HAVING raised the bar for superhero movies in 2005 with Batman Begins, director Christopher Nolan has rounded out his Dark Knight trilogy with one of the most anticipated films of the century.
Nolan's level of respect for the popular comic book character has shone through as he grounded the caped crusader in a recognisable reality and gave the man that dresses like a bat some substance.
So it is with bittersweet anticipation that we finally get to see his epic conclusion.
Still vulnerable eight years after losing the love of his life and taking the wrap for District Attorney Harvey Dent’s crimes, billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse.
He has traded his playboy days for a cane, a limp and a life holed up in his mansion.
Bruce is drawn out of hiding, and back into the Batman suit, after an encounter with slinky cat burglar Selina Kyle (a sensationally sexy and commanding Anne Hathaway) which coincides with the arrival of anarchist Bane (Tom Hardy).
The hulking mass of muscle causes havoc in Gotham City by exposing its corrupt leaders, empowering locked up criminals and claiming the city back for the residents in vivid occupy movement parallel.
Bane’s plan is an elaborate and devastating one that has the city closed off as it literally sits on a time bomb.
There is a slew of new characters that thickens and enriches the plot and Nolan is to be admired for his ability to evenly juggle them with established characters that are given fresh new arcs.
The action set pieces will have you gasping for breath, but the greater the scale Nolan aims for, the more he leaves himself open to plot holes, which he is guilty of unconvincingly skimming over.
And while Bane is convincingly built up to be Batman’s scariest and most powerful foe, the filmmakers don’t do themselves any favours by following Heath Ledger’s expressive, Oscar-winning performance with a villain that wears a mask and has a distorted voice.
But these are minor quibbles for a daring, compelling, satisfying and at times thrilling journey that includes some delicious twists in its exhilarating tail.
It all takes almost three hours to unfold, but you won’t look at your watch once.
This is how a superhero trilogy should be concluded.
Are you taking note, Sam Raimi?
The Dark Knight Rises (M)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Rating: Four stars
Reviewed By Julian Wright