Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy ends with The Dark Night Rises. As in the earlier parts of the trilogy (2005 & 2008), also in this movie you can sense a very dark tone. It's not dark in the way of Underworld movies or gothic and somewhat romantic Batman movies by Tim Burton (1989 & 1992). I would rather describe this darkness as black as the rotting rat on the alley. It may look disgusting but still somehow so fascinating that you need to look at it and even smell it.
The Dark Knight Rises is film of a superhero and a popular cartoon icon. Or at least that's something what people are expecting it to be. However, Christopher and his co-writer brother Jonathan Nolan have wanted to test the limits of a typical cartoon hero and pushed him and his surroundings, Gotham City, close to the limits of reality. There's no more anything camp in them. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) might be a millonaire, who has a strange hobby to fight against outlaws in a bat suit with expensive and very militant gadgets, but it's possible to believe in a character like that while there really is in this world some eccentric rich men with their oddities. Also the way how Gotham looks and feels in the movie – you can clearly see New York in that city. Of course there's for example no Statue of Liberty but you can find many other things which are similar in these two cities.
Typical American comic book based superhero movies are always a bit cheesy. Audience wants to see these heroes in good looking capes, skin-tight suits and mysterious but still very basic looking masks. People also wish to see their hero struggling and face to face with an issue and/or a villain which or who represents their own problems. That's okay, these things belong in the comic book culture. They're part of its ”code”. Quite often these heroes, issues and villains can be seen full of camp essence. For example Superman is a handsome and kind man, who rescues civilians in an outfit that resembles a cold weather underwear. But Nolan's last Batman film gives us several characters which are as far from cartoons as you can make them to be. For example the villain of The Dark Knight Rises, Bane (Tom Hardy), may look in the film poster like some evil wrestler with a mask that hugs his face like a H.R. Giger's alien. But he is so much more than that. With his calm but disrupted voice he is a man, whose words have to be listened or you'll might get killed. He's the army guy in his gear telling you how everything is in control and soon over. He is also like some neo Darth Vader, a warrior, who has dragged himself out of Hell and found a path that he sees as the only right way for everybody. Tom Hardy plays this role very well, with no overacting.
Bane and Tom Hardy are different from what Joker and Heath Ledger were in The Dark Knight, the second movie in this trilogy. If you're expecting to see a raving lunatic you will be disappointed. If you're expecting to understand Bane's motives right away and hear him speaking with a clear voice as Darth Vader or Hannibal Lecter did through their masks, you will be disappointed. If you're expecting to see a league of baddies beating Batman at the same time in a gigantic final battle, you will be disappointed. But you won't be as disappointed as with Spider-Man 3 or X-Men: The Last Stand which both were boringly overloaded and unbelievable with their rapid speed. The Dark Knight Rises gives us an old-fashioned gentleman vs. gentleman fight and a story that lets its characters to grow nice and slow till they meet their final destiny. The Dark Knight Rises doesn't however work so smoothly without the first two movies of this trilogy. Without seeing them you could actually also feel like some of the characters (including charming Miranda Tate by Marion Cotillard, who plays the role with no pushing, and Lucious Fox by Morgan Freeman) would get too little screen time. Then again, what more they really could do in this movie without making it overlong then?
It's interesting to see that some of the most visible people in this production were non-American. Christian Bale, who thankfully doesn't tease our ears with that deep bat-voice of his too long this time, is from Wales, UK. Marion Cotillard is from Paris, France, Michael Caine (who adds once again more depth into his performance as Alfred the trustworthy and father-like servant of Mr. Wayne) is from UK, as are Gary Oldman (Commissioner James Gordon) and even the screenwriter-director Christopher Nolan too. Perhaps you need to be an outsider to give the right perspective into Batman and his world. Nolan channels the latest economic crisis through The Dark Knight Rises and makes the movie in that way as a portrait of this time. Bruce Wayne/Batman is lost in the beginning of the movie, since he feels he has lost his dearests but more importantly also the honour he gained before the fatal battle with Joker. When Bane comes, Bruce/Batman finds out that he finally has a good reason to wear his armour again. Nevertheless, his fall won't stop that easily. He may get rid of his cane and get himself some new toys, after a curiously attractive cat-burglar sneaks into his ”tomb” but Gotham and Bane are not welcoming the bat after his hibernation. No, they are stomping on him. Nolan won't underline Batman's bad luck as for example Sam Raimi underlined Spider-Man's bad luck in his Spider-Man movies. Therefore you might actually feel like there could have been more. It's a same effect than in concerts. If you go from a rock concert to listen a couple of chamber musicians, your ears can be ringing too much to make the latter enjoyable enough.
The Dark Knight Rises is a violent movie, if you compare it to for example The Bridges of Madison County (1995) by Clint Eastwood. As the news have told, in this Batman film's premiere, in Colorado, USA, happened a shooting massacre. Was it otherwise related to The Dark Knight Rises, it's still a mystery. However, that sad and horribly violent case probably rises once again the discussions of movie violence. Do we make cruel and bad things after watching fictional acts by fictional characters like Joker or Scarecrow? Or do we hate some irrelevant thing and people involved with it so much that we need to give our punishment to it and them in a physical way? If it's no more safe to have fun in a public place, should we just watch telly at home, behind locked doors and closed curtains? I have no answers. I only know those people or this film didn't deserve it.