You're going to have to take this review with a grain of salt.
The sound in the theater where I watched The Dark Knight Rises was so messed up that the music often made it hard to tell what the actors were saying. So it's quite possible that when I thought I heard someone say something cool -- like when Bane tells Batman "Victory has defeated you" -- they were really saying something incredibly dumb, like "Hickory has a pleasing hue."
Maybe the entire movie was a three-hour discussion about cabinets. If so, disregard everything I say below. Unless Bane proved that painted is better than natural wood, because that would be just as epic. But if I was hearing right -- and I only missed two or three lines for sure -- then The Dark Knight Rises is the trilogy finale we needed, if not deserved.
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It's been eight years since the death of Harvey Dent, and Gotham is at peace. Batman (Christian Bale) hasn't been seen in all that time. Not only do the people hate Batman -- they believe he's responsible for Dent's death -- but the man behind the cowl also is physically and emotionally crippled.
But new enemies are descending on Gotham. A mercenary named Bane (Tom Hardy) has a virtual army hiding in the city sewers. He intends to throw a revolution. It's enough to stir Batman from the shadows, but Bane may be too cunning and too strong to stop.
It's a good thing director/co-writer Christopher Nolan already perfected the exposition factory in Inception, because The Dark Knight Rises has to deal with an incredible amount of setup, plot, and ties back to the first two movies. You have seen the other movies, right? I mean, you had to. It was mandated by the Nolan Act of 2007. So if you haven't seen them, that makes you a fugitive criminal, and what is a fugitive criminal doing watching the third Batman movie? That's like a chicken watching a reel of KFC commercials.
I suppose I should start making sense now. So here's the deal: Nolan's Batman trilogy is epic. Near the end of The Dark Knight Rises, when two armies are clashing and the fate of the entire city is up in the air, I was getting a very epic fantasy, Lord of the Rings vibe. At one point, Robin even used a Kevlar vest to surf down a staircase, shooting Bane's followers with batarangs all the way down.
All right, that last part didn't happen. But the epic feel is undeniable. The Dark Knight Rises' arc isn't completely standalone. Much of its power is built on the events of the last two movies. The League of Shadows and the specter of Ra's al Ghul is back, but more importantly, Batman is no longer the young, unbreakable force of justice he once was. Weakened even as he faces his toughest enemy yet -- Bane is as strong as a horse that's strong enough to be ridden by other horses -- and there's the real impression that Batman may not be up to the challenge.
It adds a lot of significance to the series. A lot of weight. And the chance for an equally weighty payoff -- which Nolan nails.
Still, it's time for a few complaints, because this job is essentially one of the professional complainer. Obviously, Hardy's Bane is not as great as Heath Ledger's Joker. Not that the comparison is in any way fair. Ledger was like the Michael Jordan of city-exploding sociopaths. Of course Hardy isn't as good. The moon isn't going to start outshining the sun, either. There is only one sun.
There are also times when so much is happening that certain story threads threaten to get lost in the shuffle. It's an outright miracle that editor Lee Smith is able to keep things coherent. Well, it's a minor miracle, anyway. Something alone the lines of changing water into O'Doul's.
Otherwise, The Dark Knight Rises does a stellar job tying its trilogy together. Meanwhile, its gargantuan plot borrows freely from contemporary events, tapping into anxieties of class warfare and "the 99 percent" as its third act crashes right past the standard point where the supervillain is thwarted and plunges straight into madness.
As a single movie, The Dark Knight Rises may not quite top The Dark Knight, but as the capper to a series, it could hardly have been better.