Top 15 Films of the Year, No. 12 – The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises is a film directed by Christopher Nolan, with a screenplay by Nolan and his brother Jonathan Nolan. The movie takes place about eight years after the conclusion of The Dark Knight (2008), as Bruce Wayne hangs up his Batman mask and goes into a self-imposed banishment from crime fighting after he assumes blame for the death of District Attorney Harvey Dent. Batman and Commissioner Gordon believed making the caped crusader disappear might be the only way to restore sanity to Gotham City for good. However, with the emergence of the disastrous terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy), Wayne realizes he must end his exile in an attempt to save Gotham from the dangerous attacks that await at the hands of this masked killer.

Ever since The Dark Knight was released in 2008, fans of this superhero franchise have been anxiously awaiting the epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece. In my opinion, Nolan’s productions have been much more groundbreaking than any other set of Batman movies ever created. The older Batman films seemed over-the-top and cheesy with horrible special effects and beyond terrible acting; conversely, Nolan’s movies are much darker and made more in the mold of a full-fledged drama rather than an action film, not to mention the stellar casts he employs. He has made world-class movies like The Prestige and Inception, and his Batman series has never disappointed to impress both theatergoers and critics.

The biggest surprise to me about this movie is the fact that it is not nominated for any Academy Awards. The Dark Knight was up for eight Oscars and won two, and even though the newest film did not have an acting performance like Heath Ledger’s role as the Joker in 2008, I felt that The Dark Knight Rises was almost just as good of a movie as its predecessor. It features unbelievable visual effects and other aesthetics, but for some reason, the Academy chose not to recognize any of these features of The Dark Knight Rises this year. I think people went into the movie expecting way too much considering how great of a film The Dark Knight was, and in my opinion, this hype is what led to many people not enjoying the movie.

Christian Bale turned in another solid performance as Bruce Wayne, and once again, the supporting performances lent to an overall illustrious ensemble of acting skill. Anne Hathaway plays the physically demanding role of Selina Kyle, or Catwoman, and Tom Hardy joins forces with Nolan again (Inception, 2010) to play the cataclysmic terrorist Bane. Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Gary Oldman reprise their roles as Lucius Fox, Alfred Pennyworth, and Commissioner James Gordan, respectively. If that list of actors is not enough to prove the major-league level Christopher Nolan is at as a filmmaker, he also enlists Joseph Gordon-Levitt (John Blake) and Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard (Miranda Tate) to round out the long list of performers.

I believe Nolan ended his Batman trilogy on a firm, conclusive note, and I believe this film ranks second among the three. It provides much more drama and astounding visual effects than Batman Begins (2006), but without a performance similar to that of Ledger, it simply cannot meet the astonishing standards that The Dark Knight has set for the trilogy. The Dark Knight Rises is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality, and language.

Academy Award nominations for The Dark Knight Rises: