The last instalment of Christopher Nolan's gritty Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, is pretty damn terrific.
It's eight years since the events of The Dark Knight and Gotham is enjoying a legislated peacetime, with thousands of mobsters and murderers behind bars due to sweeping law enforcement. There's little need for the city's eccentric masked crusader (Christian Bale), especially since he's wanted for the murder of Gotham's most trusted public servant, law reformer Harvey Dent.
The truth, that Dent was a psychotic killer, has been tastefully concealed by Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), in order to protect the city. For the time being, it's the lie that Gotham needs.
The abrupt entrance of enigmatic hulk Bane (Tom Hardy) upsets the balance. Through a series of militaristic coups, he and his army of enthusiastic sociopaths (who, three films in, should really have their own union) completely derail the city, exposing vast gulfs between Gotham's rich and poor, between the haves and have-nots. But is he the revolutionary he so claims to be, or just another genocidal maniac that the city has come to know and loathe?
As the concluding chapter of a superior trilogy, TDKR mostly gets it right. The performances are all spot-on; Anne Hathaway as the sexy Selina Kyle, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Detective Blake, and especially Michael Caine as Bruce Wayne's long-suffering butler Alfred, who provides the most emotive sequences in a mostly austere film.
Hardy's Bane doesn't quite match the anarchic villainy of Heath Ledger's Joker, but that was always going to be a tough ask. Nolan continues to push the gritty urbanity he so deftly created in 2008's The Dark Knight, depicting Gotham as a chilly capital of the developed world, part high-rise New York, part cobblestoned London, and rife for destruction. Like its predecessor, the film is informed by a post-September 11 reading of citizenry, in which global markets, the police, and public infrastructure are ripped down in front of our very eyes.
Indeed, many viewers will find the images of bridges and buildings collapsing in rubble, of civilians covered in white dust, eerily familiar.
But TDKR offers us salvation from our fears. Batman, like Dirty Harry, can transcend the limitations of liberal law enforcement and deliver justice to these societal wreckers. While Nolan's film has slight capitalistic overtones, it's more concerned with prescient risks to modern democracy; the gaping cracks in our supposedly egalitarian societies, and the tyrants disguised as revolutionaries that continue to exploit them.
When it comes to the absolute crunch, we may just need a Batman to throw the punches for us.