The Dark Knight Rises: A Stellar Conclusion

Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

The Dark Knight Rises manages to bring Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy to an end with a thrilling and stellar conclusion.

The closing chapter certainly changes up the pace after the first two films delivered a strong focus on organize crime. Gone are the Falcone and Maroni crime families. The terrorizing Bane (Tom Hardy) steps into replace them eight years after Harvey Dent’s death. Thanks to the Dent Act, many criminals are behind bars. Oh, does he ever! Bane has his eyes on destroying Gotham in a way that nobody could probably imagine. He wants to destroy the city not only from terror but from the inside out.

This isn’t to say that there’s not fallout remaining from The Dark Knight. Batman remains on the run. Bruce Wayne hasn’t been seen in a few years. Wayne Enterprises certainly doesn’t boast the profits the company used to bring in. While crime isn’t what it used to be, this doesn’t stop others from popping up every now and then. Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) uses the Dent Day party at Wayne Manor to steal Martha Wayne’s pearls. Granted there’s an ulterior motive at play–Selina only does this to give Bruce Wayne’s prints to corporate rival John Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn). Meanwhile, Bane and company have set up shop in the city’s sewer system.

In what is the longest film in the trilogy (and probably just a tad bit too long), there is a lot happening. Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) resigns as the Wayne family’s longtime butler. Bruce Wayne turns over his company to a new CEO, Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). A rookie cop, John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one of Gotham’s honest cops and also assists commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) in trying to save the city. Everything comes to a climax in the film’s final hour. Bruce Wayne/Batman, Selina Kyle/Catwoman, and Commissioner Gordon team up to save the day. It doesn’t come easy but whatever it takes, right?

Let’s talk about the final few minutes of film. Everything certainly comes together with concluding stories. I like the way that it’s all spliced together and weaving in the various characters. We also get some hope when one assumes the worst had happened. I wouldn’t expect differently. It opens the door to future stories even as we know that we won’t be getting any of those on the big screen.

Christian Bale also leaves his mark as Batman for an entire generation of movie goers. Looking back at the last 30 years of live-action Batman films, it’s hard to find someone that can top him. Listen, everyone manages to bring their own thing to the role but when you look at Bale, you really feel like you’re looking at Batman. Maybe its because of how he prepares but something about Bale’s performance elevates the material in a different way. It’s why I feel a sense of loyalty to Bale’s performance than all the other actors playing Batman. Part of this is what the filmmakers, cast, and crew bring to the film, too.

Politically speaking, Bane certainly represents a movement. His character is one who manages to lead Gotham’s residents to go against the government and the police. All the while, Bruce Wayne is sent into a prison and Commissioner Gordon is forced into keeping a low profile. In their absence, Bane terrorizes the city while Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy) is the jury and executioner. There’s a lot more that can be said here but I’m not about to dive into it.

Aesthetically, the solid work keeps coming in terms of design, cinematography, editing, and score. While James Newton Howard doesn’t return, Hans Zimmer keeps the spirit alive. Where other composers might find a way to pay homage to Danny Elfman’s iconic Batman score, Zimmer doesn’t. He finds a way to make it his own. Perhaps the most disappointing part of the film is taking Chicago out of the equation and moving the bulk of Gotham to Pittsburgh. It may be a minor thing for some but as a viewer, we can easily tell the difference in the skyline and the city’s overall design. It will never not be weird that Gotham City is clearly Chicago in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and suddenly becomes a combo of Pittsburgh, Newark, Los Angeles, and New York in The Dark Knight Rises.

Christopher Nolan’s trilogy is one of the rare trilogies that manages to get it right. Such trilogies usually manage to come with a misfire along the way. This isn’t the case with this one as every film hits the right mark. The Dark Knight Rises caps off the trilogy with a high but bittersweet note.

DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan
SCREENWRITERS: Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan
CAST: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Morgan Freeman

Warner Bros. Pictures opened The Dark Knight Rises in theaters on July 20, 2012. The film is available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital. Grade: 5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.