How do you top 2008's The Dark Knight, not only the best superhero movie ever made but also the best movie of the millennium? Short answer: You don't.
But that doesn't stop director Christopher Nolan from charging through The Dark Knight Rises with all the energy, menace, and heart that made the middle chapter of his Batman trilogy so phenomenal.
The story picks up eight years after the Caped Crusader (Christian Bale) went into retirement and Gotham branded him a criminal. It takes a hulking psychopath sporting a pain-suppressing mask named Bane (Tom Hardy) to bring him back into action.
But this is just a small part of this great film's twists and turns through the Batman mythos and reference points from the other two movies. A stellar cast of newcomers (including Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Marion Cotillard) join series veterans Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine in this deep-thinking epic that transcends the superhero genre.The Dark Knight Rises doesn't pack the same visceral punch as its predecessor, but it comes close. It's dark, despairing, rousing, and absolutely brilliant. --Michael Gallucci