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A solid send-off for the Dark Knight

by Jase Howell

The final chapter to the latest “Batman” trilogy had much to overcome.

After the astounding “The Dark Knight” it is almost impossible to surpass the layers of tension, intrigue, and performances. The film was sadly looked over by Oscar voters, despite being a unanimous hit with critics and fans around the world.

How do you top that? Well, director Christopher Nolan attempts to with his end to the franchise, “The Dark Knight Rises.” The first question is does it live up to expectations? The answer is yes. Does reach the height of comic greatness that “The Dark Knight” achieved? Probably not. But then again, it is always difficult to make a sequel to a masterpiece.

The latest incarnation of the series finds our hero still in hiding after the events from the last film, which now culminates with the Harvey Dent, savior of the city passing on. Batman (Christian Bale) is still the scapegoat, and his real life personality of Bruce Wayne is hiding underground. Enter Bane (Tom Hardy), an escaped terrorist obsessed with destroying Gotham City. Bane is the least colorful of the villains in this series to date, and this film may be the least vivid as well.

Bane, a hulking figure with a respirator mask that covers his face and alters his voice, is set on flat-out anarchy. Exploding half the city during a football game, breaking the deadliest criminals out of jail; these are some of Bane’s tactics.

Batman, meanwhile, has own troubles. Since living the hermit lifestyle, the Wayne family has suffered severe losses as a world leader in engineering and innovation. Stalwarts Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Alfred (Michael Caine) are still around Wayne enterprises, but sadly due to the disappearance of Bruce Wayne the company is now on the rocks. Enter Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a wealthy businesswoman who is interested in helping Wayne, for reasons we will find out later.

Wayne also comes upon a sneaky cat-burglar named Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). The women in Wayne’s life will present a love triangle for him that is probably not necessary to the film, but which works in the end, I suppose.

The performances here re very solid, with Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Christian Bale every bit as good as they have been in the previous blockbusters; and Hathaway, Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Hardy are all good enough. Levitt (working again for Nolan after “Inception”) plays a new detective who sides with Batman.

Nolan has created a nice bookend here. It may not be perfect, and many may find the materiel a little too real. Much of this film deals with a uprising of the poor against the wealthy Wall Street-types. Is Bane an extreme Tea Party member? I don’t know, and the film never gives exact answers.

What is known is Nolan has kept his “Dark Knight” series the most cutting edge in the industry on all levels. “The Dark Knight Rises” is not the best film in the series — it is probably is the weakest — but even as the weakest it’s still some of the greatest and twisted stuff you’re going to find in a comic book film.