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"Because he's not the hero we need right now, but he's the one we deserve."
Eight years have passed since Gotham last needed Batman. Without the ornaments and implements of Batman, Bruce Wayne rings hollow. When we last left the Dark Knight he was on the run from the police and held in contempt by virtually all of Gotham. Shouldering the weight of Harvey Dent's crimes and suffering the loss of Rachel, he is in his own personal hell. Any semblance of a normal life ended with a sick joke and a cleansing burn.
Gotham itself is also in a transitional phase. The dark, transient city from Batman Begins was melded into a shiny metropolis for The Dark Knight and now is waiting to be torn apart in Rises. The have-nots have dragged on for far too long and now the socialites are ticking down the seconds before the doors burst open.
What Christopher Nolan does with this Batman trilogy is take a mirror and—under the guise of being only a comic book movie—holds it up to society and forces us to look. By grounding Gotham in Pittsburgh the audience cannot pretend this was a piece of fiction, this is a living, breathing organism that is suffocating in corruption. We don't have to look very far to see the resemblance. Bruce has no trouble comprehending what has happened to his city and, in his shame, has retreated to Wayne Manor.
Still, Bruce, with all of his high-tech-wizardry, is just a boy in a cowl looking for his parents. He is made of flesh and blood and he can be broken. Which is what make Bane (a very fearsome Tom Hardy) such a fearsome opponent. It would be impossible for any villain to surpass the peaks Heath Ledger climbed as the Joker, yet the Joker never really presented any physical challenge. Tom Hardy's Bane is frightening, stomachs clench when he appears onscreen. In political terms, the Joker was nothing more than a theorist with a bad sense of humor—Bane is a terrorist. More importantly, a terrorist with a plan. Everything will change in this madman's eyes. We will all fall.
In Harvey Dent, the once bright beacon of hope, we saw a slide into darkness that would have destroyed Gotham. His memory has been manipulated into creating a police state aided by a police commissioner plagued by the lie of the past. Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon has been overlooked as far as characters go. He is the heart of Gotham that Batman can never be. Amongst the corruption that had infiltrated the city, he tried to remain steadfast.
However, both Dent and Gordon fell, only Bruce can be what Gotham truly needs. He knows that sacrifice must mean something and his promise to his parents must mean something. Batman must come back, if only for people like John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who believe in what Batman stood for. His mettle will be tested in combating Bane and he must do so with an undependable ally in Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway, surprising no one in spectacular, femme fatale fashion).
Christopher Nolan was up to the arduous task of following up one of the greatest films of recent history, and he didn't disappoint. He faced questions about casting Anne Hathaway and she turned in one of the most spectacular female characters in comic book film history. In making a third film he had to surpass expectations and avoid the pitfalls of the trilogy letdown.
The director not only managed to avoid the pitfall, he tore the genre-layout to shreds and, now, he can lay claim to one of the greatest trilogies of all-time. A better finish could not have been asked for. What impresses most is that Mr. Nolan manages to tear Bruce/Batman out of the stasis that his left the character without closure for almost a hundred years. By not rigidly adhering to what stories have come before, we are treated to something much more.
***1/2 out of ****