When Christopher Nolan took on the job of retelling the Batman story the franchise was in tatters.
The last film before Nolan took the reigns, Batman And Robin (1997) took a critical beating, with the then lead actor, George Clooney quoted in The Boston Globe as saying "I think we might have killed the franchise". Although the film still took decent money at the box office Warner Bros. didn't bring back Gotham's protector for another big screen outing until 2005 with Batman Begins.
The critical and commercial success of Batman Begins led to the inevitable sequel in the form of The Dark Knight (2008) which wowed audiences with it's fantastic set pieces and a barnstorming performance from Heath Ledger as Batman's arch nemesis The Joker.
This year sees the release of the last of Nolan's Batman trilogy The Dark Knight Rises, which has a very tough act to follow, not only from its much admired predecessors, but also from the super impressive Avengers Assemble from Marvel Studios.
Christopher Nolan's vision of the Batman universe is one that reflects the concerns of the real world (terrorism, corrupt bankers, the 99% etc.) rather than venturing in to the more fantastical territory preferred by Joel Schumacher. Detractors have criticised this trilogy for being bleak, and I must confess that prior to seeing this latest installment, I had found Avengers Assemble to be a fun and entertaining breath of fresh air in its take on how superheroes can be transferred to the big screen.
With no Joker to antagonise Bats this time around, the villain duties fall to Bane, played by an almost unrecognisable Tom Hardy, and believe me, this guy is no pushover.
It's been eight years since the events of the previous film, and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse, the Batman having taken the blame for the misdemeanours of former district attorney Harvey Dent, in order to create a period of calm and peace in the city of Gotham.
It's been a good eight years for the citizens of the city, due to Dent's legislation being passed the prisons are now full of the scum who had previously thought themselves untouchable. However the arrival of Bane on the scene means Batman must consider coming out of his self imposed exile.
The new additions to the cast work well, and compliment the quality brought to the series by its established ensemble. Anne Hathaway is likeable as Selina Kyle (I don't recall her being referred to as Cat Woman during the film) and you are under no illusion that she could change her allegiance at any point as the balance of power shifts throughout the course of the film.
Tom Hardy as Bane is an intimidating hulk of a man, although I felt his performance was possibly affected by the mask that his character wears, not only because it affects the clarity of his dialogue, which has been tweaked after some grumbling from those who had seen the prologue, but it also obscures his mouth which must make it very difficult for him to convey emotion.
The most impressive of the newcomers in my opinion was Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays police officer John Blake. His character is a minor figure who gets drawn in to the sequence of events unfolding in Gotham. Nothing flashy, but very well acted, and a character that I, as a viewer, could identify with.
As ever in this trilogy the action set pieces are spectacular, and because Batman doesn't possess super powers he must depend upon his intellect, his unarmed combat skills and of course an armoury of incredibly cool gadgets, including some new ones introduced in this final film.
The film is long, clocking in at 165 minutes, but every minute is used well, with no unnecessary padding. It serves as a solid bookend to the series, while it might not have the craziness of The Dark Knight, it succeeds in delivering an epic finale to a truly memorable trilogy.
If Nolan can work such wonders with Batman, just think what he could achieve were he ever given the opportunity to have a crack at James Bond!
One of my must see films of 2012.