The Dark Knight Rises ★★★★½

It has been eight years since Batman (Christian Bale) vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act. But everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar, Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane (Tom Hardy), a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane.

The Dark Knight Rises is the most anticipated movie of the last few years but can it live up to the hype and top the previous movie, which is probably the greatest super hero movie of all time, or will it go down as another in a long list of threequels which finish a trilogy with a whimper? Thankfully it takes its lead from 'The Dark Knight' and builds on everything that has come before and gives us a fitting end to this Batman story. This is movie making on a truly epic scale, using New York to its fullest, with the city being the lifeblood of the film. How it blends aspects of current political and economic strife into its narrative is bold and beautiful to behold which really cements it in reality. The ending will be the one thing that will polarise audiences but I for one loved it, it is poetic and the right ending for this story.

That's not to say that it doesn't have problems, the film takes its time to get going with the first 30 minutes being rather clunky but when Bane sets his plan into motion it all falls into place. Some character beats don't pay off as well as they should and it does feel a little long at almost three hours. The batmobile is sadly not around anymore and his new flying vehicle, The Bat, isn't really a great substitute but it has its moments but all in all these are just little nitpicks in a great film.

Christopher Nolan does what he started out to do and give is an ending to the saga he started and he doesn't disappoint, he is just a great director who will hopefully go onto bigger and better things. The look and feel of the film is different but familiar with cinematographer Wally Pfister, who exclusively works on Nolan’s films, bringing the gothic feel of the city to life but still keeping it grounded. The score, again by Hans Zimmer, is breath-taking with a scarred theme for Bane intertwined with a slinky orchestral motif for Catwoman which both blend nicely with Batman's heroic music throughout.

The cast are top notch, Bale is the definitive Bruce Wayne/Batman in many people’s eyes, and whoever picks up the mantle in any subsequent films has a hard act to follow. He brings a creative balance to the role and always has his foot firmly in the reality of the character, where it could have easily gone the other way. He also keeps Batman's deep voice to a minimum this time out which is great thing. The new villain, Bane, is a perfect psychical and mental match for Batman and Tom Hardy is superb, even under a mask his performance breaks through, with his eyes piercing every line of dialogue in a seductively menacing manner. Much was made of his voice being muffled in early trailers and in the prologue released a few months back but here it has been fixed for the most part, some lines are still hard to hear but 90% you can make out, it may have to do with the strange accent or intonation that Hardy puts on but it is a striking one. Anne Hathaway truly makes the role of 'Catwoman' her own, where Michelle Pfeiffer was all sexy menace, Hathaway is all business and looks out for herself above all else and she certainly can inhabit the cat suit.

Michael Caine and Gary Oldman do solid jobs with their roles, with Oldman getting a bit of action too while Morgan Freeman pops up in a sadly reduced role. Newcomers Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard play supporting characters but quite significant ones, these were the two I kind of thought weren't needed while watching the film but they come into their own as the film progresses and have some great standout scenes.

I was personally not impressed with the first few trailers for this film but the latter ones had increased my geek level and there are lots to admire in Nolan's choices throughout the trilogy. These films can stand as a pinnacle of comic book and movie trilogies where all others should and will be judged. It may not have been planned from the beginning but how this closing film ties all the story arcs together from the two previous films is truly an achievement in itself and in turn giving us a rousing finale to a set of films that audiences everywhere will just want more of.