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THE DARK KNIGHT RISES seals the deal with a bang.

At the inception (yup) of writer/director Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Gotham has had 8 years of peace – with nothing remotely as threatening as The Joker (respectfully not mentioned ONCE the entire film) having surfaced during this long period of tranquility. Law enforcement is happy, the Gotham elite are happy, life is good, and as a result Bruce Wayne has hung up his spurs and retired the Batman. But of course when shit hits the fan this permanent vacation is cut short. It seems old buddies The League Of Shadows have a score to settle – not only with Bruce but also with Gotham city. Enter a new foe named Bane (Tom Hardy), trained by Ra’s al Ghul himself (the ubiquitous Liam Neeson), who’s come to finish what was started in the first chapter of the trilogy: namely to raze the corrupt city to the ground by any means necessary, in this case a good ol’ fashioned Atom bomb – and to break the Batman in mind, body, and spirit. Add to the mix master thief Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), who complicates matters for Bats and rides the fence about whether Gotham and is worth saving, and you have a heady villainous brew. Of course our brooding hero has a few friends to help him on his journey, in the form of Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and “hothead” police officer Blake (Joseph Gordon Levitt), a cop inspired by Batman and more than willing to go beyond the call of duty. Will The Dark Knight and his allies save Gotham? Will Batman endure, as Alfred once foretold? Or does he have a death wish, as Alfred foretells early on? These are the stakes in Nolan‘s final yarn. Does the film work? Yes, though it never hits the levels of excellence of the previous films – there’s nothing as emotionally compelling as the interrogation scene from The Dark Knight, and there’s some pretty silly shit in the form of a mobile atom bomb (why not just level the damn city from a distance?) and a subplot involving police trapped in tunnels for months – all a bit much. But taken as a whole, The Dark Knight Rises merges perfectly with Nolan’s vision, and is a fitting ending – averting the disaster that claimed Sam Raimi‘s Spiderman 3 and Richard Lester‘s Superman 3 – and by so doing achieving that rare feat, of a single-director-superhero trifecta. As for the cast, it’s all accolades – Bale is a solid Bruce/Bats but finds himself in the shadow of some stellar co-stars: Michael Caine is without flaw, the perfect Alfred, end of story. Hathaway and Gordon Levitt are wonderful additions to the lore, expelling any iffy feelings you may have had about their casting within minutes of screen-time. And Hardy does so much with eye contact that it almost (almost) makes his massive muscles unnecessary. He’s creepy, his voice is demented, and it just works. And talk about payoff – the last 5 minutes of this film are truly special, and a brilliant send-off to the entire saga. He saved the franchise with Begins, and gave us two solid films afterwards: though it has minor problems, they aren’t so big as to blemish the big picture- with The Dark Knight Rises Nolan sticks the landing and proves that Comic Book Cinema is here to stay. Allow yourself to fall in, and you’ll find it’s a satisfying ride.

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