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The Dark Knight Rises

 Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises
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Monday August 6th, 2012

Have you ever tried to build a house of cards?  With each successive story the house becomes less and less stable.  That is sort of the way I feel about sequels - especially since Hollywood feels obligated to outdo itself at the expense of the overall structure.

For its part, The Dark Knight Rises is a very good film.  It is the logical and satisfying conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s version of the Batman legend.  The theater I attended cheered at times throughout the film and applauded once it ended - which is always a good sign.  That said, I really do feel as though it suffers a bit under the weight of its own scope.

To be fair to Nolan, he did not take the easy way out and simply offer another episodic installment.  Instead his script went to great lengths to remain topical, invoke elements of the comic, and bookend the series – all while alluding to a world beyond the trilogy.

The Dark Knight universe has to date been anything but comical – even if it meant deviating from canon at times.  Part and parcel with the darkness of the series was its basis in the world of plausibility.  Both he and his villains share origin stories that seem sufficiently grounded. We believe his ‘wonderful toys’ could very well be military prototypes. It all sort of made sense?

While The Dark Knight Rises isn’t at all campy, it asks its audience to suspend disbelief far more often. It admirably highlights the physical toll taken on Bruce Wayne while never genuinely paying off its implications. It introduces technology far beyond the physics of our world.  Most frustratingly, it upholds Bane, an otherwise brilliant nemesis, as a villain cliché. Which is to say, he doesn’t kill Batman when he has the chance.

That aside, the film is gripping and the performances are outstanding.  While we see far less of Christian Bale than one might expect, he is solid as Bruce Wayne – so to speak.  Perhaps infusing a touch of Dick Ekland as the embattled hero searches for redemption.

Although I don’t anticipate any nods from the academy, Tom Hardy shines brightly as Bane – the films biggest character.  Performing through a mask that obscures all but his eyes put so much more emphasis on Hardy’s recorded audio, which is haunting, distinct and deliberate.

Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle is solid, but the role itself is a compliment of sorts. As was previously the case in Batman Returns, where she played an aesthetic foil to the Penguin, here she brings balance to Bane’s gravitas. While her version of the Catwoman seems somewhat less iconic than Michelle Pfeiffer’s, it’s every bit as sexy, sardonic and aloof.

Morgan Freeman, Marion Cotillard, Gary Oldman and Michael Caine fill the screen with heart and emotion as the supporting cast. But it is newcomer Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake that truly Rises as the standout.  JGL is Hollywood royalty in the making with yet another soulful performance.

If you’ve seen the previous episodes of the Dark Knight trilogy then you owe it to yourself to check out this final installment. While this film does not exceed its immediate predecessor, it would by almost any other standard be judged an outstanding piece of summer entertainment.