Batman’s “Dark Knight” trilogy concluded in glory: Christian Bale’s final turn was among the best films of 2012

Christian Bale returned as Bruce Wayne – The Batman – in Christopher Nolan’s film, “The Dark Knight Rises.” The trilogy Nolan crafted ended on a high note in 2012, with the best installment yet.

Ultimately, nearly every performer with face time on screen contributes to the end result. 
The film’s most significant characters include Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake, a beat cop turned detective and Gary Oldman reprising his stellar presentation as Commissioner Gordon. Two favorites leaven this for viewers of “a certain age” – There’s Morgan Freeman as Lucius the entrepreneur who keeps the flame of Wayne greatness alive, and Michael Caine in his finest performance yet as the faithful man-servant, Albert.

These foregoing words sketch less than half the brilliance of this motion picture’s stars.
Tom Hardy is the villain, Bane, a sinner so seemingly unrepentant and a brute so deliriously evil that we cannot possibly find in his character a spark of sympathy – and yet by the end we do.

Two powerful female performances emerge in this 164-minute movie – worth every minute (even in broadcast renditions lingering at four hours).
French actress Marion Cottilard as Miranda, for a time the focus of Wayne’s reborn affection for life, and Anne Hathaway as Selina is a cat burglar without peer, and every bit a match for The Batman’s brains and skills.
Hathaway delivers arguably the most intriguing character in the story full of complexity and layers.

The film script is faithful to the duality that has marked this series in each installment – the fight between good and evil is in every nation, every state, every city – indeed in every human heart. The effects, widely noted in the early reviews, serve the story ably.

It remains a mystery that a graphic novel – an edgy modern comic book series – inspired stories that echoed realities St. Paul described in Scripture, and which the Russian patriot Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn evoked in his narratives: “The line between good and evil runs through every human heart.”  Theologically, this is dangerous territory, yet it matches the tenor of our times. (“The Road to Perdition” is another excellent film rooted in the graphic novel tradition.)

Rarely has a movie intended as popular entertainment more deftly captured the sorrow and joy of life, the tension between liberty and license, between order under justice and tyranny under chaos.

A brave young cop sets aside the structure and order that comes with a law enforcer’s badge – yet with good humor we were offered at least a hint that another story might have been lying “out there” in Nolan’s fertile mind and magnificent technical ability. 

How many stories have evoked Charles Dickens’ masterful closing lines from “A Tale of Two Cities”? Too many, perhaps – but in this case, well done.

If you love great film-making, the technology of modern cinema at its finest, see “The Dark Knight Rises”. It was worthy on the Big Screen, but is no doubt also awe-inspiring on the latest big screen televisions. 

Regardless of the medium in which a first-time viewer watches, if you admire and appreciate spectacular performances by some of the finest women and men that Hollywood offered in modern times, check out again these stellar characterizations.
If you love to see a tale that matters, well told, entertaining and yet edifying, keep an eye on Paramount cable or another of the channels where this movie appears regularly. See for yourself why it was among the most successful movies of the modern era.

The story has it all: spirit and flesh, love and hate, glory and ignominy, revenge and pity, mercy and justice, righteousness and venality, cowardice and courage, condemnation and redemption.
The Dark Knight Rises” was among the best films of the past decade, and arguably the finest of 2012. 

Note: This review is adapted from with minor revisions from its publication in The City Sentinel newspaper in the summer of 2012.