The Dark Knight Rises opens with an introduction to the menacing Bane, whose hidden face parallels Batman--"No one cared about me until I put on the mask," Tom Hardy says in his creepily distorted voice, before getting on with his schedule of death-death-death-tea-death. Back in Gotham, Harvey Dent is gone, the Batman is a fugitive, and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is still in a deep funk over departed childhood chum Rachel. Then the fetching Catwoman helps herself to some jewelry in his house, and meanwhile Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) inadvertently finds Bane in the city sewers. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is on hand as Officer Blake, a good cop and a believer of the Bat, and Marion Cotillard joins the Inception cast reunion as Miranda Tate, a wealthy philanthropist who funds the fusion reactor being developed by Wayne Industries.
Everything converges to the point where the costume needs to be donned again, but not before Michael Caine pulls his best Alfred performance yet. The relationship between the orphaned Bruce and his devoted butler is one of the emotional anchors in the trilogy, and the final arc sees Alfred passionately expressing his hopes that his charge gets a chance at a normal, happy life, instead of being the darkly brooding symbol of justice who regularly risks his life for an entire city. Will it happen? More importantly, with Bane being faster, stronger, and maybe smarter than Batman, can it happen? Dun-dun-dunnnnn!
The writing leaves room for smiles despite the grimness when Bane's plot unfolds. Hathaway is hilarious in a scene when she pretends to be a hysterical victim, and then instantly returns to her calculating look once the coast is clear. Catwoman's best line is a teasing, "You shouldn't have," when Batman offers her the use of his Bat-motorcycle, or whatever it's called. (Batcycle? Batwheels?) Gordon-Levitt has to hurl himself to the side after asking Batman if he has a bigger explosive.
The ending is plenty satisfying, too. I'll leave it at that, and encourage you to watch it, or to watch it again in case you've already seen it but were covering your eyes when [REDACTED].
We now return to our regularly scheduled blogging.