The Cafe Phenomenon would like to first acknowledge the horrific events that occurred at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado.

As has been reported, 12 people have died and more than 50 have been injured. Much has been said and found out about the alleged assailant, but we would like to take a moment to remember those who’ve lost a love one in this devastating tragedy. Today, we are all victims. When someone opens fire on hundreds of unsuspecting, undeserving and completely innocent moviegoers, we are all victims.

Members of  The Cafe Phenomenon team routinely go to midnight screenings of films. They’re fun and exciting: being the first to see a film makes us nerds feel fulfilled. When something as unthinkable as this happens, we step back and realize how fleeting life could be.
The town of Aurora and movie lovers everywhere are in our hearts and prayers.

Christopher Nolan’s revolutionary Dark Knight series, a complete reboot of a movie franchise that director Joel Schumacher managed to turn into a total mockery in the ’90s, comes to a thrilling and exciting end in The Dark Knight Rises, out Friday.

The film is a slow burn.

At 164 minutes (that’s two hours and 44 minutes, kids), the epic paces itself very well, never lulling or losing its punch. It’s action-packed. It’s emotional and dramatic. It’s dark, it’s moody, it’s more mature. Part of that is that Bruce Wayne, Gotham and its people have matured. The Dark Knight Rises picks up eight years where The Dark Knight left off, with things seemingly peaceful and quiet in the city once ravaged and torn by petty and organized crime.

Wayne is a shut-in: he lost his one true love in an accident that he cannot and will not forgive himself for (Rachel Dawes, a childhood friend, played by Katie Holmes and Maggie Gyllenhaal in the first two Nolan Batman films); the city he has served thinks he is responsible for the death of its hero, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). Wayne has lost his purpose. Batman is no longer needed.  This review is going to be as spoiler-free as possible, so excuse the vagueness.

Nolan’s trilogy is up there with some of the best three-part series ever. He carefully weaves every aspect of the story until it all comes together in an excellent cinematic quilt. There is a lot to be said for a director who does things his way, knowing damn well how much is riding on a film.

Much of the beloved cast is back: Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader, Michael Caine as butler Alfred, Morgan Freeman as tech wiz Lucius Fox, Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon. Nolan recruited Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Tom Hardy, all three of whom he worked with on Inception, for roles that seem to suit them perfectly. Cotillard can play Saddam Hussein, and she would be perfect. Gordon Levitt really impresses here. His range as an actor is undeniable. Hardy plays Bane and while he is frightening and quite evil at times, his playfulness does not match Heath Ledger’s Joker. Some have also complained that the mask and sound effects used for Bane’s voice make him hard to understand; I didn’t think it was difficult to make out what he was saying, but I did think he sounded like a dandy Sean Connery.

Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman was a revelation. The role fit her as perfectly as her skin-tight leather outfits. 
She was seductive and sultry, vulnerable and poised. Hathaway’s come a long way since her Princess Diaries days, and I think she is finally going to be able to command roles that really stretch her acting muscle (i.e. no more Bride Wars, One Day-type movies.)

The cinematography is excellent, as it has been in every Nolan Batman film. Wally Pfister, Nolan’s long-time cinematographer, is the man behind the breathtaking views of Gotham city. Pfsiter told UK magazine Empire earlier this year that Rises will be his last film with the famed director. It seems that if the trilogy does spin off into another franchise, the films will certainly have a different look.

While Nolan has strived to make his Batman world as realistic as possible, he falters slightly in Rises. I can get behind the idea of a Batmobile if an eccentric billionaire had a tech genius build it for him, but some of Batman’s toys in this film are too out there to be as believable as they had been in the past two installments.

The Dark Knight Rises is a supremely satisfying finale to the trilogy: the film has purpose, even when Bruce Wayne believes he has none. It is, without a doubt, the superhero movie (can it even be called that?) that packs the most emotional punch. It might also be the film that has the most to say about our society, the haves and havenots, and the extent to which people will go to fulfill their destinies.

By Chris Hanna

Follow me on twitter @Chris_Hanna

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