Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nestor Carbonell, Matthew Modine
I had my doubts that Christopher Nolan & Co. could top The Dark Knight and … yup, they couldn't.
Oh, The Dark Knight Rises is still a fine, fitting finale to the trilogy that Christopher Nolan built – one that wraps up its main character's arc nicely while leaving the back door to the Batcave open.
What it fails to do is follow through on the buildup and promise of the titanic, near-mythic clash between our titular hero and the man who (in the comics) broke the Bat, the brutish criminal genius named Bane.
The filmmakers do something to Bane very close to the end of the movie that so utterly diminishes the character, it renders their earlier tension and struggle somewhat inconsequential (cue: it happens in City Hall).
That, and having every line uttered by this baddie come across like Goldfinger speaking through a voice synthesizer ("No, Mister Bat, I expect you to die!"), keep this chap well out of the league of Ledger's quintessential Joker.
The movie's confusion about the stature of its villains costs it a good deal in my estimation; that, and a silly scene where an army of mostly unarmed cops charges down an open street at an army of well armed thugs.
It should also be noted that there's nothing in this one that is as knuckle-whitening or as profound as that killer Dark Knight scene set on the two explosives-laden ferries.
Generally, though, most everything else rises up to the enormous challenge of capping a film series after a middle chapter that was so riveting.
TDKR is set eight years after the death of Harvey Dent. The Batman has retired, Gotham is relatively free of organized crime, and Alfred (Caine) is constantly nagging Bruce Wayne (Bale) to move on with his life.
Along comes a seductive thief in the form of Selina Kyle (Hathaway), whose … acquisition of the Wayne family pearls masks a larger and more insidious criminal conspiracy.
Of course, Bane (Hardy) is at the centre of all this and it isn't long before his brazen strikes at Gotham City bring the Batman out of retirement.
It takes a while before this happens, but I found my attention held quite nicely by the unfolding intrigue and barely noticed the close-to-three-hour running time. Balk not at that, for TDKR will reward the loyal – and patient – viewer with a good number of fan-pleasing moments.
If anything about it seems a little emo, well, I guess it's justified after this arduous journey undertaken by the characters, performers and filmmakers.
The same goes for those of us who bought right into Nolan's interpretation of the Batman for three movies.
Pardon us if we're a little misty-eyed sitting next to you. It isn't easy saying goodbye to a saga that brilliantly combined drama, romance, suspense, breathtaking action, hardboiled crime tales, costumed heroics and bizarre villainy, all bound together with heart – a heck of a lot of heart.