I apologize for the lateness of this review. I actually saw this film at a midnight showing on opening day. Yes, I was pretty pumped. But I also went into it thinking that there was simply no way it could surpass The Dark Knight in quality. That was just an incredibly special film.
And, no, Rises doesn’t surpass, nor even match the quality of the previous Batman film. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t pretty awesome.
Batman, at the end of the last film, took the fall for the murders committed by Harvey Dent after his descent into Two-Face madness, including the death of Dent himself. He’s a fallen hero, and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) hasn’t fared much better. He’s limping around with a cane, living a hermit’s life in one wing of his newly built Wayne Manor. Alfred (Michael Caine) wants desperately for Bruce to create a real life for himself, but Bruce can’t get past the death of his one true love, Rachel.
Things start to look interesting again after a cat burglar sneaks into Wayne’s inner sanctum to steal his fingerprints. This is, of course, Selina Kyle, the never-mentioned “Catwoman”, played perfectly by Anne Hathaway. She’s one cog in a cleverly masterminded plan by the film’s supervillain, Bane. This guy is just as focused on the destruction of Gotham as was Ra’s al Ghul, who you may remember was the big bad in the first Batman film of this trilogy. (I don’t have a review for Batman Begins to link to, so I’ll just say that it was really amazing.) In fact, we learn soon enough that Bane used to be a member of the League of Shadows, Ra’s al Ghul’s organization, but he was excommunicated for being too extreme.
Bane’s plan just gets more and more insane until Gotham City is completely under his control and all the citizens (except for a few stalwart cops, like Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake) are completely cowed. Even the Federal Government can’t help.
So, Batman, cursed by his own physical limitations, his grief over his dead girlfriend and his guilt over lying about Dent, has to contend with an adversary who is smarter than Ra’s al Ghul, more fearsome than the Scarecrow, and more vicious than the Joker. Tom Hardy plays Bane from within a freaky mask that covers all but his wild eyes. His voice work, however, is excellent. At times playful, always eloquent, and very, very scary. Never (in any incarnation) have I seen a villain come so close to breaking Batman.
My favorite aspect of the film was how it grew so organically out of the stories from the previous films. It wasn’t just another episode of a series of adventures that Batman has had. It was directly tied to both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight in a way that ties the whole trilogy together brilliantly.
There are, of course, a handful of other noteworthy performances: Morgan Freeman, Marion Cotillard, even an odd but satisfying turn by Matthew Modine.
The film was a tad long, though I didn’t feel robbed of my time. The film earns it’s ending, which was about as perfect a resolution to the series as I could have imagined.