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Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne in "The Dark Knight Rises," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. TM & © DC Comics. Photo by Ron Phillips

‘Dark Knight’ rises into immortality

When embarking on the creation of a story that emphasizes the inner conflict of its lead character, it’s the humanity of the conflict that matters most. 

Delving into that character on a deeper level is a more difficult task to achieve, especially when that character hides behind a mask.

In achieving the fullness of the character’s arc over a series of films, it’s crucial the end of the journey be as poignant as it was at the beginning. In other words, one has to finish what one has started.

Director Christopher Nolan has succeeded in every facet with the final installment of the Batman series he created more than six years ago. Starting, aptly enough, with “Batman Begins,” the film succeeded with flying colors to establish Bruce Wayne and his alter ego’s resolve to strike back at criminals for the death of his parents.

“The Dark Knight” continued to explore Wayne’s personal crusade as he found himself in situations that threatened the very foundation of his moral beliefs.

Now, Nolan raises the stakes higher than ever as the body, mind and soul of Wayne and Batman are put to the ultimate test in “The Dark Knight Rises.”

“The Dark Knight Rises” takes place eight years after the ending of “The Dark Knight.”

Batman (Christian Bale) has assumed responsibility for crimes that had put Gotham City in turmoil. He has since retreated into a self-imposed exile as Gotham seemingly enjoys a well-deserved period of peace.

The peace, however, does not last for long. Gotham finds two new faces at work in the city. First comes the mysterious Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), followed by a masked terrorist called Bane (Tom Hardy), who intends to carry out Gotham’s destruction firsthand. Upon realizing this, Batman emerges from hiding to defend the city once more.

To those who have doubts as to whether “The Dark Knight Rises” can’t escape the “curse” that has accompanied countless third entries in a film series, you might want to reconsider. Nolan expressed initial reluctance in doing a third installment because he feared it would bore him and become unnecessary.

Thanks to an intricate narrative conceived by Nolan, his brother Jonathan and screenwriter David S. Goyer, we get to see Bruce Wayne’s journey as Batman conclude on a very high note that exudes an emotional resonance.

As hard as it might be to know that Nolan has ended his Batman saga, it is also wonderful to know that he does so with the same level of attentiveness that made “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” memorable endeavors.

A key element of the film’s triumph is its excellent balancing of the characters’ emotions with the action sequences. On the one side of the spectrum, Bruce Wayne no longer thinks he has purpose after the tragic events of “The Dark Knight,” and for the first time in a long while, the anguish he feels from having lost so much in his life threatens to break him. Even though the advice he receives from those closest to him serves to alleviate his suffering, only he can make the choice to confront his inner demons.

On the other side of the spectrum, the actions undertaken are more intense and fierce than before. Be it a vehicle chase, brawl, or the destruction of property, every act of violence becomes more than just direct contact. Special mention must be made of cinematographer Wally Pfister, whose use of the IMAX format provides the viewer with an expansive perspective to comprehend the meaning behind the action-packed moments.

If any filmmaker has a solid understanding as to who can embody the psyche and poise of a specific character, Nolan certainly does.

His cast members (both veteran colleagues and fresh faces) exhibit zero limitations as to what they can do.

Bale is at the top of his game as both Wayne and Batman. Whether he is in a quiet state of conflicted emotion or in a resolute drive for justice, Bale nails it in every way possible.

Gary Oldman continues his gripping portrayal of the world-weary, yet dedicated James Gordon.

Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman return to their roles as Wayne’s trusted guardian Alfred Pennyworth and business partner Lucius Fox, respectively. Each plays a significant fatherly role in Wayne’s life.

Marion Cotillard makes a worthwhile contribution as Miranda Tate, who encourages Bruce to resume his company’s philanthropic ventures. Joseph Gordon-Levitt impresses the most out of all the supporting cast members as the idealistic John Blake.

Anne Hathaway turns out to be a pleasant surprise, delivering a solid performance as the enigmatic and sexy cat burglar Selina Kyle/Catwoman. But it is Tom Hardy who truly steals the scene as the brutal and calculating antagonist Bane. Whether it is his musculature or his expressive eyes or gas mask, Hardy disappears into the massive strength and ruthless cunning that his character wields.

Despite knowing that this journey has come to an end, in a strange and yet understandable manner, it will continue to live on years after its release.

If somebody asks why, the answer will be this: It is because the person who set out on this journey is more than just a man wearing a mask.

It is because the man who endured his tribulations and arrived at the ending is now a legend. It is because he is Batman.