The Dark Knight Rises ★★★★★

So now my rewatching of Christopher Nolan's epochal The Dark Knight Trilogy has come to an end. Sure, I will have a few more rewatches of this amazing cornerstone in popular Hollywood filmmaking, but experiencing Nolan's achievement again has meant a lot for me.

While The Dark Knight remains the best of the series for its superlative tightness, energetic and smooth style and technical brilliance, The Dark Knight Rises, for all its blemishes, manages to be the grandest and, in a sense, most operatic of the trilogy. Some might say Batman Begins is superior to this, and while I can understand the case for that (after all, Begins doesn't have as many "flaws" as TDKR), I find that TDKR surpasses Begins because it has the most emotional core and because, for whatever negative this movie has, the film is composed very much like a cinematic artwork that happens to be a comic-book film. The Dark Knight Rises is to superhero film what silent classics like Metropolis are to cinema, period. It's not innovative, original or groundbreaking like The Dark Knight, Superman, X-Men or even Spider-Man 2, but it is enriching, satisfying, exciting, and enjoyable.

Like in the other two films, Christian Bale again proves that he is Bruce Wayne/Batman. Here, Bale gives what is arguably his best work; while he was masterful in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, it is here that he begins to complete and finish his character arc and to do it with panache, and even if, as this film's critics complain, there isn't a lot of Batman, there's certainly plenty of Bruce Wayne, and thanks to Bale's devastatingly human take, the character definitely feels more alive and more. Likewise, Tom Hardy's Bane, while not having the delicious devilishness of Ledger's Joker, brings his own muscular mixture of brain and brawns to the iconic comic-book villain. Say what you will about his Sean Connery-esque voice, but Hardy's Bane is fully awesome. Anne Hathaway is delicious as Selina Kyle/Catwoman (though I haven't seen Michelle Pfieffer or Julie Newmar, so who knows, they are probably better Catwomen than Hathaway). Other A-list performances include those of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard and Michael Caine. If there was any less than stellar performance, it would have to be Matthew Modine's portrayal of Foley.

Other aspects of TDKR's greatness, amidst the plot contrivances and the much-advertised "plot holes," are its beautiful and amazing cinematography by Wally Pfister that transcends the bounds of comic-book aesthetic and goes for a wholly realistic and cinematic one, like The Dark Knight did. Hans Zimmer's musical abilities again do not fall short but instead deliver us a rousing soundtrack that taps into the film's emotional power and amplifies it. The action, while not perfect or flawless, is certainly some of the best in the trilogy, and here, in contrast to Batman Begins's incoherent action and The Dark Knight's controlled and coherent chaos, The Dark Knight Rises instead offers us fully visible action without much trace of handheld or shaky-cam; while the fight choreography may not be up to par with the great action films, it's still joyous to see cool action. Lee Smith's editing and Christopher Nolan's direction are also deft and Oscar-caliber, though they are not as superlative as in other films.

As for the flaws, there are those "plot holes" which I view more as underdeveloped and somewhat rushed areas of the film than any total plot hole. Then there is the Talia death scene, which is one of the most mediocre, if not the worst, death scenes in movie history. Finally, while TDKR is certainly "deeper" in a sense, tackling several different themes and concepts, the execution is messy and muddled in many ways, and certain characters seem to be snuffed out too quickly or too easily (Daggett and Bane, for example).

Despite all these flaws, however, I still love The Dark Knight Rises, because it is a moving, satisfying, triumphant, and exciting blockbuster that manages to come close to great filmmaking. The script and direction may be flawed, there may be many underdeveloped areas, and the film possibly could have been better, but still, TDKR is an amazing conclusion to one of cinema's great trilogies (along with LOTR and the original Star Wars trilogy).

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