Unless you've managed to not watch anything in the past three weeks, you're aware that Chris Nolan's final Batman movie is out. With Christian Bale as the low-talking caped crusader, The Dark Knight Rises is two hours and forty-five minutes of of fun. While it lacks a stand-out personal performance like Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight, it is still a decent ending to this round of Batman movies. There are plenty of familiar faces, and a few new ones as well. Read below for my take on the movie, but be warned: there might be a few spoilers.The movie starts out eight years after The Dark Knight. Batman has taken the blame for the death of district attorney Harvey Dent, and has disappeared from the public eye. Thanks to the passing of "The Dent Act," organized crime has been wiped out in Gotham, and the police find themselves increasingly obsolete. That all changes with the arrival of the villains. Since it was decided at some point in the 90s that all comic book movies needed at least two villains, in The Dark Knight Rises we have Bane and Catwoman.
Bane is played by Tom Hardy. Despite what Rush Limbaugh suggests, Bane is not connected to Mitt Romney, but was introduced in January 1993 and is best known for breaking Batman's back during the Knighfall comic series. He was even played terribly by a professional wrestler in 1997's Batman & Robin. I must admit that I was worried after reading reviews about how hard it was to hear Bane speak that the movie would degenerate into a low-talking competition between Hardy and Bale. They must have fixed the audio issues, because Bane's voice is certainly loud, if not the clearest at all times. To get an idea of what Bane sounds like, imagine Bill Cosby speaking with an English accent through a Darth Vader filter. The Bane in the movie shares little with the Bane from the comics, so he might not be to the liking of the purists, but he does a decent enough job of being a moderately intelligent juggernaut, and is the main villain in the story.
Ann Hathaway dons the cat ears as Selina Kyle, better known as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises. All to often, female characters are little more than Kung-Fu cliched eye candy in comic movies. Nolan avoids this with Hathaway, but barely. Instead of a hot chick in a skin-tight, black leather outfit who is one bad fall from becoming the headliner at the local furry convention, Hathaway is a hot chick in a skin-tight, black leather outfit who plays a small but important role in the overall story arc.
Plenty of old characters reprise their roles, including Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, and Michael Caine as Alfred. Some old villains even show up for this final installment. New to the mix this time are Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Matthew Modine, who play the cop everyone likes to love and the cop that everyone loves to hate, respectively.
For those of you who like the military look of Nolan's Batman vehicles over the more stylized Bat-vehicles of past movies, this one does not disappoint. The Batbike gets plenty of air time, as well as multiple Batmobiles driving around the city. This time around, the Batcopter makes its debut. While I think it looks more like something the Space Marines would fly around while fighting Aliens, it is consistent with the franchise's aesthetics.
Overall, a large portion of the story reminds me of a post-apocalyptic movie, with a Gotham that has existed in anarchy for many months. There are some decent fight scenes, including a small army of mercenaries fighting thousands of police in the streets while Batman and Bane duke it out in front of City Hall. There aren't a lot of surprises, and there aren't any stand-out performances, but there isn't a lot to dislike either. This was supposed to be the last of Nolan's Batman movies, but the ending leaves the possibility of another wide open, and I would not be surprised if another was made (assuming Rises makes enough money). So many movies — comic movies in particular — degenerate quickly with each sequel, and having to exist in the shadow of Heath Ledger is a daunting task. The Dark Knight Rises does a good job of stepping out of that shadow, however, and delivers for me, the best story of the series.