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The Dark Knight Rises (Frank's take)

01/08/2012. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

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As a filmmaker, how does one follow up on continuing the excitable exploits of the Batman film franchise and expect to top what is perhaps the greatest superhero film of all time in the spectacular The Dark Knight? Well if you are the highly heralded Christopher Nolan then you will instinctively find a way. Hence, the explosive and dynamic The Dark Knight Rises is certainly not a bad way to start.

The majority of The Dark Knight avid followers may agree that Rises, although sensationally stimulating in its own right, could never match its predecessor’s prestige in mystique, imagination and vigor. After all, it is quite difficult to duplicate the intriguing nuances of the late Oscar-winning Heath Ledger’s potent performance as the delightfully psychopathic Joker. Both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are impeccable acts to follow. Nevertheless, Nolan’s newest entry chronicling the further depths of his conflicted caped crime-fighter should energize Batman enthusiasts and comic book superhero fanboys to the point of nursing their succulent escapist ecstasies.

There is no doubt that The Dark Knight Rises puts a convincing exclamation point on this enthralling movie trilogy. It is the very definition of an invigorating epic that invites a haunting passion and visual landscape of popcorn-pleasing vitality. The Caped Crusader is in full force dripping with rawness, scope and revolving intrigue. In describing The Dark Knight as a bombastic blast would indeed be an understatement. Thoroughly engaging and audacious, this cowl-wearing character convincingly Rises to the occasion.

Eight years after The Dark Knight ‘s second installment we find the introspective Bruce Wayne (Oscar winner Christian Bale, “The Fighter”) a former shell of himself. Withdrawn and disillusioned, Wayne wallows in isolation as his trusty butler Alfred (Michael Caine) faithfully serves the dejected soul.

Now older and reclusive, the question that remains at large is the following: can Bruce Wayne overcome his overwhelming angst-ridden demeanor and venture out into a vulnerable world that needs his presence as Gotham City’s most influential citizen and super villain repellent? Whether tainted about the political scandal that had unfairly left the masked vigilante holding the bag or mourning about the love he lost so dearly to his heart Wayne must confront the demons for the sake of his credibility and that of a jeopardized metropolis that desperately desires his skillful intervention.

Naturally, this is not the ideal time for a depressed Bruce Wayne to be dragging his feet in defeatist mode. Nasty nemesis Bane (Tom Hardy, “Inception”) is running amok and causing all sorts of havoc and heartbreak for the Gotham City locals. Balding, hulking and nefarious, Bane has a leather mask that protects his face as well. Plus, Batman’s other adversary is on the scene in the form of the devious debutante Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), the sleek and curvaceous cat burglar with the forceful femme fatale agenda in full swing.

As supervillains Bane and Catwoman proceed with their master plan to dastardly manipulate and maneuver the masses, Batman rises from his self-imposed moping and gains his crime-fighting confidence back. Thankfully, Wayne/Batman has a reliable entourage to help him in the effort to thwart the pairing pests. Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) returns to aid Batman as his right-hand man. Youthful detective John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) joins in the quest to corral the Terrible Twosome. Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and his law enforcers supply the manpower (Matthew Modine is in a supporting role as one of Gordon’s uniformed men).

Wayne’s/Batman’s dealing with the sexy and sassy Catwoman is involving to say the least. However, he also tangles with another fruitful female in the name of Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard, “La Vie en Rose”), the new Wayne Enterprises CEO and love interest of Bruce’s.

Dutifully, The Dark Knight Rises incorporates everything in a summer blockbuster that is stylishly imaginative and challenging. The performances are durable and reflective (particularly Bale as the psychologically torn leading man). Both Hardy and Hathaway are devilishly inspired as the feisty foes worthy of the mayhem they create. The action sequences are violently vivacious in abundance. The CGI effects are colorfully chaotic and crisp. The machinery (mostly Batman’s transportation devices such as “the Bat” and “Batcycle”) and other gadgets are cleverly innovative. The film’s throbbing soundtrack is impulsive and fits the moodiness of the pulsating proceedings.

The sharp edgy script by Nolan (as well as his co-writer sibling Jonathan) is a collaborative curiosity in that Rises manages to resourcefully juggle the film’s redemptive overtone with the rousing vibe of a frenzied summertime actioner. Conjuring up Bruce Wayne/Batman as a broken spectacle climbing back on the saddle en route to familiar glory is a riveting revelation.

As Nolan’s last hurrah, The Dark Knight Rises completes it realm as the final stamp of one of the most successful and profitable movie trilogies to grace our cinematic consciousness.

2 hrs. 45 mins.
Starring: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Morgan Freeman, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Matthew Modine
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action Adventure/Comic Book Fantasy/Mystery & Suspense

Critic’s Rating: *** 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)

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