It's no understatement that Christopher Nolan's final entry into "The Dark Knight Trilogy" was immensely anticipated. "Batman Begins" successfully provided the iconic characters to a respectable manner while capturing the idiosyncrasies, quintessential and thematics that are embedded within this cultural figure. Additionally, Nolan continued his diagnosis of the caped-crusader with "The Dark Knight"; a comic-book adaption that accumulated integrity, a balance of moral distinctions; the first superhero film ground through a sense of reality, morbid atmosphere; and a film that has been embedded within pop-culture - contributed greatly by the late Heath Ledger. So, as previously stated, the anticipation for Nolan's final entry was unparalleled. After six months after its release, whether the film is considered 'great' or not is purely subjective and is a subject that is likely to be contentious. Basically there are people who love it, and obviously ones that depose it. Personally, "The Dark Knight Rises" is an ultimate success; a film that may not compare to its predecessor, but nevertheless accomplishes its sole purpose: a final entry that is grandeur, monumental and concludes Batman's and Bruce Wanye's story in equal measure. However, while the film succeeds on many fronts, there are glaring flaws: plot elements (not plot holes) that have evidently been rushed; sloppy sound-mixing - the score quite frequently engulfs the dialogue - characters that are brilliantly fleshed out, but at times seem superfluous; and dialogue that seems stage-bound. Like most final segments, Batman's finale contains an accumulation of notions, various sub-plots and too many characters. Nevertheless, Nolan juggles the various elements to present - at times messy but also attempting to be cohesive - a conclusion that succeeds on producing the big moments, but failing on the subtle ones.
The plot picks up eight years after the events of Harvey Dent's death. Gotham's climate has shifted from the reigning chaos of the Joker, to a time of peace and solace. After Batman took the fall for Dent's crime, he has been branded a criminal, which in turn sends Bruce Wayne to a reclusive status. When the evasive Selena Kyle comes out to play with accompany of a new mercenary, Bane. The people of Gotham must to turn to the man they once branded a criminal: The Batman.
While the plot may seem relatively simply, Nolan's ability as a story-teller allows it sprawl (similar to a novelistic technique) with continuous bends, turns and the demanding of the viewers attention - as previously stated, there are many characters that contribute to the plots perpetual motion. In regards to this train-of-thought, Nolan adopted the pacing of 'The Snowball-effect.' A technique used for a film to continuously gain momentum, upon momentum to the inevitable climax (think "North by Northwest"). The use of such an effect come with its merits, and its pitfalls. The first hour and a half fly's at brisk pace; action after action sequences with dosages on the relations between Bruce and Alfred within a substantial measure. However, with Nolan continually attempting to gain this perpetual momentum, many plot elements are rushed: John Blake's discovery of Batman's identity is paper thin, along with Bruce's return to Gotham; and within the space of 5 minutes, the time duration goes from twenty-three days to fourteen hours. And while this effect builds to a sensational climax, there are many subtle moments that you wish were taken with that extra care of delicacy.
As with adopting such a pace and aiming for them 'monumental moments,' the atmosphere and mood of "The Dark Knight Rises" tends to lend to the fantastical elements used within "Batman Begins" rather than the gritty realism of "The Dark Knight"; in fact, Nolan's latest entry could well be his most fantastical (comic-boo-key). Consider the various elements: there's the "The Bat," a new-toy from applied sciences which provides Batman with the ol' air-support; then there's the central mechanical antagonist - No, not Bane - a ticking time-bomb (obviously influenced from Nolan's love of "James Bond." Looking at you "Goldfinger"). And it's obvious that the action sequences have been given that extra little bit of juice for a grandeur outcome. Thankfully - and despite striding for such heights - Nolan doesn't substitute the authentic realism of his action sequences for the use of CGI. For example, the introduction is simply breathtaking. Watching Bane - with the introduction of his sinister voice - hijack a plane with the accompany of real props and searing Imax shots is an entity to behold. Furthermore, the climax consist of hundreds of extras with various vehicles engaging in a battle for Gotham's soul that turns the city in a full-blown battle-field. Nolan's craftsmanship towards the film's thrills evokes the aesthetic principles used within the classic studio-era blockbusters.
Despite its focus on action, "The Dark Knight Rises" still contains emotional resonance. At its core, the films sole focus is to conclude Batman and Bruce's story. Similar to the source material and after the events of Rachael; Bruce has become a recluse. His mansion has become a substitute for society, and ultimately, his tale is quite tragic. Living in a world that has rejected his sole purpose and burden, his passion and desires ultimately led to his downfall; continually rejecting Alfred's (Caine) advice, Bruce once again dons the cape and attempts to overt his ideals of liberty, autonomy, and bravery in a world that is obviously oppressed by evil. However, after being defeated by the juggernaut Bane, Nolan takes us back to where it all began, and takes us to a question that his father made him address "Why do we fall?" - as "Hell on earth" functions as a metaphor for Bruce's reemergence with the internal notion that began his crusade: fear.
With Bruce being a central figure (more than actual Batman), Bale provides his best performance yet as the old-crippled Bruce (especially the sequences within 'The Pit'). Besides Bale, the rest of essential Gotham are back; Freeman as Fox and Oldman as Gordon both provide substantial performances. However, above everyone, Michael Caine's efforts as Alfred are truly memorable. Two sequences come to mind that are profoundly melancholic and poignant. And of course there are the new-comers: Tom Hardy as Bane and Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle.
Subjectively, if there is one entity that Nolan has perfected within these films, it's the villain - not only as an antagonist for Batman's actions, but rather a menace to societies hypocrisy. All motivated by ideological purposes: Ra's (Neeson) beliefs with destroying certain decaying societies for the next movements within western civilizations; Joker's (Ledger) nihilistic qualities that challenged the moralistic pillars established by the so-called 'Good-doers' of Gotham; and now there is Bane. And while he is motivated (well, initially) by a certain belief that reflects a Marxist extremist, he's a villain that contains eccentric attitudes within comparison to Batman's previous villains: physicality over mentality. With the accompany of some brilliant low-angle shots and Hardy's physical transformation, Bane's physicality is profoundly felt with each appearance. Furthermore, such a villain - a brute force - can drag the characters essential qualities to generic notions (Let's face it, many antagonist that are characterized with such fundamentals are influenced from some of cinema's most generic villains). Fortunately, and thanks to Tom Hardy's acting ability, Bane is provided with seminal actions (purely subjective and a extremely contentious subject), such as Hardy's accent (which is wholly welcomed). A voice that captures the classy, sardonic, sinister capabilities and humanized abilities in various (and interesting) ways. Basically, well it seems, Hardy can convey more emotion that most Hollywood actors with 80% of his face covered. Unfortunately, Anne Hathaway's performance works to an extent; her actual embodiment of the characters quintessentials are pitch perfect; encapsulating the desirable, evasiveness, sexiness and the Femme fatal qualities. However, overall her addition seems superfluous to the plot, and while she does to a degree represent the scathing thematic of social classes and functions as the catalyst to Bruce's happiness; her purpose is simply not fleshed-out enough.
Once again, "The Dark Knight Rises"is another Batman film that succeeds on most technical fronts. Wally Pfister's cinematography is richly beautiful; a montage of various Imax shots that are simply jaw-dropping to witness in Imax. In particular 'The Football' sequence and the vast cliff-dropping shots of Wall-Street. Additionally, the elegant grace of Gotham covered with the Snow-palette is a beautiful metaphor of entrapment. Once again Hans Zimmer score is monumental; basically functioning as another character, providing the morbid emotion, the anarchy of base, and at-times the continual lifting inspiration of liberty against evil. However, as previously stated, the sound-mixing is often sloppy - Bane's voice at times is difficult to understand (thank-god for subtitles), and when the characters engage in a minimalistic tone, Simmer's score often engulfs it.
Usually - especially within the superhero genre - I have established such an emotional investment within these characters that I love and care about, the third entry usually leaves me with bittersweet disappointment. Whether it be "The X-men series," "The Spiderman Trilogy" or "The Matrix"; each fail within their final entries. Thankfully I don't have to situate "The Dark Knight Rises" under the previously mentioned categories. A final entry that ultimately succeeds on many fronts, but still contains various flaws. But all in all, Nolan's final entry full-fills his motivations: a conclusion with monumental elements, while concluding Bruce Wayne and Batman's story in equal measure with an ending that leaves us wanting more. And while Nolan will not return, if every wants to, it will be immensely welcomed.