- Warner Bros.
By Kayla Upadhyaya, Senior Arts Editor
Published July 23, 2012
To say that the final installment of Christopher Nolan’s (“Inception”) Batman trilogy goes out with a bang would be misleading. Yes, things go boom. Yes, Hans Zimmer’s score — more frenetic than ever — borders on manic, reaching deafening levels. But it’s at its quietest when “The Dark Knight Rises” truly astounds. It’s in whispered monologues that the characters make their most indelible, potent utterances. “A storm is coming,” Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle purrs.
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Before that storm arrives, we’re shown a post-Batman Gotham. Organized crime is down, and the caped crusader once hailed the city’s hero has been made the enemy, blamed for the death of the man Gotham remembers as their white knight. Eccentric billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale, “The Fighter”) has taken to the shadows to nurse his physical and metaphysical wounds, as his batsuit gathers dust. But Kyle awakens Mr. Wayne to the gathering storm. A calculating, cool catburglar, she poses somewhat of a threat, but is nothing stacked up against the behemoth Bane (Tom Hardy, “Warrior”). Despite ever-loyal manservant Alfred Pennyworth’s (Michael Caine, “Inception”) deepest pleas, Batman gets back in the game.
There’s nothing sleek or intricate about Batman and Bane’s encounters. They brawl with brutish, bone-crunching ferocity. Hardy’s sheer immensity is astounding, and Nolan’s liberal interpretation of the character makes for one hell of a movie villain. While Heath Ledger’s wonderfully twisted Joker was an agent of chaos, Bane is something entirely different. He’s pure evil, a terrorist dead set on unleashing America’s worst nightmare upon itself.
Visually, “Rises” is the lightest of Nolan’s installments, adorned with cinematographer Wally Pfister's (“Inception”) glaring, clean light. Tonally, it surpasses dark and approaches cataclysmic. Never before has a movie of this magnitude inflicted so much pain upon its hero, and Bale delivers a haunting performance as a decaying man and ticking timebomb.
Moments of lightness are brought by Hathaway’s knockout performance. She transforms — almost unrecognizably so — into the dual-natured Kyle, and plays off Bale with conviction. “Rises” offers the most detailed and poignant real-life manifestation of the character, and Hathaway manages to be sexy, manipulative, tongue-in-cheek, all while kicking ass in her razor-blade heels that are anything but kitten.
Also new to the crew is cop-turned-detective Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, “50/50”), whose innocence offers a stark contrast to the more morally gray of Gotham. Marion Cotillard (“Public Enemies”) accomplishes impressive depth with very little screentime as Wayne Enterprises’ wealthy and mysterious board member Miranda Tate.
Like the wounded Wayne, the film’s familiar faces are hurting more than ever. Alfred is disillusioned with Batman’s madcap self-destruction, and Caine’s more emotional scenes are heartbreaking. Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman, “Invictus”) continues to whip up the Applied Sciences gizmos, but he too is noticeably worn by the agony seeping through Gotham’s streets. Gary Oldman (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) returns as Commissioner Gordon, who is just as tormented as the man in the mask, but lacks the luxuries of an alternate identity to protect the ones he loves (not to mention a fortune and a secret lair). He’s a tangible hero, one that Gotham truly deserves, and Oldman once again churns out a heavy performance.
With this trilogy and “Inception,” Nolan has proven himself a maestro of creating vivid worlds. In “Rises,” the universe is so visceral — full of characters with very real, political motives — that it’s easy to forget that this is still a comic book tale. “Realistic” is different than “believable,” and while “Rises” might not necessarily be the former, it has the latter on lock.