After eight years in seclusion, Batman resurfaces to face Bane, a mastermind bent on destroying Gotham and has ties to Bruce Wayne's past. Christopher Nolan's conclusion to his Dark Knight trilogy should be treated as a wrap up rather than a third installment. Despite many new characters being introduced, even their conflicts and motives are derived from events that occurred in the previous two films. Such an approach could be seen as a weakness, since the conflict could just end up being sort of a rematch rather than moving the story forward; however, Nolan's approach works terrificly. Over an hour is shot in stunning IMAX, but the film is more touching than it is intense and that's its best quality. Hardy steps in as the genius mercenary Bane, who is slightly bigger, slightly stronger and slightly smarter than Batman, thus making him a challenge best suited for the grand finale. The Joker works best as Batman's arch-nemesis since they are polar opposites, with The Joker standing for everything Batman stands against. Two-Face works best as Batman's most tragic enemy because Harvey Dent is very much like Bruce Wayne the only difference is: Dent copes with his tragedy through revenge rather than seeking justice as Wayne did. Bane works best as Batman's most challenging villain because of his physical and mental superiority—forget the Bane you saw in "BATMAN & ROBIN". Nolan carefully chose all his villains in the series wisely and executed them perfectly. Hardy had big shoes to fill following Ledger's posthumous Oscar winning performance; while Bane is no Joker, Hardy does a satisfying job and should not be compared to Ledger's performance as they are completely different roles. It is Michael Caine, however, that delivers the most memorable and touching performance of the entire film. A wonderful conclusion to a wonderful trilogy.
**** (out of four)
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