Combustible Celluloid
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With: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Matthew Modine, Alon Moni Aboutboul, Ben Mendelsohn, Burn Gorman, Daniel Sunjata, Aidan Gillen, Sam Kennard, Juno Temple, Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy
Written by: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, based on a story by Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language
Running Time: 164
Date: 15/07/2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Big Bat

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, the third in his Batman series, and the eighth Batman movie overall (counting the 1966 comedy), is the biggest of them all.

Coming in at nearly three hours and spanning months (years counting flashbacks), it's a battle epic for the ages. But it's also rooted in the world's current economic woes, and the growing frustration over a widening gap between the ultra-rich and the have-nots.

After the destructive events of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse, and it follows that Batman has also not been seen in years.

A new villain, the massively strong and dangerous Bane (Tom Hardy) arrives on the scene, hatching a sinister plan involving a powerful, nuclear-based energy source.

At the same time, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) -- also known as the Catwoman -- manages to steal a necklace from Bruce's safe, in addition to Bruce's fingerprints, which she sells to a nasty-looking thug.

Unfortunately for Bruce, and for everyone in Gotham City, these events are connected.

As with The Dark Knight, Nolan uses his gift for conducting a complex series of simultaneous threads to build a fluid rhythm.

Improbably, he even keeps things going during a harrowing third act in which Bruce has been imprisoned in a giant pit -- the daylight looming just out or reach -- with a severely injured back.

Nolan, whose films are often obsessed with the passage of time, uses the extreme length of his film to focus on his ensemble cast; in addition to the costumed stars, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Michael Caine -- among others -- get many emotional moments to shine.

The movie even raises the most glaring question of all: What is Batman actually for? Is he selfish, or selfless? Is he a vigilante, or does he provide hope for all the frustrated and downtrodden? Is he a weirdo, or a symbol? The viewers are left to ponder the answers.

When Nolan initially took over the series with Batman Begins, he seemed overwhelmed, spending too much time on shaky-cam cinematography and explosions. But with The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, he has tapped into something more powerful.

In essence, Nolan's king-sized summer epic takes on a most noble cause, one that many great movies before it have tackled. It addresses the darkness in everyday life, acknowledges the pain, and fights back for a little while.

Warner Home Video has released a three-disc set, with two Blu-rays (one for the movie and another for extras) and a DVD. The picture and sound quality are extraordinary, of course. Extras include a very entertaining hour-long documentary on the Batmobile. There are no commentary tracks, but director Nolan participates in several featurettes. The disc also includes trailers.

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