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Dark Knight Rises in 3rd Batman Film

By Sandra Olmsted

Writer-director Christopher Nolan uses the real world issues of terrorism and political and economic difference between the 1% and the rest of the world as a backdrop for his third and final film in the Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. The film is adapted from “Batman” creator Bob Kane’s familiar DC Comics characters and enhanced by Jonathan Nolan, the director’s brother, and David S. Goyer.

Eight years, in dramatic time, have elapsed in the saga as the film opens with a stunning mid-air hijacking which introduces the new villain, Bane (Tom Hardy), whose face is covered by a mask.  The mask delivers drugs to ease the pain of his disfigurement, but his voice resonates in a disconcerting Sean-Connery-imitating-Darth-Vader way that is more distracting than menacing. Meanwhile, Batman, who took the fall for killing Harvey Dent in the last film, has been shelved by the now reclusive Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale).

Wayne’s seclusion and dwelling on the past concerns stalwart Alfred (Michael Caine). Wayne contentedly mopes and limps around his mansion until a cat burglar, dressed in a sexy maid costume and named Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), steals both a heirloom necklace and Wayne’s finger prints and gets Wayne’s juices flowing again. Wayne emerges from seclusion to hunt down the thief.

While Selina deals with her impoverished childhood by stealing from the rich, Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), who’s just as sexy, has somehow risen above hers to become a society philanthropist. She and Wayne have a financial history with Wayne’s clean energy device.

While Wayne flirts, Bane commandeers the city’s sewers and builds something under the city with the help of construction magnet Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn), who hopes to be named head of Wayne Industries when Bane attempts to kidnap Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), takes over the Stock Exchange, and bankrupts Bruce Wayne. However, Wayne names Miranda to head the company and to guard the fusion project, which can easily be turned into a weapon.

Meanwhile, John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a rookie cop, clings to his belief in Batman’s goodness and even shares some of Wayne’s childhood traumas. When Bane lures 3,000 of Gotham’s finest into the sewers and traps them there, the city should be fair game for every criminal, but Bane wants more. He wants revenge (for exactly what besides bad luck to be born in poverty isn’t really clear). Bane does have an interesting past which Batman/Wayne gets to experience after being beaten to a pulp by Bane. Wayne awakens in a prison, a deep  pit from which only one has ever escaped.

While Wayne languishes, Bane cuts Gotham off from the outside world, releases dangerous prisoners from the jails, and reverses the social order of the City. Most importantly, Bane turns the fusion devise into the bomb its developer, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) feared it would become.

Filling out the Cat-Woman suit, Anne Hathaway shines as Selina, making her sexy not just for her looks but for her brains, snappy comebacks, and compassion. Hathaway is never, by the way, referred to as Cat-Woman. Bale reveals Batman/ Wayne’s troubled soul in a haunting portrayal of a man too old and too beat-up to function in the world as he wishes. Old pros Caine, Oldman and Freeman give their characters the emotion and depth needed to make the film work on more levels.

Director Nolan’s powerful command of film language, his careful direction, and neo-noir style make The Dark Knight Rises the visual feast and emotional thrill ride it should be. Even though the film is thrilling in standard 2D, Nolan does use the IMAX system to its best advantage, and it is worth the extra cost to see this film in an IMAX theater.

The Technical achievements of the film need kudos also.  Director of Photography Wally Pfister’s brilliant lensing of Gotham’s social collapse and Hans Bjerno’s marvelous aerial photography are perfectly complemented by Hans Zimmer’s original music and Lee Smith’s editing.

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language.

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