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The Dark Knight Rises: Movie Review

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The last time that viewers saw Christian Bale's Batman at the end of 2008's The Dark Knight, he was limping away into the night, on the run from the police. Having taken the rap for crimes he didn't commit to preserve the legacy of a secretly corrupt political official (Harvey Dent, who would later become Two Face), Batman—the hero who saved Gotham City—allowed a villain to become a symbol of justice, and himself to become a fugitive.

But that's the thing about lies and injustice—it's only so long before truth will find its way back to the surface. It's only so long before it will rise.

The Dark Knight Rises, the highly anticipated follow-up to The Dark Knight and the final chapter in director Christopher Nolan's cape crusader trilogy, opens eight years to the day after the fateful night at the end of the last film. Commissioner Gordon is begrudgingly giving a speech about the heroism of Harvey Dent—which he knows is a façade—while praising the "Dent Act", a piece of legislation that has fast-tracked the jail sentences of Gotham's most wanted criminals, keeping them behind bars. Bruce Wayne, whose years of secret crime fighting have left him hobbled and the loss of his beloved childhood friend Rachel broken-hearted, has become recluse. And with crime at an all-time low because of the Dent Act, the city has no need for Batman.

That is until Bane and his band of gangsters come to town. After kidnapping a nuclear scientist and taking possession of a weaponized nuclear-powered device, Bane comes to Gotham, training a secret army in its sewers. Aided by a chemical-pumping mask that gives him superhuman strength, Bane begins to destroy the city's structure (both figuratively and literally—he blows up bridges and roads, while also instituting marshal law, replacing all civil authority with clown courts resided over by criminals). Along with his underground army (also figurative and literal—the army actually resides beneath the Gotham streets), Bane hatches a plan to take over the city and give it "back to the people". Himself rising from the depths of a remote prison to exact his own brand of psychotic social revolution, Bane is a moral-less thug bent on destruction.

Like its predecessor, Rises relies on social allegory and modern civil conflicts for its major themes. Whereas The Dark Knight alluded to hot button issues like domestic spying, torture and collective fear, in The Dark Knight Rises Nolan brings in themes like economic inequality, civil uprisings, clean energy and even stock market rigging. The second half of the film combines Occupy ideology and social revolution with comic book villainry and diabolical plans. But, unlike The Dark Knight, which forced viewers to wrestle with the moral conflicts it presented, Rises fails to ever really tackle the issues it references. Despite some dialogue-heavy scenes that discuss the contemporary social issues, no clear message is discernable or really even well articulated. Rises is often a movie that has a lot to say, without really saying anything.

Like many recent comic book adaptations, moral themes like self-sacrifice, redemption and good vs. evil are thick. But deeper spiritual themes, like the roots of greed, evil and chaos are never really explored.

And though the film is far more ambitious than either of Nolan's other two Batman movies (it has a running time of nearly 2:45 with a plot that turns sharper than the newly-enhanced, two-wheeled Batpod), it is ultimately less memorable.

Though bruising and violent, Batman's physical showdowns with Bane are less compelling and less impactful than Bruce Wayne's psychological showdowns with himself. (Can he overcome his own sorrow? Can he overcome his fears? Can he ever move on from the death of his parents and Rachel?) And Bane, whose hulking physique and scary mask are more menacing than Heath Ledger's Joker, is nowhere near as haunting. He's ultimately one-dimensional—a foreign-accented, superhuman with a creepy mask and violent agenda.

The film's supporting characters however, are some of its highlights. Joseph Gordon Levitt plays a young police officer who's committed to truth, no matter what its consequences are. Anne Hathaway's "Catwoman" (in a very loose interpretation of the comic book character) is a seductive cat burglar who is more concerned about self-preservation than being on the side of right or wrong. The two are solid additions to the cast and offer welcome departures from Bale's constant self-pity and Bane's non-stop brooding.

As with all of the Nolan's Batman films, the action sequences are eye-popping and cinematography and score give the whole movie a very epic quality. Unfortunately though, Rises is also riddled with plot holes and relies far too much on the audience's ability to suspend their disbelief and own logic. Scenes of unexplained jet-setting, overly convenient coincidences, and unbelievable action make some of the screenwriting seem almost lazy.

Ultimately though, if you're a fan of the series (or even just a fan of comic book movies), The Dark Knight Rises is a fun and fitting conclusion to Nolan's trilogy. With plot-point tie-ins that span the entire series and even deeper references to Batman lore, Rises is a definitive bookend to Nolan's trilogy. It may not be quite as good as the first two installments, but Rises is still better than most other recent comic adaptations. Though it's more violent and darker than most of the movies in its genre, it's still also more morally complex and intellectually engaging.

Despite some plot flaws and some overly ambitious attempts at social and political relevance, The Dark Knight Rises is still a satisfying end to an inspired reimagining of one of America's favorite heroes.

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About The Author


Jesse Carey is a contributing writer for and has a background in entertainment and pop-culture writing. He offers his insight on music, movies, TV, trends and current events from a unique perspective that examines what implications the latest news has on Christians.