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Christopher Nolan's Bat-trilogy comes to a ferocious, often astonishing conclusion in high-def....
Warner / 165 Minutes / 2012 / Rated PG-13 / Street Date: December 4, 2012
Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises was unavoidable this past summer - even if minor multiplex hesitation was exercised after the tragic midnight-screening shootings in Aurora, CO kept this blockbuster from being a super-blockbuster, for the second half of the summer movie season, The Bat Man and his cronies were absolutely part of the global cinematic discussion. Here was arguably the most widely-acclaimed mainstream filmmaker in the world (second only to perhaps Spielberg and Cameron) returning once more to the moody, Gothic fever dreams of a Gotham run awry, a place where violence and terrorist anxiety has left nowhere safe to turn.
What will be most horrifically remembered in Nolan's Bat-trilogy - in this writer's humble opinion - is the sheer rhetorical darkness of its storytelling. Tim Burton's Batman flicks were black in terms of humor and irreverence, but through Nolan's lens, the Dark Knight films (and their first chapter, Batman Begins) have a sour, bankrupt ominous quality to them: they may be exciting in snippets, but there are few reasons to smile - especially during this shockingly violent and morose finale. Christian Bale's Batman may be a savior of the common man, but the dude needs to ease up once in a while when it comes to the doom and gloom.
In short, The Dark Knight Rises is a waltz of good and evil with reluctant antihero Bruce Wayne (Bale) being lured out of semi-retirement by a crazy-ass lunatic who calls himself Bane (Tom Hardy), who is hellbent on destroying Gotham City neighborhood by neighborhood until he smokes ol' Batty Boy into daylight. There are other issues at hand, of course - Nolan and his team seem almost precociously interested in allegory to modern political affairs - but even with returning faces like Michael Caine's and Morgan Freeman's alongside newcomers (Anne Hathaway as Catwoman is particularly intriguing), The Dark Knight Rises comes down to a mano-a-mano showdown between Batman and a baddie wearing a kind of deep-throttle Veg-o-Matic on his face.
There was rumor with The Dark Knight that Oscar should pay attention, that Nolan's second opus wasn't just a fanboy movie that played like gangbusters, but that it was an 'actual movie' and demanded respect as such. This time around, that argument holds less water: while The Dark Knight Rises is a steady, intense character study with some indisputably impressive setpieces to it, compared to the franchise's previous installment, it wanders down the comic-book rabbit hole a bit too often. Fans of the series will likely refer to this as the second-best of the franchise, but even with Warner's pocketbooks newly lined with mega cash, this one has limited aesthetic appeal beyond its albeit heady core base.