Christian Bale is especially good in The Dark Knight Rises. (Warner Bros Pictures Releases, DC Comics)
The third movie in a trilogy is very rarely good. The Godfather Part III is effectively unwatchable. Back to the Future Part III is theme-park nonsense. The Return of the King feels like it’s 1,000 minutes long.
But The Dark Knight Rises basically avoids all the third-movie pitfalls. While very long and almost comically epic, it’s never boring—in fact, it’s often thrilling, with more than a bit of philosophical heft to it.
As TDKR opens, eight years have passed, and Bruce Wayne has become a wistful recluse, effectively retiring Batman while pining for his slain love Rachel. This quickly changes with the entrance of Bane (Tom Hardy), a roided-out mountain of a man with a tentacle mask that makes his voice sound like Snidley Whiplash through a prison intercom. Strangely, it works. Hardy, with immense presence, is legitimately scary—a relentless physical force of destruction that at first completely disarms and nearly kills Batman. Bane then executes an extremely complex scheme that turns Gotham into a Lord of the Flies/Jacobian social bloodlust, with a ticking nuclear bomb thrown in for good measure.
Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises. (Warner Bros Pictures Releases, DC Comics)
Christopher Nolan continues to improve as a director in terms of pacing and narrative. It’s not absurd to call him Hitchcockian now, given how strong his grasp of entertainment has become. TDKR glides along, and even when it gets genuinely wonky, it retains a spectacular structure. Nolan brings impressive gravitas and “realness” to these movies. Comparatively, the much-lauded Avengers feels like a Tom and Jerry cartoon.
Over an hour of TDKR is shot in IMAX, and it is well worth the surcharge to see it in a bona-fide IMAX theater. No one shoots cities like Christopher Nolan, and there are many scenes in the film that are simply gorgeous and breathtaking—a reminder of how spectacular seeing a movie in the theater can be.
Five actors from Inception return for TDKR (Hardy, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Marion Cotillard, and Cilian Murphy). And though it feels a bit overstuffed at times in terms of characters (way too much Matthew Modine!), the acting is much stronger than usual superhero fare. Christian Bale is particularly good in what must be the most emotional superhero performance on record. Anne Hathaway, also excellent, brings a bit of wit and brevity to the extremely self-serious proceedings.
Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises. (Warner Bros Pictures Releases, DC Comics)
For nearly a year, TDKR has been the most anticipated movie of the summer—and it lives up to the hype. Despite loose ends, absurd elements, and dialogue falling flat (as it always does in superhero movies), it’s a triumphant end to what is undoubtedly the best superhero trilogy that will ever be made. A-