The Dark Knight Rises
4 stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand
In 2005, director Christopher Nolan (“Memento,” “Inception”) reinvented the Caped Crusader with the dark, brooding origin story “Batman Begins.” Fast forward seven years, and Nolan has placed an exclamation point on his work with a film reported to be his last in the Batman franchise.
Perhaps the greatest thing about “The Dark Knight Rises” is it doesn’t feel like a sequel. Rather, it plays as the thrilling and natural conclusion to an epic trilogy. The movie is set eight years after “The Dark Knight,” and Batman (Christian Bale) is in exile, having been wrongly accused of murder. In addition, the man behind the mask, Bruce Wayne, is living as an eccentric recluse, beaten and battered from his years fighting crime.
On the up side, Wayne’s beloved Gotham City is prospering, and crime is sharply down. Everything changes, however, when a well-funded terrorist named Bane (Tom Hardy) attacks the city, holding its citizens hostage with the threat of a nuclear detonation. Naturally, Wayne dons his cape and cowl to come to the rescue, but his fragile physical condition and the scope of the threat make this mission more difficult than any before.
Although “Dark Knight Rises” is nearly three hours long, it feels breezy thanks to Nolan’s pacing. As usual, he delivers an ideal mix of action, spectacle and emotional resonance, and that’s what sets this franchise apart from others in the genre. The “Dark Knight” movies may have been inspired by comic books, but they have the poignancy and weight of something greater. This movie, in particular, is a masterpiece because it skillfully concludes plot threads seeded in earlier chapters while maintaining its relevance as a stand-alone film. That means both newcomers and longtime fans can find rewards.
The appropriate cast members from the first two movies return, meaning we get fine outings from Michael Caine (as Wayne’s butler), Morgan Freeman (as a Wayne Enterprises executive) and Gary Oldman (as Police Commissioner Gordon). We also get a collection of new faces, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young police officer, Marion Cotillard as a wealthy socialite and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. Collectively, the group is fantastic.
“The Dark Knight Rises” is not only one of the best action-adventure films of 2012, it’s one of the best films period.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include a feature on the making of the movie, a feature on the Batmobile, and art galleries.