By: Shaun Smith

The legend ends.

The Dark Knight Rises is the third and final film in Christopher Nolan’s vision of iconic Batman comic book character.

Unlike the previous Batman films, Nolan’s series actually has an arc when it comes to the story and characters presented in the trilogy.

As expected we are treated by the usual array of characters, Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Michael Caine as Alfred, Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, and Morgan Freeman as God, I mean Lucius Fox.

The film takes place eight years after the last in the series, 2008’s The Dark Knight.

Since The Joker terrorized Gotham City eight years prior, Wayne has retired Batman and has become a gimping and secluded shell of his former self.

Alfred remains Wayne’s butler but has become increasingly worried about the mental and psychical state of Bruce.

Gordon is finding that keeping the secret of Harvey Dent is becoming too much to bear while Fox is having a difficult time turning a profit as chairman of Wayne Enterprises.

The Dark Knight Rises begins a lot like the opening of The Dark Knight where we see a ten minute prologue featuring the main villain of the film.

This time we have an amazing airplane sequence featuring the masked mercenary known only by the name of Bane (played superbly by Tom Hardy).

We are introduced early on to a jewelry thief named Selina Kyle (played by Anne Hathaway) who becomes mixed in with the wrong people. Obviously Kyle is supposed to be Catwoman, and even bares the suit later in the film but she is never referred to as Catwoman, a nice touch of subtlety.

Included in this large cast of characters is the surprisingly crucial role of John Blake, a determined Gotham cop played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

And to round things off we have Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate, a business woman and member of the Wayne Enterprises board of directors who continues to push this clean energy project on Bruce Wayne.

Okay now that’s all out of the way, let’s get into the meat of the review: What’s good and what’s not?

With a running time of 2 hours and 45 minutes, The Dark Knight Rises theoretically should feel like a pretty long epic of a movie. I felt much like the last film, Rises does a good job at pacing the story.

It definitely seemed like they were trying to cram a lot of story in here, almost enough to have turned this into two separate films.

The one negative here is that because there’s so many characters involved the film sometimes loses the audience with the story. I always say that the less characters, the better, no matter what the film is. It’s a risky attempt to pull this off and it’s not like it fails horribly, just could have been improved on.

For once this Batman film is much more emotional than others, especially a number of scenes between Bruce and Alfred.

This is also probably the first Batman movie that makes you actually care about Batman. In pretty much every previous film, including the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher ones, the villains were always the intriguing and interesting characters while Batman, or Bruce, was just there to be there.

In Rises, Bruce is written incredibly well and actually has an interesting personality to him. Normally people are like, “When are the villains coming back on screen?” I never felt that way about Bruce in this film.

Alfred really becomes more emotional in this film opposite Bruce and is some of the best Michael Caine acting I’ve seen in a while (remember, this man has two Oscars).

One of the trepidations I had prior to the film was the inclusion of Catwoman into the story.

I’ve never been a big fan of Ms. Kyle, but surprisingly enough she is one of the best things about this movie.

Many scoffed at the idea of casting Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, similar to how Heath Ledger was picked for The Joker.

I felt confident for two reasons: 1) Hathaway is a really good actress, very underrated in my opinion and could pull this off and 2) I trust Nolan.

One scene in particular was a favorite of mine; this is when Kyle meets with the wormy guy in the bar to deliver a package. Not to spoil anything but she turns from badass fighter to screaming oblivious woman to fearless spy within a matter of seconds. Excellent acting.

She also doesn’t go over-the-top with witty and sarcastic quips in a devilish voice. That seems to be a stable for previous Catwoman actresses. But then again she isn’t Catwoman, she’s Selina Kyle.

The big hot button topic is the main villain of Rises, the masked killer Bane.

A lot of people are going to complain about Bane’s voice, whether it’s the mixing of the sound or Tom Hardy’s accent.

I thought the voice was just fine. The only complaint is that the voice was mixed in a way that there is no depth to the sound field within an area.

In other words, when Bane is far away he sounds like he would close-up. It’s not a huge problem but something noticeable.

If anything I thought the sometimes groggily and odd voice of Bane helped the character. It made him seem more frightening and powerful.

Bane really comes off as a total badass, especially during the tunnel battle scene. Hardy also does a lot of great facial acting for his character is generally scary.

It’s like I’ve said before, if I was casting a feature film as the director, I would cast Hardy before any other actor is considered.

Tom Hardy is one of the best underappreciated actors of the last five years and I would trust him with almost any role.

Surprisingly enough, John Blake plays a pretty big role in the story. In fact, without giving spoilers, Blake seems to be involved in almost every important aspect of the film.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is great as usual and was a great choice for this character.

Commissioner Gordon takes a bit of a smaller role during the first half of the film, probably to get the Blake character over to the audience, but is still played well by Oldman.

One of the puzzling parts of the movie was the casting of Marion Cotillard in the film. I’ve never really considered her a great actress and I feel at times she really hams it up, especially in her scenes with Bruce Wayne.

I guess it would have been hard to tell this story without having Miranda Tate but that’s just a small part I didn’t agree with.

One of the best parts of the film is the visual style and camerawork.

Once again Nolan teams with his Oscar winning cinematographer, Wally Pfister, and creates a visual pattern unique to this third film.

Pfister’s work is accentuated with the use of the 8k, 70mm IMAX cameras. Even though the neo noir style doesn’t lend much improvement using IMAX, many of the scenes filmed with the camera, including breathtaking skyline shots, really adds to the experience of the film.

I enjoyed how the cinematography in Rises is noticeably different from the previous two films. It gives each movie of the trilogy its own importance and feel.

In fact Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises each feel like separate films.

Christopher Nolan has been quoted as describing each film’s theme with one word: Begins is Fear, Dark Knight is Chaos, and Rises is Pain.

Is this a perfect film? Not for one second.

There are some obvious plot holes, although less than message boards on the Internet would want you to believe, but every actor turns in a solid, if not great performance along with a well crafted story and dramatic ending.

I saw Rises twice so far this weekend, the first at the midnight opening and the second in IMAX. My first impression of the film was that it was good but not great.

The second viewing was much more enjoyable and gave me a chance to really examine the film carefully.

I still feel The Dark Knight is the best film of the series, but Rises as of now for me comes in second place overall.

During a weak year of movies so far, Rises is easily the best film to be released so far in 2012.

A-

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