A Vigilante Dies, A Hero Is Reborn

“The Dark Knight Rises” completes the “Batman” trilogy, once again setting the bar extremely high for comic book films while transforming Bruce Wayne’s alter ego into a hero once again.

The third movie of a trilogy is sometimes made just for the hell of it, a half-assed effort to try to make money. That’s not the case with “The Dark Knight Rises.” This film is worth the wait and will challenge “The Avengers” for box office supremacy in 2012.

Director Christopher Nolan took his time (the last “Batman” film was released four years ago) and we’re treated to yet another comic book masterpiece. Christian Bale is back for more vigilante fun as the titular hero or antagonist, at least if you live in Gotham City.

You don’t need to see the previous two “Batman” films to enjoy the third, but if you did, you know that Gotham hates the Dark Knight. That’s established at the beginning of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), Alfred the butler (Michael Caine) and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) all return to aid Batman in some form.

New to this “Batman” world are Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) and John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Levitt plays it straight as a good-guy cop not afraid to get his hands dirty when things get rough. The women, however, well, they complicate matters for Batman and his alter ego, billionaire Bruce Wayne (don’t women always complicate Bruce’s life?).

The Batman Is Not Dead!

“The Dark Knight Rises”

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine

Running time: 164 minutes

Rating: PG-13

Budget: $250 million

Although hated by Gotham, Batman is forced to come out of retirement after a lengthy absence thanks to the film’s actual antagonist, the muscular Bane, played expertly by Tom Hardy. This isn’t a circus show freak Bane that’s portrayed in the comics, cartoons and the awful “Batman & Robin.” Bane wears a mask that lessens the immense pain he’s constantly in thanks to injuries he suffered in a prison years ago; Batman is the one in pain after a failed attempt to fight Gotham’s new villain. The initial battle between the two shows that Batman is indeed human as the Dark Knight takes a beating the likes no hero has received since the death of Superman at the hands of Doomsday.

With Batman on the sidelines because of injury, Bane proceeds to wreak havoc in Gotham City. His method is pure terrorism, in fact, this movie couldn’t have been made years ago thanks to its eerie 9/11-like storyline. An entire city is hijacked thanks to Bane’s explosives set almost everywhere, including all of the bridges. No way something like this is shown on screen less than a decade after 9/11.

The inclusion of Selina Kyle, otherwise known as Catwoman, is helpful and a hindrance to Batman. That’s the way Catwoman has always been, and Hathaway works the part (and a tight leather suit) perfectly.

Along the way we encounter double crosses, characters that find the courage to do what’s right, surprise reveals and good guys making all the right moves to get the upper hand on Bane and his army.

“The Dark Knight Rises” is a long movie, but Batman always entertains with unique toys — Bat pods, tumblers, a new flying gizmo — and his ascent from hated vigilante to beloved hero is worth the wait (expect long lines at the theater even weeks after this one’s released).

This is the end of a trilogy and we are treated to a fitting end. Like any great film, there’s wiggle room for a fourth chapter if any director so desired. This won’t be the last time we see Batman in a film, however, it might be difficult to see another comic book movie as fine as “The Dark Knight Rises.”

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