Reviewed Aug 15, 2012
This review reportedly contains spoilers.
I can handle the truth.
It's nowhere near as strong as its much lauded predecessor, but Christopher Nolan's swansong helming the Bat franchise is still a pretty great effort. Having something to say about the nature of family and heroism, whilst having a very sharp commentary about the Occupy movement, Rises only really suffers from being far too long, and burdened with dialogue which at times would have made The Avengers' Joss Whedon cringe with disappointment.
Bruce Wayne retired the batsuit eight years ago, after the events of Dark Knight, and has since lived the life of a recluse, that is until the intervention of Selina Kyle, out to steal from the rich, and case in point *him*. At the same time terrorist Bane is manoeuvring against Gotham for uncertain reasons, and hospitalises Jim Gordon in the process. Watching his and Gordon's flawed compromise to keep Harvey Dent's crime fighting legacy alive falling to pieces, Bruce resumes his role as the Batman to protect his city at any cost. The cost is enormous as Bruce finds he's at the epicentre of the plot against Gotham, and he starts to lose everything he held dear.
Nolan takes far too long to tell what's a relatively straightforward story about Bruce's fall from grace, and the steps he needs to take to rise again and protect his city and legacy. It's balanced out though, chiefly by the subplot involving Joe Gordon Levitt's Det. Blake. The look this gives into the street level impact of the Batman's war on crime, and how he inspires ordinary Gothamites is one of the strongest elements of the film. A little less of Bruce's ordeal in 'the pit' and a fair bit more of Blake may have made for a more balanced movie, but the third act war for Gotham is spectacularly well done, the conclusion even more so. Nolan makes a couple of notable nods to Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns in his sign off, to make it all the more satisfying a conclusion.
It's a well acted piece, with Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine standing out as they would, but it's Anne Hathaway's turn as Catwoman which effortlessly (and surprisingly) steals the show. I would never have thought Catwoman could have been so neatly reinvented (with another nod to Miller), or that Hathaway could so easily have ignored the spectre of Michelle Pfeiffer, but she steals every scene she's in (even the untidy early ones with Bane). Less enjoyable is the strange Bane voiceover: is it Hardy or someone else? Either way it's so consistently overly hammy that it removes a degree of menace which the character needs in order to appear a significant threat to Bruce or Gotham.
Bane's army taking on the appearance of an Occupy movement works well, although Nolan's apparent desire for his film to appear socially relevant twice in two movies puts Rises under a little unnecessary strain. Still though Gary Oldman's Jim Gordon consistently rises to the challenge, and Joe Gordon Levitt is unexpectedly strong in his street role, paralleling Wayne's journey from a different perspective until they collide. It's a hugely involving film, that despite its density always impresses, and will leave whoever succeeds Nolan with an almost impossible task. Nolan and Bale have made a deservedly legendary trilogy.