© Warner Bros. Pictures German

The Dark Knight Rises
U.S.A./U.K. 2012

Opening 26 Jul 2012

Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Writing credits: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer, Bob Kane
Principal actors: Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway

The film opens with CIA agents in foreign skies, perhaps over Afghanistan, far from Gotham City. A stunningly brutal airplane hijacking leaves the CIA plane dangling from a larger predator plane enabling the grotesquely masked villain Bane (Tom Hardy) to grab atomic scientist Dr. Pavel (Alon Moni Aboutboul) and hoist him upwards and away while all the passengers on the disintegrating hijacked plane become helpless victims to the law of gravity. And this is just the beginning of the 164 minute exhilarating, and at times exhausting, superhero blockbuster. Shock and awe are the running themes of this epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.

The Dark Knight Rises takes place eight years after The Dark Knight. Gotham City has been a peaceful, law-abiding place. Batman has disappeared from the scene after taking the blame for murders he didn’t commit. Coincidently Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has also receded into the background and become a rather pathetic, self-pitying social recluse limping around Wayne Manor. His ever faithful butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) encourages him to break out and embrace life. But what happens next is not what Alfred meant.

The hideous masked villain Bane appears in Gotham City accompanied by Dr. Pavel and a band of brutal thugs from the League of Shadows with plans to take over the city and turn it to ashes. Batman is forced out of retirement to confront Bane with the help of Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman); John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) an idealistic young cop, a reincarnated Robin; and Catwoman Selena Kyle, saucily played by Anne Hathaway. Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) complete the main cast, both important kingpins of Wayne Enterprises. One of them is loyal to Bruce, one of them is his lover, and one of them has a secret identity and wants to destroy him.

It’s a violent, bruising saga where citizens of Gotham City endure all of mankind’s modern day nightmares, from kangaroo courts, stock market manipulation, and Occupy vs. Tea Party polarization to anarchy, terrorism, and the worst threat of all, nuclear annihilation.

Controversy had been swirling around The Dark Knight Rises in the days leading up to its release in the USA. There’s the back story of Heath Ledger’s ghost haunting the highly anticipated final episode. How could The Dark Knight Returns live up to Ledger’s legacy as the Joker? The movie critics’ website RottenTomatoes.com had for the first time in its history suspended fan comments on movie reviews after commenters made threatening remarks including death threats to the critics who had written negative reviews of the movie. Actor Morgan Freeman who plays Batman’s personal armorer Lucius Fox is known for his staunch pro-Obama/anti Tea Party statements. According to the Guardian on May 16th at the annual shareholders meeting, Warner Bros. shareholder David Ridenour demanded: "What specific steps will Time Warner take to ensure that Mr. Freeman avoids such divisive and insulting words while promoting his next Warner Bros film, The Dark Knight Rises?" On July 17th Rush Limbaugh ranted on his radio show that the villain Bane was meant to encourage an insidious association with Romney’s venture capital firm, Bain, and that this was all part of a liberal media conspiracy orchestrated by Obama’s re-election team.

On July 20th all this banter became woefully insignificant. Nothing could ever have prepared us for what happened. The Dark Knight Rises will forever be tragically linked to the shootings at the midnight performance in Aurora, Colorado. Christopher Nolan, on the official film website, wrote that his thoughts were with the innocent victims and their families. He lamented: “The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me.” (Pat Frickey)

The theaters below show films in their original language; click on the links for showtimes and ticket information.
Interviews with the stars, general film articles, and reports on press conferences and film festivals.
Subscribe to the free KinoCritics monthly email newsletter here.