Four long years after the series’ previous film wowed critics and audiences, The Dark Knight Rises hit theaters to complete Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. The film faced a tough act to follow after the wildly popular The Dark Knight. It was hard to know what to expect from Rises, considering the untimely death of actor Heath Ledger made it impossible to follow up on the Joker storyline. Instead the film feels like more of a direct sequel to the first film of the trilogy, Batman Begins, with elements of the second film thrown in for consistency. On its own merit The Dark Knight Rises, now available on Blu-ray, is an entertaining film that closes the trilogy in a satisfying way.
Rises is set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse, Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) is racked with guilt over his deception of the public regarding the death of Harvey Dent. And, of course, Batman is persona non grata in Gotham City. That doesn’t matter too much because crime has virtually been wiped from the streets. The tranquility is interrupted when the masked strongman Bane (Tom Hardy) begins to wreak havoc, attempting to continue the mission of Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Shadows (as established in Begins). Bruce Wayne is forced out of seclusion, resurrecting Batman as the city begins to fall to Bane.
Rises brings back several familiar characters from the previous films, most notably Wayne's butler and surrogate father, Alfred (Michael Caine). Alfred dutifully watches over Wayne as he hides in a secluded wing of the mansion, fretting over the lack of any productive life the billionaire has. Also returning is the previously mentioned Commissioner Gordon and techno-wiz Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman). There are also some new characters to bring some diversity to the storyline. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Detective Blake, who always seems to be one step ahead of the game. Anne Hathaway shines as Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman (though she is never referred to by that name during the film). Both characters bring an extra, and much welcome, spark to film. Of course, there is also Bane as the villain.
As enjoyable as I find the film overall, I have mixed feelings about Bane as a villain. He seems like more of a strong-arm man than anything else. He is mere brute force, and is not really that interesting of a character. We don’t get to know enough about him, though some intriguing elements of his backstory are revealed (including why he wears the breathing apparatus). There are other evil forces at work in The Dark Knight Rises, but to say anything further would give away the twist at the end. Another element that doesn’t quite work is the attempt at contemporary political commentary. The “occupy movement” allegory already feels outdated, and the message is muddled at best. Bruce Wayne receives little sympathy from the financially strapped Selina Kyle when he loses his fortune. On the other hand, the middle-class masses are all too eager to blindly follow the maniacal Bane. So who is worse—the filthy rich (depicted as uncaring) or the common man (depicted as unable to think for himself)?