There is an arc to Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. In the first movie, the theme was second chances: Bruce Wayne wanted to avenge his parent’s murder but ends up getting his second chance by realizing his father’s dream of saving Gotham City. In the second film it was order verses chaos and how much would you sacrifice to see your vision triumph. The third film, The Dark Knight Rises, combines these two themes. It almost pulls it off.

Eight years have passed since the death of Harvey Dent; in that time he has become Gotham’s symbol for “a better way.” Crime is way down, people are happy—most of them, anyway. Bruce Wayne has become a recluse—and the Batman has disappeared, along with most of Wayne Enterprises’ fortune. Bad guys are still out there, in the form of Bane, a mercenary dedicated to Gotham City’s destruction. But there are good guys too, like John Blake, a street cop whose idealism is tempered by realism and whose realism is tempered by hope. And then there’s Selena Kyle, a hard-nosed thief with a heart of gold—sort of.

Christopher Nolan, to this point, has made two kinds of films, his Batman movies and all his others. One set of films featured twisty-turny scripts that kept you guessing about what was really happening. The other movies were… Batman movies. This time around he has combined the two but the biggest influence seems to have been his last film, Inception. (The ending of this one could almost be seen as the “definitive” ending to the other one.) And then there’s the seven decades of Batman mythology to deal with. (Little shout-outs like Blackgate Prison and an homage to the Batplane, a parallel to the comic book story arc about the earthquake that wrecked Gotham City…). And there’s the other two movies. A lot of loose ends to tie up.

And there’s the question, where does the Batman go from here? What’s left for him to do?

The Dark Knight Rises deftly balances a tightrope stretched between What can we get away with based on reality and What can we get away with that’s movie-real? Basically, How can we top the last movie? Bottom line, The Dark Knight is still the high bar for superhero movies. The Dark Knight Rises comes close, but…

There are jumps and gaps in logic that are never explained and that even the most dedicated fans will have trouble rationalizing away. Pertinent bits of information are omitted. And why does Bane sound like somebody doing a bad Sean Connery? These things keep the movie from truly being the epic it was intended to be.

But the movie hits all the right emotional notes, you care about the characters, and for those of you who keep track of these things, the black guy makes it to the credits.

The pertinent question here is, “Is it better than The Avengers?” In my opinion, Yes, because it has more emotional depth. (Yeah, I know “But what about Phil…” and “But Iron Man…”).

Is it as good as The Dark Knight? No. But…

The Dark Knight Rises to the occasion. I recommend it.

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