By Mark Saldana

Rating; 4 (Out of 4 Stars)

Spider-Man may have been my favorite childhood superhero, but as I grew into adulthood, Batman earned that title.  Starting in high school through the present, discovering Batman and this intriguing character’s stories changed the way I looked at comics.  The Dark Knight or Caped Crusader always felt more genuine, accessible and, of course, grounded in reality.  After all, the man had no super powers whatsoever, and simply, was driven by the murder of his parents to take on crime as guardian of his beloved city of Gotham.

Writer/director Christopher Nolan has also risen above other writers and directors who have attempted to adapt these stories for either television or film.  His no-nonsense, realistic approach to Batman has resulted in success on both financial and critical levels. With Batman Begins, Nolan re-invigorated a once failed movie franchise people thought beyond saving. The Dark Knight exceeded all expectations as an explosive sequel that not only made a huge impact on movie history, but also set the bar way high for future comic book-based films.  Now the moment fans have anticipated has arrived.  Christopher Nolan completes his Batman trilogy with an incredible movie that, in my opinion, doesn’t surpass his previous installment, but is just as good and ends his saga on most satisfactory note.

Set eight years following the events of The Dark Knight, Batman has hung up his cape and cowl and not made a public appearance since taking the blame for Harvey Dent’s death and crimes.  Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) spent his “retirement” as a reclusive shut-in, nursing old injuries and facing aging in a depressed state.  When skilled thief Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) appears at the re-built Wayne Manor for a social gathering and steals some valuables, Bruce begins to investigate her checkered past.  As he begins to dig deeper,Wayne discovers a terrorist plot by a mysterious figure named Bane (Tom Hardy) who plans to tear Gotham apart.  It is up to Batman to rise up once again and assume the mantle of guardian for his beloved city before Bane’s plan comes to fruition.

As a fan of DC’s Batman comics, I easily recognized the inspiration for this film.  In 1993, the Batman story arc known as Knightfall tells a story of how Bane overwhelms Gotham and Batman with a similar terrorist attack.  Fans of this series should rejoice as they see Nolan’s strikingly close version play out on the big screen.  Granted, Nolan hasn’t always been 100 percent faithful to the comics, but he has done so well adapting Batman material for the cinema that this is easily forgivable.  Nolan and his returning writers Jonathan Nolan and David Goyer obviously have much love and respect for their inspiration, but they still manage to give the film versions their signature and personal touch.

With this conclusion to their trilogy, they once again present an impressive cinematic experience that has a truly engrossing and thrilling story, wonderful performances from their cast, and jaw-dropping scenes of both the action and dramatic varieties.  The film has a runtime of 164 minutes, but not once did I ever feel like I could not wait until the film’s conclusion.  I sat in the theater completely entranced by this superb and satisfying movie which should not only appeal to fans of Batman, but by anyone who has loved Nolan’s previous Bat-films.

While The Dark Knight features the incredible, break-out performance by Heath Ledger, this last installment does not boast any one stand-out of the cast, but has an excellent ensemble with not a single weak performance by anyone.  Christian Bale shows a new side to Bruce Wayne/Batman portraying him now as a man whose spirit has been broken and body hurting.  I found it quite touching to see this even more vulnerable human side of the character and the process he must go through to assume his alter ego.  Michael Caine returns as Wayne’s confidant and father figure, Alfred, and offers his most passionate and heartbreaking performance of the series.  As the new villain in the saga, Tom Hardy delivers a frightening, menacing and disturbingly charming turn as Bane.  As Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Anne Hathaway should silence all detractors and nay-sayers with this deliciously sly, sexy, and kick-ass character.

Joseph Gordon Levitt joins Nolan’s Bat-world as John Blake, a wide-eyed and optimistic cop who believes in Batman and would do anything to help him return.  Levitt, as always, shines in this appealing role. Also making a welcome addition to the cast is Marion Cotillard who plays Miranda Tate, a new friend and love interest to Bruce and Matthew Modine as the deputy commissioner who has his eyes on Gordon’s job.  Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman return to their respective roles as Commissioner Gordon and Lucius Fox and never disappoint.

So at this point, it should go without saying that I highly recommend this movie which will rival Marvel’s AVENGERS in the comic book based film genre.  The screening I attended was not presented on an IMAX screen, but I have no doubt whatsoever that the IMAX version will be the best way to enjoy and appreciate this movie, especially the gorgeous cinematography of Wally Pfister and the awesome score by Hans Zimmer.  In fact, the theater where I saw the movie had an unsatisfactory volume so that I had some trouble understanding a few of Bane’s lines.  I have yet to hear any other complaints from those who have seen the film at the IMAX, so don’t settle for less. Go see it as the filmmakers intended.  Tissues may be needed as well.  I could have used a few as I teared up during the movie’s conclusion.


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