Christopher Nolan provides emotionally satisfying finale to his ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy
Joss Whedon’s The Avengers set the bar high for this “summer of the superhero.”
Christopher Nolan’s final chapter in his Batman series, The Dark Knight Rises, was rounding the three-quarter pole teetering on the brink of being mildly disappointing. By the superhero standard pre-Nolan, it was a rock solid entertainment but Nolan, who brought the rebel spirit of an independent filmmaker to the genre, was expected to deliver a finish worthy of the two films that came before.
In the end, thanks to a couple of spectacular plot twists, and several crowd-pleasing nods to his previous Batman films, Nolan delivered a finale that not only finished his participation with an elegant farewell, he also generously set up the story for the next filmmaker who takes over.
The Dark Knight will remain the best film of the series, but that takes very little away from Nolan’s work in the final chapter. It is always the toughest job to reach a satisfying conclusion to a film series. It is a delicate balancing act, fulfilling the expectations of fans while satisfying one’s personal artistic vision. For example, Star Wars fans still cringe at the Ewok element in Return of the Jedi as too cute and not worthy of what came before.
Nolan has no such cringe-worthy moments, despite my mild anxiety before he blew the roof off with his finale.
The film begins eight years after Bruce Wayne/Batman took the blame for Harvey Dent’s crimes in order to bring order again to Gotham City. We learn that a series of tough new laws allowed the police to clean up the streets. With a throwaway line later in the film it could be suggested that Nolan is taking a swipe at the Patriot Act.
Gotham’s improved crime statistics are soon crumbled by its latest arch enemy, a man named Bane (Thomas Hardy), whose face is covered with a mask that makes him look and sound like he wandered in from the set of his next movie, the reboot of Mad Max. Bane’s motives are a mystery, but you can bet one component is to get Batman back in the game.
Along the way to his resurrection, Batman encounters a classic anti-heroine in Catwoman Selena Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a tough and stylish thief whose loyalties are forever in flux depending on her mood.
There is also a bright young cop on the beat, John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who never lost his belief in Batman because of a personal connection and becomes a crucial ally, along with Batman regulars Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Alfred (Michael Caine) and police commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman). Providing a love interest and a bit more is Miranda (Marion Cotillard), as a member of the board of Wayne Industries.
Except for an awesome, James Bond-like opening stunt involving two planes, and the stylish collapse of a football field, the action sequences in The Dark Knight Rises are acceptable but not outstanding.
There is also some excessive plot (mostly involving a home for orphans) that could have been easily eliminated. As noted earlier, I was prepared to think Nolan had not quite delivered the goods before he took a Batman grappling hook and pulled the movie back up to more satisfying heights with his beautifully designed twists and emotionally satisfying finish.
The Dark Knight Rises is a fitting end to a trio of films that collectively has lifted the superhero genre to a new level of excellence
The Dark Knight Rises ***1/2 (out of four)
Co-written & directed by Christopher Nolan; Rated PG-13
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