That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige”.

I would be lying if I wasn't waiting for this film from the minute that Gary Oldman's voice said those chilling words "…a Dark Knight…" Despite attempts to repress stratospheric expectations, the nerves were unwarranted. The Dark Knight Rises is an operatic, sprawling cinematic graphic novel that perfectly climaxes Nolan’s series to an impossibly moving crescendo.

In a world where a much longer Dark Knight series was extinguished by the devastating and the untimely death of Heath Ledger, the audience was left wrangling with how Nolan could address the elephantine, psychopathic clown in the room? Time. Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight (TDK) a peaceful Gotham is all but unburdened by organized crime. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is a battle scarred and weary former soldier, retired from the Batman and turned recluse. The decadence of Gotham’s 1% has thrived in this crimeless environment while brewing beneath Gotham a masked, maniacal mercenary Bane (Tom Hardy) is silently building an army for hostile occupation. Newcomers John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an idealistic cop, and Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), ‘cat-burglar’ for hire, form new perspectives for Gotham.

The Nolan Bros. script for TDKR uses the new faces to throw you into an almost unrecognisable Gotham landscape before steadily dragging you to unforseen depths of despair. The city that we’d once known to show compassion and a resilience to save itself – even while being tempted into self-destruction by madmen – has receded into apathy. The core of the city’s character in comic book form is hopelessness, which makes Batman’s tireless crusade against his rogues’ gallery all the more admirable.  The city is swarmed and occupied by the Bane’s hostile mercenary force and it plunges into oppressive darkness before dawn.

 

Christian Bale’s performance as Bruce delves further into the toll of Batman than any of the previous texts. He’s lost the compassionate, unerring drive that fuelled him years earlier. For me, Nolan/Bale’s Batman knows that Bruce Wayne is the mask – and regardless of whether he’s in the suit or not, he’s wrestling with being Batman. This was his most assured performance of the trilogy.

Tom Hardy’s Bane is terrifying in his composure. His physical presence is imposing and there’s a ferocity in his manner that intimidates at any distance. Despite how cumbersome a mouth-covering mask must be in muting an actor’s ability to deliver a performance, Hardy was powerful. His mechanized voice is tweaked so that its frequency permeates your senses to feel chillingly close.

Anne Hathaway, like Heath Ledger before her, erases the iconic performance of Pfieffer’s ‘Catwoman’ character immediately out of your consciousness. Hathaway’s Selina Kyle is a mesmerising survivor struggling with navigating her way through the two tiers of Gotham society: the diminished Gotham underworld as a thief for hire and its decadent high society as a cat burglar. She’s tough, selfish and a strong, uncompromising female presence in this male dominated film.

Michael Caine’s Alfred, Gary Oldman’s Gordon and Morgan Freeman’s Fox continue to deliver pitch perfect supporting roles that elevate the series despite their diminished presence.

If this is a magic act - what’s the trick? Where's the secret? The secret is the confluence of panels from the canonical comics being breathed into life; moment after powerful moment of themes and arcs from stories that resonate so totally with the character and a story that keeps you guessing until an ending that leaves you speechless.

The reveal of this prestigious final act of the Dark Knight Trilogy will make you cry, it will make you cringe, it will give you goosebumps, and it will demand you to stand and applaud. The sincerity, passion and spectacle with which this epic finale was produced endeared it to me in such a way that I felt like it was MADE FOR ME. I’ll be seeing it again, and again.

[rating=5]

Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here.

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Co-Written by: David S. Goyer (Story) Christopher Nolan (Story/Screenplay) and Jonathan Nolan (Screenplay)

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

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is released in Australia on the 19th of July 2012, and in the U.S.A and U.K on the 20th of July 2012. 

BLAKE HOWARD IS A WRITER, A PODCASTER, AND THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & CO-FOUNDER OF AUSTRALIAN FILM BLOG GRAFFITI WITH PUNCTUATION . BLAKE IS A MEMBER OF THE PRESTIGIOUS ONLINE FILM CRITIC SOCIETY (AND A MEMBER OF THE GOVERNING COMMITTEE), IS A CO-HOST OF GAGGLE OF GEEKS ON SYDNEY'S 2SER COMMUNITY RADIO, A COLUMNIST AT THE AUSTRALIAN ONLINE INSTITUTION DARK HORIZONS AND SWAYS THE TOMATO METER WITH ROTTEN TOMATOES APPROVED REVIEWS.