros Pictures

Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty

“There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches because when it hits, you’re all going to wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us,” says high-class grifter and cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) to reclusive billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) in Christopher Nolan’s third and final installment in the Batman legacy, The Dark Knight Rises.

It’s been eight years since the death of Gotham City’s D.A. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) as well as the disappearance of Batman, who took the blame for Dent’s crimes and went from being the city’s hero to wanted vigilante and murderer. The lie seems to have worked and Gotham is almost crime-free and thriving. But the truth being buried haunts both Police Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), who longs to admit the truth, resign and vindicate Batman, and Bruce Wayne who has become a recluse, barely ever leaving the Wayne Manor and having no direction or purpose in his life.

This begins to change for Bruce, however, when he comes across Selina Kyle, a seductive and very smart cat burglar trying to rob Wayne Manor. Her beauty and playfulness peaks his interest to find out more about her.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Gordon stumbles upon a group of mercenaries led by a hulking, brutal and extremely lethal terrorist named Bane (Tom Hardy) whose plan is to wage war against Gotham’s leaders, tear the city apart and leave it in ruins. So, once again, it’s up to Bruce to suit up and bring Batman out of his self-imposed retirement and take on the most physically formidable foe of his crime-fighting career.

The Dark Knight Rises is a suspenseful, riveting, action-packed film that brings the Caped
Crusader’s story to a perfect end. This is an epic film which tells a much larger and more complicated story than the first two films of the saga.

TDKR is wonderfully directed by Christopher Nolan who takes a two hour and forty four minute film and makes it seem to fly by. The pacing is flawless. The action scenes are exhilarating and stunning, especially the first 13 minutes of the film with the ruthless terrorist Bane hijacking a CIA plane while in mid-flight. It’s one of the greatest jaw-dropping opening sequences in movie history.

The cast is superb, led by Christian Bale as both the brooding and lost soul Bruce Wayne looking for a way back from his self-imposed isolation and pointless life, and as Batman, Gotham City’s true hero and protector. This time out he gives more feeling and emotion while portraying Bruce Wayne and gives the character what he almost lost in the second film…a human soul. Gary Oldman is solid as always as Commissioner Gordon, the honest, determined, good cop in a corrupt city who would give up everything to save his city and vindicate his one true friend, Batman, whose identity he still doesn’t know. Michael Caine is the emotional anchor of the film as Alfred, Bruce’s butler, confidant and surrogate father. A confessional scene between Alfred and Bruce is sure to bring lumps to the audience’s throats and tears to their eye.


However, the stand-out performance in the film goes to Anne Hathaway as the slinky, sly, cat burglar Selina Kyle. She brings sexiness, smarts and cunning to the high-class grifter who plays every angle and is only interested it seems in helping herself with her own agenda. She has strong chemistry with Bale and their scenes together, both as Bruce and Selina and Batman and Catwoman, are the highlights of the film. She steals every scene she’s in and is the best Catwoman (she’s never called this in the film) to ever grace the screen. Yes, even better than Michelle Pfeiffer’s take on the role in Tim Burton’s movie Batman Returns.

Tom Hardy delivers a chilling performance as the evil terrorist Bane whose only goal it seems is to destroy both Gotham City and Batman. But even though Bane is physically daunting and extremely dangerous, the character is almost too one-dimensional for most of the film. He lacks any real personality, wit or sick charm that made Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight one of the greatest villains in movie history.

The one big problem with the film is with the dialogue delivered by Hardy as Bane. Since his character is always wearing a breathing mask that protects him from horrible pain and keeps him alive, there are times when it’s very hard to understand Bane and other times when the audience will miss what he said altogether. It would have benefited the film if Nolan and Hardy re-voiced Bane’s lines in post-production in a sound booth the way the Star Wars films did with James Earl Jones being the voice of Darth Vader.

Compelling, emotional and thrilling, The Dark Knight Rises finalizes Nolan’s vision of the Batman saga and makes the franchise one of the greatest movie trilogies of all time.

GRADE: A-

The Dark Knight Rises hit theaters on July 20, 2012 and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language.

Kevin Finnerty

Professional film critic since 2003 and a member of the San Diego Film Critics Society. Host of “The Movie Guys” radio film review show from 2007 through 2013. Film and television critic for Showbizjunkies.com and a movie buff since 1973.
Kevin Finnerty
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