Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated end to his Batman trilogy hit theatres on July 20.

Starring Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon and Michael Caine as Alfred, the movie also introduced some new faces. Anne Hathaway joined the series as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Tom Hardy as Bane, Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate and Joseph Gordon Levitt as John Blake, whose character has been surrounded by mystery from the get go.

Set eight years after the death of Harvey “Two-Face” Dent and the destruction left behind by the Joker, Batman has disappeared and Bruce Wayne has shuttered himself in his house, his only companion the sturdy Alfred. When a mysterious jewel thief piques his interest and he learns of the emergence of Bane and his army within Gotham, he decides it is time for Batman to return.

Bane, however, has other plans for Gotham and decommissions Batman for a time.

It is during this period that Bruce Wayne learns of Bane’s connection to the League of Shadows and his old nemesis Ra’s al Ghul.

Speculation had been swirling around this movie about the League’s involvement, and how Nolan had always assured fans that the trilogy would come full circle.

He certainly delivers.

Batman’s most physically demanding enemy

Bane is not the same character from the 1997 “Batman & Robin.” In that movie he is an inarticulate thug transformed from skinny criminal into a mass of muscles via tubes pumping the drug Venom into his body.

Rather, Nolan takes from the comics, making Bane a devious and intelligent villain, whose mask serves to deliver an anesthetic to keep unbearable pain at bay.

The first two acts of the movie set Bane up to be a larger than life enemy for Batman, in all ways. We see Wayne rise at the end of each act, first from his exile from guilt and blame, second from the pain Bane has inflicted upon him.

Come the third act, everything changes.

Nolan sends movie goers in one direction the entire film and at the end of the movie, yanks the rug out from under the audience’s now firmly established assumptions.

By doing this, he makes Bane more human, but destroys everything he had been set up to stand for the length of the movie. Instead of being an allegory for the Occupy movement (the one percent vs. the ninety-nine percent) Nolan instead turns the film into an act of revenge upon Batman and Gotham for event earlier in the series.

Catwoman casting a stroke of genius

The movie, like its predecessors, is dark and gritty. Selina Kyle is the source of levity of the film, keeping it from being too dark and gritty.

Anne Hathaway’s casting as the sexy cat burglar who proves to be an anti-hero throughout the comics was controversial. Many saw her as unable to pull of the character to the likes of Michelle Pfeifer (’92 “Batman Returns”) and Julie Newmar (’60 Batman TV series).

She played Selina Kyle as a flippant, sexy and reluctant ally to Batman in the film and as a second side to the love triangle involving her, Bruce Wayne and Miranda Tate who has stepped in to help save Wayne Industries from collapsing.

The end of the saga

The movie ends on a lighter note, and a lot of surprises.

Audiences finally learn the nature of the John Blake character, revealed by an off handed comment that got everyone excited.

When the final scene rolled, Nolan had kept his promise and Alfred was a very satisfied butler.

There are a few plot holes and continuity problems that are easily caught. “The Dark Knight” left us all blown away, and while this movie did as well, it was not to the same magnitude.

Audiences will hopefully be satisfied by the ending to this part of the Caped Crusader’s story, and enjoy the ride Nolan has carefully crafted as his end to the legend.

Crafting the saga

Nolan and his staff have said they based the movie off three specific comic books. “Dark Knight Returns” where an aged Batman returns to action, “Knightfall” where Bane physically and mentally severely wounds Batman and “No Man’s Land” where Gotham has deteriorated into a gang land, quarantined by the U.S. government.

Each film of the series also had a theme.

“Batman Begins” dealt in fear, both the fear Wayne overcomes and the fear inflicted by Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) and the League of Shadows on Gotham.

“The Dark Knight” was themed by chaos, characterized by the manic Joker (the late Heath Ledger) and controlled by chance by Two-Face.

This films thread was pain, most obviously visited by Bane upon Batman.

Not truly the end

This will not be the end of Batman’s time on the silver screen for long, not with the persistent rumors swirling about a “Justice League” team-up.

Nolan has set the precedent with his saga of movies, by making them more realistic and connecting them with current events. His hand is in the upcoming “Man of Steel” movie and it shows from the short teaser released so far.

Warner Bros. delayed releasing their box office numbers, out of respect for the victims of the Colorado theatre shooting the night of the premiere. They released them on Monday and the movie made $160 million, making it the highest grossing weekend for a 2-D movie, and the midnight shows brought in an approximate $30.6 million.

The entire series had set Batman up as a symbol, not as a man in a suit. He created him to be anyone, not a single identity under the cowl. This was well established and at the end of the series became truth to fans everywhere.

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