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Written by: Sam Fragoso on July 21, 2012

July 21, 2012 | 26 comments | Featured

The Dark Knight Rises may well be the most anticipated film in the past 10 years – and with great anticipation comes great responsibility. Thankfully, Christopher Nolan’s rousing and sensational conclusion to a franchise that has perpetually dared to dream bigger, satisfyingly delivers. Intellectually stimulating and explosively entertaining, this grand finale shocks and awes in ways audiences may not suspect (or quite frankly, appreciate).

After eight years of tranquility in Gotham city – due to the fraudulent myth that Harvey Dent symbolized integrity and justice – havoc is beginning to arise. Bruce Wayne has become a recluse, hiding away in his grandiose mansion since Dent’s death. While initially unwilling, Batman eventually (out of pure necessity) resurfaces to save his city from a deeply psychologically disturbed antagonist, Bane (Tom Hardy).

Bane is set on freeing the citizens of Gotham and the criminals locked up due to the Dent act from all authority – primarily Government and the police force run by Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman).

Added to the mix in this third feature is Catwoman, a dangerously sexy thief played by Anne Hathaway. Also included is a young, hotheaded detective (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) on the side of Batman and the Commissioner. Marion Cotillard plays an investor who ends up having to control Wayne enterprises when things go awry for the playboy billionaire.

Nolan’s recreation of the Batman comics has always relied on the maliciousness of its villain. Bane, played with deep and dark depth by Tom Hardy, is a man (unlike the Joker) whose motives for destruction are clear. Him, along with his increasingly gaining army located in the sewers of Gotham, are here to complete Ra’s Al Ghul’s (Liam Neeson) mission of destruction before true civilization.

At nearly three hours, TDKR throws a whole lot at its audience. Then again, convolution is to be expected for a third and final film that has a prerequisite to tie subplots together coherently. From receiving a bevy of new characters with their respective back-stories, to an overall sense that our knight in shining armor may not be through after this film. Still, a lot of the material can be deemed inconsequential – reaffirming the sentiment that (to a certain degree) these films are made to appease the fanboys that would bow down in the presence of meeting Christopher Nolan.

Everything we’ve come to value about this depiction of Batman is still intact: a harrowing and eerie formulation of Gotham city, riveting action sequences that have us on the edge of our seats, and a protagonist that against all odds understands what he must do.

The Dark Knight Rises accentuates the terror from Bane by pitting Batman against an opposition that is seemingly unbeatable. It’s in the face of defeat that we see our hero’s soul being tapped into. His need for doing right, countering against a general public that found him responsible for the death of Dent, makes the exploration of Batman’s morality all the more captivating.

Which brings me to what this film inherently represents. I believe Nolan has conceived something that deserves to be classified as something more than just another superhero trifle. This is a bloody drama – psychically and psychologically – with ramifications that can only be viewed through the lens of reality.

Indirect or not, The Dark Knight Rises paints a picture where a terrorist regime takes over a city, where social outcry is prevalent, and where freedom has turned into hundreds and thousands of people running around the streets of Gotham shooting and stealing from one another. It begs the question, how would we respond to an attack like this?

Like its predecessors, this finale treats every facet of the material with sincerity and respect. We’ve discussed how Nolan – time and time again – attempts to make a film that rises above the common vacuous superhero film.

With The Dark Knight Rises, the dexterous Christopher Nolan has managed to create a stirring and scintillating epic that captures our immediate attention, challenges our constantly evolving imagination, and questions even the far corners of our vast intellect.

Rating: ★★★½

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Cast: Tom Hardy, Liam Neeson, Christian Bale

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Bob Kane, David S. Goyer

Runtime: 164 minutes

Genre: thriller, crime, adventure

Trailer The Dark Knight Rises


There are 26 comments for this post.

  1. Dan O. on July 21, 2012 11:31 am

    Great review Sam. This is about as epic as you can get with a final installment in a superhero trilogy, and I’m very grateful that Nolan put plenty of effort into it, rather than just doing it for the sake of money. Probably my favorite movie of the year, so far, and I can’t wait to see what Nolan has planned next for his career.

  2. Sam Fragoso on July 21, 2012 1:27 pm

    It’s right up there in my favorites of the year — a list I’ll have to compose when I get back home in a couple of weeks. Glad you found it as epic as I did.

    Appreciate you stopping by Dan the man.

  3. Andy Buckle on July 21, 2012 10:37 pm

    Nice observations, buddy. It is a very dark film, and that’s what I admired about it – despite the convoluted story, bad dialogue, silly sub-characters and the cliches. You make a great point regarding the way it rises about the superhero film and becomes a physical and psychological drama that challenges our viewing perceptions, and questions our own reality.

    I think it was more of a comic book film than The Dark Knight, which was a benefit and a detractor, but at least it continued to build its idea, instead of just repeating the same one, like in TDK. Also, the final 30 mins of the TDK (with the exception of Batman’s final speech) is pretty bad. Here, the film builds to a rousing and ferociously action-packed climax.

    Hardy was great, as was Hathaway. I’ll be back to the cinema for another watch.

  4. Sam Fragoso on July 22, 2012 1:05 am

    There’s some bad dialogue indeed, no denying that. But most of the actors are so talented that even Nolan’s worst offerings are bearable.

    I need to see the film again. My only complaint with Bane is that it was difficult to make out what he was saying a lot of the time.

  5. » Movie Review – The Dark Knight Rises Fernby Films on July 22, 2012 1:34 am

    [...] Sam at Duke & The Movies thought it was excellent: “With The Dark Knight Rises, the dexterous Christopher Nolan has managed to create a stirring … [...]

  6. Sam Fragoso on July 22, 2012 1:35 am

    Thanks for the link!

  7. Rodney on July 22, 2012 1:36 am

    Great review, Sam. I honestly thought you’d not like it (we seem to have vastly differing tastes and expectations of film, I think) but was surprised that you did! At least, as much as I did, anyway!

    Such an amazing film, and I can’t wait to watch it many more times in conjunction with it’s ancestors to get the full force of Nolan’s vision…..

  8. Sam Fragoso on July 22, 2012 1:23 pm

    Haha Rodney … that is probably true (most of the time). I’m really eager to catch this film again.

    By the way, did you happen to see it in an IMAX theater?

  9. sati on July 22, 2012 6:07 pm

    Great review! I’m not looking forward to this one as much as everyone else seems to be, but I’m sure it’s a solid movie at the very least.

  10. Sam Fragoso on July 22, 2012 10:20 pm

    If and when you do get around to seeing the film, I’m more than interested in hearing your response.

  11. Rodney on July 23, 2012 4:59 am

    No such thing as IMAX here in tiny old Adelaide, Sam. Saw it in something called “V-max”, which says less about the term “max” than it does about anything else….. Just turn the damn volume up and watch the hell out of this, I say!!

  12. Sam Fragoso on July 23, 2012 6:34 am

    Ahh, I see. That’s interesting to know. Not all places have elevated movie theaters.

  13. 3guys1movie on July 23, 2012 8:54 am

    I found this to be a bit laborious to sit through. The level of action seemed toned down from what I have come to expect from a Nolan Batman film and two of the larger action sequences had been shown in the trailers.

    While I appreciated Bane’s physicality, his mush mouthed dialogue was hard to understand and he did not seem to bring the same level of gravitas as the previous villians in the series.

    I could have done without out the whole boys town sub plot and why was Matthew Modine even in this film?

    Surprisingly I ended up really digging Hathaway’s performance and I thought the last ten minutes wrapped up the series very well.

    This was a good film but certainly did not rise to the level of greatness that I was expecting. Well at least in my opinion. lol

  14. Sam Fragoso on July 23, 2012 11:40 am

    – Bain doesn’t bring as much psychologically, but he’s more of physical presence, different sort of villains. Still difficult to understand his speech.

    – He needed a role since Full Metal Jacket.

    – I’m open for another viewing in general. Your points of criticism are valid, I suppose they just didn’t affect me as much a they did you.

  15. Fogs' Movie Reviews on July 23, 2012 2:32 pm

    I feel like I’m here to have Adam’s back. LOL. He already wrote my comment.


    Slow, long, dull, bleak, filled with too many characters, too many subplots, and a villain that is the opposite of engaging.

    It’s still a decent enough movie, but I was terribly disappointed.

  16. Sam Fragoso on July 23, 2012 9:43 pm

    First, all Batman films are incredibly long.

    That didn’t prevent you from loving the Dark Knight did it?

    We’ll have to have another discussion — there were too many subplots thought. I wrote that.

  17. Hunter on July 24, 2012 10:44 am

    I’m afraid I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with those of you who found Bane’s voice a problem. Because Nolan (wisely) chose to exclude Bane’s voice from the trailer, it was a little alarming at first and took some getting used to; however, it was one of my favorite details of the film. Hardy delivered the voice with volume, confidence, honesty, and menace; the voice added psychological depth to Bane’s physicality, and I found myself really caring about what he had to say. In addition, I personally found the voice a great deal easier to understand than, say, Alex DeLarge’s of A Clockwork Orange, even with DeLarge’s self-constructed vocabulary.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this final Batman installment. Great review, Sam!

  18. Sam Fragoso on July 24, 2012 2:30 pm

    I like your analysis Hunter — and while I agree that his broken down voice adds something to the psychological depth to his character, his voice is simply difficult to comprehend.

    Perhaps I was short changed in my theater, but the voice was muddled.

  19. Nate Rodriguez on July 24, 2012 4:08 pm

    I loved this movie!
    I think its one of this years best.
    I enjoyed ever second.
    great review sir Sam

  20. Sam Fragoso on July 24, 2012 5:15 pm

    Thank you Nate sir for the kind words.

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  23. Fernando Quintero on September 2, 2012 2:21 am

    Great review, Sam! Glad I took the time to read it.

  24. Sam Fragoso on September 2, 2012 3:26 am

    I’m glad you did too. Thanks for stopping by.

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