Overall verdict: 10/10
(note: in all fairness, it actually scored 9.88 on my scale. But since i have made a practice of rounding decimals to the nearest 0.5, i do the same here)
The Good: action, emotion, narrative coherence, brevity, thematic richness, cast chemistry, strong performances, references to the comic books, stupendous soundtrack, and more.
The Bad: Ends the franchise, sets the bar too high
"A fire will rise", screams the promotional poster. That fire is the bar set for comic book movies to come. That fire is the standard to which future superhero films will struggle to reach. That fire burns out the competition and rises above all expectation. That fire is Christopher Nolan's magnum opus "THE DARK KNIGHT RISES", based on the Batman character from DC comics, and easily the best movie based on a comic book character, ever.
Closing out the summer blockbuster season, The Dark Knight Rises concludes the tale of one man's lonely war on crime and brings to a close one of the smartest most epic and most profound film sagas ever. Picking up 8 years after the events in "The Dark Knight" left Batman a fugitive of the law, Gotham city is experiencing a time of peace. Yet this peace is built on a lie; a lie that weighs heavily on the conscience of Police commissioner James Gordon. A mysterious chain of events brings the notorious masked mercenary Bane to Gotham with a grand plan to seize control. Backed by a secret army, this new threat forces billionaire recluse Bruce Wayne to once again don the mask of the Batman and fight to save his city.
The above synopses can never do justice to the true narrative complexity inherent in The Dark Knight Rises. It's thematic richness far exceeds it's preceding films making it not only the most ambitious comic book movie to date, but one of the rarest of the rare "3rd sequel" that does not fall victim to the typical Hollywood trilogy syndrome (Good-->Great-->meh.....).
That being said, one cannot pin down the exact genre of this movie. It is a crime thriller, a mystery, a tragic character drama and an action blockbuster. It has romance, it has comedy yet never becomes bogged down in any one genre unlike "Peter Parker: High School Romance" and "Tony Stark and his Amazing Friends". Such is it's complexity, complemented beautifully by the numerous psychological, political and philosophical themes within the narrative. It is a smart movie, an insightful movie, one that gets you thinking. The depth of its themes is extraordinary yet here is not a movie that "preaches"; as the mystery elements slowly unravel, it is up to the discerning audience to pick apart the inherent symbolism, references to real life events and musings on human nature.
Amidst all that, it all comes down to what truly drives the movie: it's characters. When you watch the events of The Dark Knight rises unfold, you do not see actors playing roles, you see characters. Real and effectively fleshed out characters. Nolan wastes no time on elaborate back stories or long flashbacks. He is a master of brevity; with a single shot and few impactful lines he is able to establish a character's personality, the forces that drive him or her and then bring each arc to a satisfying close.
Despite being titled "Dark Knight", this is a movie about Bruce Wayne. (Then again we hearken back to a theme hinted at in Batman Begins: "Is it Batman or Bruce Wayne that wears the mask of the Dark Knight"). Past his prime, mortal and without purpose, Wayne's tale is almost biblical in it's analogy of a life, death and resurrection. His established vulnerability and mortality gives every battle a nail biting sense of tension that you will never have when rooting for an invulnerable thunder God or an invincible gamma monster. Just as intriguing is the cast of secondary characters like James Gordon and Blake who represent that glimmer of hope and humanity's capacity for good in our grim modern era. A powerful script grips the audience into the story and lets us care deeply for the characters.We laugh with them, cry with them, join with them to lash out in anger, to sink in defeat and to rise up in triumph.
As much as it is "its own creature", The Dark Knight Rises continues the trilogy's staple of inserting many homages to Batman comic books. The new characters of Bane and Selina Kyle combine the most memorable elements of their numerous printed incarnations with the trilogy's sense of realism; the result is perfection. Iconic comic book moments are faithfully recreated without feeling like a lazy cut-and-paste while seemingly innocuous side events in the previous movies are revealed as sinister foreshadowing.
One might feel that the movie tries to do too much in too little time. Yet what might seem like a truncated film actually works within context. The brisk pace and absence of a sense of time only heightens the surreal nature of the unfolding events, particularly in the third act. Everything from the camerawork to the pacing is steeped in raw emotion, punctuated by the the pulse pounding score of the legendary Hans Zimmer: A slice of silence with only the muffled sounds of footsteps and a tune that mimics a heartbeat, A primal chanting that builds to a crescendo as a hero emerges from his purgatory. If the visual footage is the movie's body, Zimmer's score is it's spirit beautifully united as one.
Marvel's Avengers made comic book superheros appeal to the masses, The Dark Knight Rises makes a comic book superhero appeal to the masses while still keeping it smart and taking the genre seriously. You do not need explosions, aliens or giant robots to make a movie epic, you do not need a laugh a minute to keep film entertaining, you do not need playful banter to make a script witty. All you need is great writing, masterful direction and a creative team with utmost respect for the source material.
Intense and insightful, The Dark Knight Rises is no mere movie but a grand masterpiece. A timeless tale that will resonate with movie audiences in the years to come. An immortal classic in the making, whose legacy will forever remain as a benchmark for the blockbuster and comic book industries.
The trilogy comes full circle. It is finished.
The curtain closes now on a milestone in comic book movie history.
Rise, dear Dark Knight, and take a bow.
Go For it: Just go for it! Or read the review again!
Avoid it: Why would you? Seriously!
Replay value: A