The Dark Knight Rises, rated PG-13

Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman, Marion Cotillard

Austin Family critical rating: 5 of 5 stars
Austin Family family-friendly rating: 4 of 5 stars

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, the third and final film in his consistently astounding Batman trilogy, is every bit as well-crafted and excellent as 2008’s The Dark Knight. At this point, The Dark Knight is justifiably considered the finest superhero film ever made, creating some major expectations for Nolan’s final Batman film. In the midst of these overwhelming expectations and ceaseless bickering and nitpicking over the movie among fans, many people seem to be undervaluing what is far and away the best film of the summer.

More than that, I’d argue that The Dark Knight Rises is more emotionally moving than any of Nolan’s Batman films so far. In this picture, we get a complete sense of Bruce Wayne as a character, something that few Batman films have achieved. If the standout performance in The Dark Knight was Heath Ledger’s terrifying Joker (which deservedly won Ledger an Oscar), then here it’s appropriately Christian Bale as Wayne, who begins The Dark Knight Rises having retired Batman, but by the film’s end, has risen and given Gotham City everything he has.

The Dark Knight Rises has an outstanding supporting cast, with Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman doing typically amazing work as characters who linger in the mind, worthy of their own feature films; it’s rare to see a summer blockbuster with more than five central performances this memorable. Nolan gets a lot of credit for the extraordinary atmosphere in his films, but he also deserves great praise for his strong ensembles.

Batman has always held a special place in my heart. I started watching the animated series on television at a very young age, and I can remember the excitement of seeing Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever in theaters upon its release. How lucky are we that Christopher Nolan has not only given the finest American superhero a trilogy worthy of his name, but one of the best movie trilogies in recent memory? Nearly every series of this kind has a weak link; with The Dark Knight films, it’s actually tough to pick the finest of the three.

Jack Kyser is a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

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