‘Batman Rises’: The epic conclusion more than complements the trilogy

Da na na na na na na na na, Batman! Gotham City’s Dark Knight returns in the conclusion of director Christopher Nolan’s gritty Batman trilogy. Does “The Dark Knight Rises” live up to the hype? Does it do the rest of the franchise justice?

We’ll let you know after we’ve seen it about five more times in theaters — you know, just in case we missed something the first time.

In all seriousness, “DKR” is a phenomenal end to the Batman trilogy, which is good, since the movie is almost two hours and 45 minutes long.

It’s been eight years since the events of “The Dark Knight,” and Batman/Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale, “The Fighter”) has long since hung up his cape. When Catwoman/Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway, “Alice in Wonderland”) steals something from the rebuilt Wayne Manor and masked mercenary Bane (Tom Hardy, “Lawless”) begins to terrorize Gotham, will he be ready and able to once more don the cape and cowl to save it from total anarchy?

Hathaway is a brilliant Catwoman — a bold statement, especially with all of the skepticism revolving around including the character, but a true one. Hathaway manages to be sensual, fun and far more than just eye candy (though she does make for some gorgeous eye candy). Selina Kyle goes through a decent level of character development as far as leading ladies in leather and heels are concerned, and Hathaway’s subtle and genuine body language and facial expressions play a big part in showcasing this. Come for the catsuit, stay for the quality performance.

Bale, just wow — he takes Bruce Wayne through a forest of character development. Bruce is still, eight years after the death of his love Rachel Dawes, haunted by it and can’t seem to move on. Even as he slowly begins to move past this and come back to himself, events take place (some involving Bane) that send him back to square one, and he has to fight past his inner demons if he wants to save both himself and his city.

A most excellent villain was chosen in Bane, and the portrayal of the character as a highly intelligent and twistedly dapper individual (who could break you in half by looking at you, if those muscles are anything to go by) was both entertaining and unsettling. This isn’t a horror flick by far, but Bane (like Heath Ledger’s brilliant Joker before him) is more than capable of sending chills down viewers’ spines. Hardy never quite makes you root for Bane, but you never find yourself hating him either. In fact, there are points where you almost sympathize with him and his ideals, but not his extremist tactics of realizing them.

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Quality acting aside, the movie also scores bonus points for keeping audiences entertained for nearly three hours. The plot is deep, both appropriately slow at times and devastatingly explosive and tense at others. Nolan does a grand job of smoothly changing up the vibe of the movie to suit individual scenes while keeping the underlying essence of tension and suspense intact. There are a few plot twists involved (one will likely either upset fans or send them cheering; TNL was definitely pleased), but none that really surprise the viewer if they think hard enough and pay enough attention. All the clues are there for each one, so there’s no residual “cheap gimmick” feel to them.

Basically, see the movie and, if you get the chance, see it in IMAX. Yes, it’s as expensive as your unborn child, but more than worth it for this movie. In fact, throw your money at it and see it more than once; it’s worth it.