In 2008, Iron Man came out in May and blew the socks off of everyone. People stormed out of the theater screaming, "That was freaking awesome!" There was no doubt in anyone's mind that it was going to absolutely be the film of the summer and one of the top 20 of the year. But then in July, The Dark Knight came out. Aside from the mystique of seeing the late Heath Ledger in one of his last roles, it did more than blow the socks off of everyone...it blew their feet off too. It became THE summer film and some could even argue the film of the year. Fast-Forward to 2012 and The Avengers came out in May and blew all our socks off. Surely, nothing could top that. Well, my appologies Mr. Tony Stark because you've been bested again by Mr. Bruce Wayne and this time there's no doubt that The Dark Knight Rises is THE film to beat so far for movie of the year.
It's easy to pigeon-hole superhero films. For decades the genre was considered tawdry and for children. In recent years it's been proven to not only be completely entertaining for all generations but also the most lucrative of all film genres to date. Director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception) has elevated the genre even higher with his Batman trilogy and that new level is off top shelf pedigree that deserves Oscar wins. Sure, The Dark Knight won several awards but except for posthomusly giving one to the late Ledger for his genius portrayal of The Joker, the film only won a few technical awards. It should have been nomniated for Best Picture and Best Director but the Academy was a little too snobby to make that happen. The Dark Knight Rises is too good to ignore and Oscar voters need to take notice.
I promise I won't give any spoilers but lord knows I want to. Read on with no worries however because I understand how sensitive some of you are. The film takes place 8 years after the events in The Dark Knight and Bruce Wayne is a recluse and Batman is becoming an outlawed distant memory. Gotham is safe until Bane shows up with his mercenary army to cripple the city and the only one who can unite the city to take itself back is Batman. That couldn't be a more scrubbed-down version of the story since screenwriter David Goyer has outdone himself with twists, passion and intensity.
The entire cast is back for another round and this time they add Tom Hardy (Inception, Warrior), Marion Cotillard (Inception, Midnight in Paris), Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt ((500) Days of Summer, Inception). Each of them are amazing and easily match the quality that the rest of the amazing cast has perfected in the previous two films. Speaking of which, this is Michael Caine's best performance in the series as Bruce Wayne's forever-faithful butler, Alfred. It's hard to say which one of the new four takes home Best in Show but it might be a tie between Hathaway and Hardy who play Catwoman (although she's never called that in the film) and Bane. Both are villains but have been drastically re-imagined for the series...and for the best.
It's a shame that Hardy is playing Bane, a hulking character that needs a mask to survive, because that mask covers 75% of his face and takes away his best qualities in his acting. However, the performance he delivers using simply his eyes is nothing short of impressive, although it's so subtle I doubt most of you will pick up on it. He is a true advesary for Batman and you feel every ounce of the suffering he inflicts on those in the film.
The scope of The Dark Knight Rises is nothing short of an epic. And I don't mean an epic as in a casual term that is tossed around for something "kinda cool." I mean it was an epic in that it's on the same playing field as Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart, Gladiator...it is the very execution the gold Oscar statue was made for. There are scenes in the film that transcend a superhero movies more than any other of the genre has even come close with. It evokes the legitimacy that is deserved for the genre.
The title of the film leads way to more than just a marketing tool. The word "rise" becomes very important in the film. Composer Hans Zimmer's haunting and powerful score is accented this time with a chant that isn't english and present in most of the film. When you figure out what it means, you see it pop up as symbolism several times in the final act. The act of "rising" has something to do with Batman but it applies more to the citizens of Gotham. The overtones of the Occupy Wall Street movement, class warfare and isolating apathy for your fellow neighbor are all present in the script and shine as if they were highlighted. The meaning of "rising" is carried all the way to the final shot of the film that is still giving me goosebumps.
Sure there are flaws here and there in the film but all get overshadowed into pitch blackness by the power of the film, which is excentuated by watching it on an IMAX screen. (This is the first feature film worth seeing on an IMAX since over half the movie was actually shot on IMAX film and cameras and will take your breath away.) There are times when it's justified to cry, to get chills, to burst into appaulse and that's because Christopher Nolan has made the greatest superhero film of all time and the perfect conclusion to a groundbreaking trilogy. Good luck to the poor bastard that will be put in charge of re-imaging the Batman characters again one day. It's hard to improve upon something so perfect. The Dark Knight Rises (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: A+ (higher if I could)