Most Anticipated: The Dark Knight Rises

3. The Dark Knight Rises (PG-13) - Runtime: 164 minutes!
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway
Director: Christopher Nolan

I've had a week to process this movie. Not that you need much time to process this movie, but I just didn't feel like writing about this movie every time there was an opportunity. It seems trivial after the tragic events in Colorado unfolded. But instead of being angry or frustrated about writing this review, I want to focus on the movie itself and the lasting legacy of Nolan's ambitious trilogy will have. I don't know how long people will keep mentioning the Aurora shootings whenever this movie comes up in discussion, but my hope is that people won't forget the lives lost. I've seen the movie twice (and right before it I've re-watched the previous two films) and so far my conclusion is that this is one of the greatest trilogies of movies ever put to celluloid.

My main concern going into the movie was how was Nolan going to top The Dark Knight and Heath Ledger's memorable take on the Joker? The answer was to go bigger, louder and just more epic in every sense of the word. I don't normally like using epic to describe movies because once you use it too many times, that word seems to lose it's impact. But epic is the only way to describe TDKR. I loved this movie. I loved how it ties back to Batman Begins more so than The Dark Knight. This movie doesn't have three acts, it unfolds in five acts! It's that big and the way Nolan leaves the franchise - Warner Bros. can reboot or keep following the same trajectory and I would be content with either decision (because you know there's going to be at least three more movies in the next twenty years).

Is Bane an equal to the Joker? No, not at all, but they have completely different worldviews - so I'm not going to try and compare them. I would agree that Ledger's performance tops Hardy's - but that's mainly due to the fact that Hardy is restricted somewhat by that gigantic face mask. I was impressed at Nolan providing an equal, if not superior, match to Batman. Bane is bigger, tougher and way smarter. He enters the game when Bruce Wayne/Batman hasn't been paying attention to Gotham and he knows when to strike when his opponents are weak. The movie slowly builds upon this climax of a showdown between Batman and Bain and it's pretty gruesome. It's a pretty gruesome scene to watch and I think it was effective in showing how dire the situation turns once Bane takes over Gotham.

My other real big concern was Anne Hathaway. I wasn't overly fond of the casting choice - I just thought she didn't quite fit. But Hathaway proved me wrong - not only does she bring that witty, I-don't-give-a-damn attitude, she's slick and quite convincing as a cat burglar. Another great choice was Joseph Gordon-Levitt as detective John Blake. SPOILER ALERT! I would absolutely love it if the studio decides to turn his character into Robin/Batman. I think JGL would make a fantastic Batman 2.0 and they wouldn't have to reboot the series at all. There's all sorts of possibilities they could go if they decide to bring him on as the next Batman. My only hope is they find the right director. END OF SPOILERS!

The rest of the cast is solid. Michael Caine will always be Alfred - there is no other in my mind. He's the moral center of this trilogy and he always has very important things to say. Morgan Freeman is great, but he doesn't get as much screen time. Marion Cotillard was perfect for her role. She's always been a solid actress and even though she's won an Oscar and has starred in a few big time movies, I feel like she's under appreciated by the general public. Hopefully this movie helps to turn that around. Much like Michael Caine is Alfred, Gary Oldman is Commissioner Gordon. There's simply no other choice.

Although a lot of the themes running throughout the movie are similar to Batman Begins, you see a lot of fallout and consequences stemming from The Dark Knight. Alfred's decision in the second movie to burn Rachel's letter causes Bruce Wayne to shun the living world and go hide in recluse because he believes he's done all that he could and his life is meaningless without her. I didn't know Wayne was such a pussy! But Commissioner Gordon also has to deal with a lie he's lived with for eight years and it's interesting to see how he deals with propping up a false idol. Who knew there would be real-life parallels with the Jerry Sandusky-Penn State scandal? Not that Nolan and company could have foreseen something like that happening, but it's nonetheless interesting to see fiction and real life cross paths

Overall, this is hands down one of the top three movies of the year so far and I would say this movie is way better than anything that came out last year! If you haven't seen this, stop reading and go now! If you have seen it, watch it again! There's lots of great stuff the second time around that you may have missed! Nolan's Batman trilogy will be one of the greatest and most appreciated trilogies of all time. I'd put it up there with Star Wars and LOTR. Only time will tell how well these movies hold up, but I'm guessing we'll be seeing Nolan's formula copied many, many times over.

Rating: See It! Twice!

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