In February, Ghost Rider: Spirit of the Vengeance was released to scathing critical reviews, but still managed to gross $132,563,930 worldwide. In April, the Marvel superhero mash up, The Avengers, enthralled audiences and became the highest grossing film of 2012. Then released this past June was The Amazing Spider-Man, a franchise reboot released just 5 years after Spider-Man 3, which grossed just under $800 million worldwide. The Dark Knight Rises however, was expected to break all box office records – with pre-sales of opening night midnight screenings in multiplexes and IMAX theatres sold out months in advance of US July 19th release date. Currently it stands as the second-highest-grossing film of 2012.
The Dark Knight Rises is the third and final instalment in the current Warner Bros Batman franchise. Given the commercial success of The Dark Knight, which currently stands as the 12th highest grossing film of all time and its many accolades, including eight Academy Award nominations and two wins – a posthumous Best Supporting Actor for Heath Ledger and Best Sound Editing, there is expectation for The Dark Knight Rises to be a major Academy Award contender in 2013.
Set in Gotham City, eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne is now a battle weary recluse, choosing to spend his days confined to the walls of Wayne Manor, much to the chagrin of Alfred, his loyal confident.
Wayne's self-imposed solitude is viewed with contempt by Wayne Enterprises board members and many of Gotham's citizens, as he invested in a clean energy project with Miranda Tate, which was designed to harness fusion power, but after learning it could be modified and turned into a nuclear weapon, he promptly shut down.
As a result, Wayne Enterprises is close to bankruptcy.
Alfred however knows these growing financial troubles are not the catalyst for Wayne's current existence; rather, it is the death of former girlfriend, Rachel Dawes, which continues to weigh heavily on Wayne's mind.
Harvey Dent's death also has had its repercussions in Gotham City as the Dent Act and Harvey Dent Day were created in his honour. The Dent Act essentially cleaned up Gotham's streets as it gave more power to the authorities to create strict penalties and deny parole, and eight years later, organised crime has seemingly been eradicated.
Having played a major part in covering up Dent's crimes, Commissioner James Gordon, like Wayne, is equally guilt ridden – as both know Gotham City's new found sense of hope is built on a lie.
Gotham's new found peace will however be short lived, as beneath the surface, an underground terrorist organisation, led by Bane, is about to unleash chaos back onto Gotham's streets.
The Dark Knight Rises includes many of the cast members Nolan has previously worked with; in addition to Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne / Batman, Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox and Michael Caine as Alfred, The Dark Knight Rises also stars Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard, who all starred in Inception, also directed by Christopher Nolan.
The film pits Batman against two major characters of the Batman universe; Selina Kyle / Catwoman and Bane. The ambiguous character of Selina Kyle / Catwoman has previously been portrayed by Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, and Eartha Kitt in the 1960s Batman television series and by Michelle Pfeiffer in Tim Burton directed Batman Returns and Halle Berry in the standalone Catwoman film.
In The Dark Knight Rises, the popular character is portrayed by Hollywood starlet Anne Hathaway. It is notable that Catwoman is never referred to by her alias and she is depicted only as a professional cat burglar – who aids both The Batman and Bane, when it is to her advantage.
The menacing character of Bane briefly featured in the Joel Schumacher directed Batman & Robin and was portrayed by American professional wrestler, Robert Swenson. Within the comic books, Bane is regarded as "The Man Who Broke the Bat" - a reference to the Knightfall 1993-1994 comic book story arc, which saw the physically stronger Bane, break Bruce Wayne's back – causing Wayne to temporarily retire The Batman.
Celebrated actor, Tom Hardy, portrays Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Bane is given a lengthy backstory in The Dark Knight Rises, and it is revealed that both Bane and Bruce Wayne trained under Ra's al Ghu, leader of the League of Shadows.
Other characters featuring in The Dark Knight Rises include Miranda Tate (Cotillard), a member of the Wayne Enterprises executive board, who becomes an integral part of the narrative in the final act of the film and John Blake (Gordon-Levitt), a young idealistic policeman closely working with Commissioner Gordon.
Filming locations included Jodhpur, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, New York and Newark and like The Dark Knight, Nolan opted not to utilise 3-D technology (he has previously described the growing trend as "a misnomer"), and instead chose to once again experiment with the IMAX format.
The Dark Knight Rises includes an unprecedented 72 minutes of footage shot in the IMAX format – The Dark Knight only featured 28 minutes. Since Nolan embraced the IMAX format in 2008, other directors have also followed suit – notably Michael Bay who included a brief 6 minutes of IMAX footage in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Brad Bird, who featured 25 minutes of IMAX footage in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.
Touted by Warner Brothers as 'the epic conclusion' of Nolan's Batman series, The Dark Knight Rises is the film event of 2012.
The superhero film is eloquently underscored with numerous references to various political and social issues affecting the world today - civil disorder, political terrorism, environmental politics, the Occupy movement and the global financial crisis, but these the real world politics of Gotham City are not the focus of The Dark Knight Rises – rather Nolan's final rendition of the classic character of Batman is about the man who can no longer hide behind the mask.
Fittingly Bale gives a pitch perfect performance as Wayne, who is now a shell of a man. And with Bane as Batman's nemeses, the film has a number of thrilling action set pieces – with the two going toe to toe in several brutal fight sequences – including the infamous "The Man Who Broke the Bat" comic book scene. All round the cast deliver, particularly Oldman, Gordon-Levitt and Caine, and despite an uneven script, the film is saved by some clever 'fan-boy' moments.
Whilst The Dark Knight Rises, isn't as tightly weaved as its predecessor, it is a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to the current Batman film series, and with multiple endings, Nolan surprisingly has left the franchise open for another Gotham resident.
It is expected that Warner Bros. Studios will continue the franchise in the near future, but with an entirely new cast and crew. Nolan, for now, hasn't quite left the superhero realm – he is the producer of Man of Steel – the franchise reboot of Superman, expected to be released in 2013, alongside Iron Man 2, Thor 2, The Wolverine and G.I. Joe: Retaliation – so despite audiences bidding farewell to Batman – the superhero trend is certainly here to stay.