Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway

Well, here we are, folks. The defining cinematic event of the year 2012 barring The Avengers, and it comes in the form of the third and final installment in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone not overjoyed by the thought of the film premiering tonight at midnight, with my local theater having already sold over 1,800 tickets and counting. For all its bells and whistles, most of you will happy to know that the film carries its weight everywhere it counts, even though it can’t quite live up to the outrageously high expectations of those waiting patiently for the better part of four years for this very moment.

Where to begin? Although it needs no introduction, Nolan’s gritty, exceedingly seedy vision of Batman’s native Gotham City is ever-present as what seems like a dozen characters are gradually implemented into TDKR‘s script, providing us with enough build-up and backstory to fill the Atlantic Ocean if somehow transformed into liquid. Granted, The Dark Knight had a penchant for messiness when it came to balancing human emotion with the balls-out, grandiose action set pieces it set the bar rather high with, but it was all forgivable on account of how thoroughly involving the film was at any given turn.

The same goes for this particular entry into the franchise, with its structuring being about as sloppy as a poorly made sandwich, implementing various lulls and lunges forward in the narrative so as to alternately introduce new individuals (i.e. Cotillard’s Miranda Tate and Hathaway’s Selina Kyle) and chronicle Bruce Wayne’s rise from the (figurative) grave as the misunderstood caped vigilante forced to go on the lam for eight years. Gotham’s new, infinitely more realized threat Bane (Tom Hardy) is as menacing as ever, fully bringing to life his predecessors’ dreams of a riotous criminal takeover as terrorist plot after terrorist plot unfolds without a hitch. This technique on Nolan’s behalf works to amplify the tension, although Batman’s lack of screen time just makes him look like a chump, using a battered physique to serve as the groundwork for what he’ll inevitably have to clean up later, but on a much larger scale than what he’s used to.

Despite its length, The Dark Knight Rises has an uncanny ability to keep you emotionally invested in literally everyone’s goings-on, whether it’s the truth behind Bane’s disfigurement or Alfred’s undying devotion to protect the last remaining piece of the Wayne legacy. Coupled with wildly explosive (no pun intended) action set pieces, the film’s climax is essentially worth the price of admission alone, stuffing as much as it can into the last thirty to forty-five minutes to satisfy any filmgoer, casual or cinephile alike.

Providing you’re willing to forgive its occasional missteps, it’s easy to appreciate literally everything The Dark Knight Rises has to offer, from its relentless air of tension and knockout performances to its appreciable emotional underbelly and eye-popping, over-the-top action. Its final moments are agreeably tearjerking, on account of both us realizing the franchise’s end and the subject matter itself, but one thing’s for sure: TDKR certainly “rises” to the occasion, going out with not a whimper, but a gaudy, if a focally jarring bang that’s sure to deliver everywhere fans will expect it to.

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