In The Dark Knight Rises, Director Christopher Nolan completes his Batman trilogy the same way he started it; with a powerful, action-packed flick that includes a supporting cast which is once again at the top of their game. Rather than just present this movie as the final stepping-stone along Nolan’s bat-winged cinematic journey, The Dark Knight Rises actually assumes the cornerstone role--taking moviegoers full-circle with masterful tie-ins to the Batman Begins and The Dark Knight segments. It is rare to find a triquel where the final installment is as good, or better, than the previous editions. However, Nolan's artwork here does just that--surpassing both earlier pieces and placing him in the elite class of best directors ever.
The usual supporting cast of Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman delivered the pragmatism, innovation and conviction in their roles that we’ve grown to expect from this Gotham trio. However, what I wasn't prepared for was how well Anne Hathaway portrayed Catwoman, ‘stealing’ almost every scene she was in with a devious look, skin-tight catsuit, or even a high-heel to someone’s throat. Hathaway’s Catwoman will not be remembered by Batman fans nearly as long as Heath Ledger’s role as The Joker, but make no mistake; Hathaway’s performance exceeded expectations with her witty lines, cat-like reflexes, and most importantly, the significance her character played in many of the major turning points of this movie.
I was also surprised at how much Bruce Wayne we see from Christian Bale instead of Batman in this film. It wasn’t until near the first hour that the Dark Knight appears on-screen. Whereas some might think the concentration on Bruce Wayne versus Batman might have taken away from the overall movie, I found it refreshing. Bale, one of my all-time favorite actors, nicely balances his screen time between helping to explain Nolan’s intricate storyline while also building up his chemistry with Hathaway's Catwoman. Nolan seamlessly bridges his earlier Batman movies with this one using well-placed re-casting and several references to the League of Shadows.
Although the first half of the movie seems somewhat slow at times--mostly as Bane’s evil on streets takes hold--the final hour of The Dark Knight Rises was perhaps the best 60 minutes of cinema goodness I’ve seen in the past 5 years. The brilliance of Nolan’s film is how he was able to draw previous Batman works into this masterpiece. It's not a coincidence that Nolan is this year's best director and frontrunner for an Oscar here at 2012's halftime. With The Dark Knight Rises movie trailers on YouTube for well over a year now, Nolan is the talk of Hollywood. And continue to look skyward for the Bat-signal because The Dark Knight Rises is by no means an end to The Caped Crusader—Nolan very wisely and neatly has teed up the next director to continue the Dark Knight series...and that graciousness and foresight might be Nolan’s greatest feat yet.
The Dark Knight Rises is Rated PG-13 with a running time of 2 hours, 45 minutes.