A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Dark Knight Rises is the final installment in director Christopher Nolan's dark, violent Batman trilogy. Like its predecessors, The Dark Knight Rises features ultra-violent scenes of torture and death that are too intense for younger kids used to the nearly comic, stylized action violence of other superhero films. A disturbingly high body count is achieved via massive explosions, kidnappings, neck breakings, shootings, and hand-to-hand combat. While there's not a lot of actual blood, there's tons of death and mass destruction. Bruce Wayne enjoys a few passionate kisses and one love scene that shows bare shoulders; swearing is very infrequent (the strongest words used are "bitch" and "damn"). The film's villain, Bane, is monstrously muscled and frighteningly sadistic, and his mask is very scary looking. Despite the violence, be prepared for kids to beg to see the much-hyped Caped Crusader's latest adventure.
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What's the story?
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES picks up eight years after the Joker's rampage on Gotham led to Harvey Dent's (Aaron Eckhart) horrific death and Batman's sacrificial transformation from hero to outlaw. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has remained hidden in seclusion, leaving Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) to handle the affairs of Wayne Industries. The citizens of Gotham live in complacent security until Bane (Tom Hardy), a ruthless mercenary, arrives with a murderous agenda that threatens the very existence of Wayne's beloved city. With the help of a nearly demoralized Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), rookie cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and cunning jewel thief Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), an out-of-shape Bruce resurrects Batman for one more battle against evil.
Is it any good?
With their Batman trilogy, Nolan and Bale have revolutionized superhero films from colorful action adventures that even young kids can appreciate to serious meditations on justice and power. The franchise's loyal fans won't be disappointed with this immensely satisfying conclusion to Nolan's epic trilogy. Injured and relatively out of shape, Batman is physically no match for the huge and menacing Bane. With his Hannibal Lecter-meets-Darth Vader mask and his overpowering physique, Hardy is completely disguised as the amoral assassin, but even rendered unrecognizable, the acclaimed British actor gives a masterful performance in villainy.
Bale's always thoughtfully nuanced portrayal is complemented by the addition of two breakout performances: Gordon-Levitt -- whose character is an ordinary cop with an extraordinary bravery that's pivotal to the story -- and Hathaway, whose Selina Kyle steals the show with her whip-smart humor and crackling chemistry with Batman. The banter between Bale and Hathaway (who seems to be having a ball in full vixen mode) provides much-needed relief from the story's otherwise overpoweringly grim nature. Visually stunning, incredibly acted, and unyieldingly intense, The Dark Knight Rises is one of the rare movies for which the huge budget, super-sized runtime (almost three hours), and undying ardor of fans are well deserved.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the amount of violence in The Dark Knight Rises. How does it compare to what you've seen in other superhero movies? How does the film differentiate between "good" and "bad" uses of violence?
What distinguishes Batman from Bane? Both are angry and rely on violence to accomplish their goals; why is one a hero and one a villain? Is the rule of law more important than the rule of force?
Bruce Wayne isn't the only orphan in the movie. How does orphanhood shape the three orphaned characters? While anger motivates each of them, why do some choose to do good and others evil?
What does it take to maintain order in the face of those who try to create chaos? Does keeping the public safe from harm justifying curtailing their right to privacy?
Would you like to see the story continue with a successor? Which of the trilogy is your favorite?
- In theaters: July 20, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: December 4, 2012
- Cast: Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Tom Hardy
- Director: Christopher Nolan
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes
- Run time: 164 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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