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MOVIE REVIEW: "THE DARK KNIGHT RISES" beyond expectations

Posted Sunday, July 22, 2012, at 2:19 AM

(Photo)
Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Epic is a term thrown around haphazardly these day, especially when high-profile and even more highly-publicized films make their ways into theaters expecting to rock massive box office receipts, but "The Dark Knight Rises" is the epitome of the term; "The Dark Knight Rises" far beyond the mega-hype surrounding its opening and delivers to the Silver Screen one of the most intriguing Comic Book genre films ever made.

Director Christopher Nolan weaves an action-packed, suspenseful and gut-wrenching narrative together into a three hour conclusion to his Batman motion picture trilogy. Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine round out the all-star cast.

Eight years have passed since the death of Harvey Dent and the self-imposed exile of the Batman. The Dark Knight's alter ego Bruce Wayne (Bale) is a recluse, but emerges from the darkness when the beautiful but notorious thief Selina Kyle (Hathaway) makes off with his mother's pearl necklace. But it is only when the mercenary Bane (Hardy) appears that Wayne once again dawns his now infamous cowl.

Weak and a shadow of his former self, Batman violently falls to Bane and is imprisoned, while Gotham City is ravaged by the evil warlord. John Blake (Gordon-Levitt), a hot-headed rookie cop, becomes a detective and joins forces with Commissioner Gordon (Oldman) to try and save the city in Batman's absence, but it is only when Wayne returns as the Dark Knight that the shroud of darkness is lifted from Gotham. Along with his new allies, Batman faces his ultimate challenge and eventual fate.

First, the movie is long, but well worth the duration. Prepare for the three hour jaunt, but don't fear the movie being too long. It is not boring and loaded with lulls as so many drawn out motion pictures suffer from. Nolan takes the time to develop every character and the intricate story that culminates in perhaps the most satisfying closing montage in modern cinematic history.

Don't miss the last five minutes! It is absolutely fabulous and pays off the three hour film perfectly. Opening weekend crowds were cheering at both screenings I attended. The scope is grand and the cinematography is an Oscar-worthy effort. "The Dark Knight Rises" has it all.

Second, the big problem for me was getting over the fact that "The Dark Knight Rises" is not the Knightfall/Knightquest/KnightsEnd storyline from the comic books. Yes, Bane breaks the Batman's back and Bruce Wayne returns to reclaim Gotham, but that is where the similarities end between the two narratives. The story is original, suspenseful and heart-wrenching.

SPOILER ALERT! DON'T READ BEYOND IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW THE SURPRISES AND ENDING

I love Cotillard's performance as the revenge-seeking daughter of Ra's al Ghul, Talia. She is the reason for the season folks, as she has set this entire play in motion.

Talia wants to not only destroy Bruce Wayne, the man responsible for her father's death, but she wishes to complete the League of Shadows plan, implemented in "Batman Begins" (2005), to destroy Gotham City. Cotillard is brilliant as both the love interest of Bruce Wayne and the jaded daughter bent on destruction and revenge.

For years, interviews with both Bale and Nolan suggested that there would be no character of Robin in this Batman trilogy. However, in a surprising and interesting twist, John Blake's legal name is revealed to be Robin at the film's conclusion.

As disappointed as I was not to see Dick Grayson, Jason Todd or Tim Drake in some capacity, the fact that Bruce bequeaths the Batman legacy to Blake at the end was a truly satisfying moment. While Bruce enjoys life beyond the cowl with Selina, another sensational plot twist, Robin will become Gotham's new Dark Knight. Oh, and Talia dies so there's no chance for Damian Wayne to emerge as Robin in the future. Well, unless Talia is taken to the Lazarus Pit.

Bane is every bit, if not more, the scoundrel he was in the comic books. Yes, Tom Hardy rivals Heath Ledger's performance of the Joker -- it's that simple. Powerful, cunning and deadly, Bane helps his ally Talia al Ghul decimate Gotham City.

I'm so tired of hearing and reading about Bane's dialogue being hard to understand because of the mask he wears. If anything, he is easier to understand than the other characters in the film, because of the amplification of his voice courtesy of the mask. Hardy is a talented actor who brings Bane to life and makes him a worthy antagonist for Batman.

"The Dark Knight Rises" very well may be the best of the trilogy, and the movie certainly delivers a mesmerizing ending to an exhilarating Batman saga. I know that many fans were overly enthralled by "The Dark Knight" (2008), but the epic conclusion to Nolan's saga is every bit as good as the first 2 installments of the series.

SEE OR SNUB --

RECOMMENDATION: MUST SEE

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Steven graduated Cum Laude from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mass Communications, focusing on film studies, journalism and theatre arts. Dubbed a "prolific" writer by Hollywood icon Kenneth Johnson (The Incredible Hulk, V, The Bionic Woman, Alien Nation), Steven has been honored by the Arkansas College Media Association for his story writing prowess. He has also received recognition for his dramatic writing from the Eerie, Shriekfest and Screamfest horror film festivals. Publications include: Carroll County News, Saline Courier, Forum, Echo and Moroch.