In 2005, director Christopher Nolan released "Batman Begins," the opening film to his trilogy that would attempt to redefine not only the Batman franchise, but the face of superhero movies all together. The original film was a mature looks at Batman; an improvement on the sort of childish view taken of the character in earlier installments.
Each film within Nolan's trilogy acquired, in it's own right, a feel that set it apart from the other two films. "Batman Begins" was a masterful re-introduction of Batman, which took upon itself the responsibility of dealing with issues of honor and dedication to ideals. In "The Dark Knight," Nolan tested these ideals in the most entertaining way possible. Fast forward eight years after the events of "The Dark Knight" and we arrive at "The Dark Knight Rises," the final chapter in what promises to be the greatest superhero trilogy of all time.
In the beginning of the film Bruce Wayne/Batman has hidden himself from the outside world after being branded Gotham's public enemy number one for the supposed murder of Harvey Dent. Wayne intends to live out his life within the confines of his mansion, but the arrival of a new terrorist by the name of Bane forces him to protect Gotham once again.
"The Dark Knight Rises" is an ambitious project by any means. At nearly three hours long, the film takes time to dabble in modern day politics and the everyman's disapproval of public policies. Within our own country we are seeing a period in which public confidence in elected officials is waning and in which evil acts seem to be possible around every corner. It is when "The Dark Knight Rises" addresses these subjects that it truly flourishes. The film asks what we are all willing to do in order to protect the nation which we call home. As Bruce Wayne struggles to find how much of himself he can give to his city, we find ourselves asking how much of an effort we are willing to put forward in order to live in the most ideal of circumstances.
As Bruce Wayne, actor Christian Bale has delivered one of the finest performances of his career. For my money, Bale was at his best in "Batman Begins." When "The Dark Knight" was released in 2008 I instantly had a problem with some of the changes Bale made to his character. He still made a great Wayne, but as Batman there were a number of mannerisms that drew me away from his overall performance. These problems seem to have been fixed, and I can easily say that Bale is back in top form and that his performance in "The Dark Knight Rises" is reminiscent of his overall performance in "Batman Begins" in the best way possible.
While I do praise most of the actors and and the characters they help bring to the screen, the biggest problems I have with "The Dark Knight Rises" actually come about because of the newly introduced female characters. Having seen all of Nolan's films it is hard to find one female character within any of his films which seems to be fully realized. Within the three Dark Knight films alone none of the female characters, save for Rachel Dawes, seems to be an entire character. In "The Dark Knight Rises" we are introduced to two new female characters: Miranda Tate and Selina Kyle. Each is given a backstory that is rather intriguing, but as the film progresses there isn't nearly enough character growth that occurs. As a result, I found myself caring little for the characters and their actions. This was a hard truth to arrive at, considering that two great actresses (Marion Cotillard and Anne Hathaway) were behind the performances. (SPOILER) It's even harder to realize this shortcoming of the movie when considering that the film ultimately left me unimpressed with the plot twist which occurs near the end of the film.
Aside from the complaints about the new female characters, I also had problems with the multitude of new characters in "The Dark Knight Rises." At a quick glance, "The Dark Knight Rises" introduces at least five new characters and none of them (save for Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake) really seem fully fleshed out. To begin with, Bane is easily the most disappointing villain in the entire Dark Knight saga. For one, you can't understand half of what he's saying. Nolan's decision to give Bane inaudible dialogue hurts many of the key scenes with "The Dark Knight Rises" and makes segments of the film fall flat entirely. Bane is, by all measures of what makes a movie villain great, lackluster.
Complaints aside, it is worth noting that "The Dark Knight Rises" stands as a very good conclusion to the greatest superhero trilogy of all time. Watching all three films together, one can't help but marvel at the way the story flows together and at the way Nolan builds upon his discussion of important and deeply urgent topics. Each film within the trilogy is as much a blockbuster action film as it is a meditation on what makes somebody a hero; not just a hero with unique abilities but an everyday hero with very ordinary abilities.
Full reviews of "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight" will appear in the near future. For now, the following ratings have been given to each.
Batman Begins: 9/10
The Dark Knight: 10/10
The Dark Knight Trilogy: 9/10