Matt Sheehan on “The Dark Knight Rises”

CHRISTIAN BALE as Batman in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action thriller “THE DARK KNIGHT RISES,”€ a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo by Ron Phillips.

I recorded this podcast with Matt Sheehan of HollywoodSnitch.com the morning before the tragedy in Colorado. Our spoiler-free analysis is focused purely on the merits of Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” and its place in the overall trilogy. We also highlight various indie titles featuring “Dark Knight” stars such as Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. As an added bonus (and final curtain call for the series), I’ve included below my list of the Top Ten Performances in The Dark Knight Trilogy. Enjoy…

The program was produced at Columbia College Chicago. Technical producer was Rebecca Nystedt. An Indie Outlook Production.

THE TOP TEN PERFORMANCES IN THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY

10.) LIAM NEESON as Henri Ducard

Alternately parental and animalistic, this snarly mentor is sort of like a black-hearted Qui Gon Jinn. He’s the engine that puts Bruce Wayne’s plan into action, while simultaneously embodying all that he will have to combat.

9.) AARON ECKHART as Harvey Dent/Two-Face

He’s the poster boy for the American Dream gone horribly awry. His arc is easily the franchise’s most dramatic, and Eckhart’s furious portrayal continues to haunt the story even in his absence. Still can’t erase memories of that hideous face.

8.) MORGAN FREEMAN as Lucius Fox

His pleasingly droll screen presence routinely offered comic relief in all three pictures. He could barely contain his glee while showing Wayne his latest gadgets, and brilliantly dressed down a would-be blackmailer in “Dark Knight.”

7.) ANNE HATHAWAY as Selina Kyle

More of a leather-clad Batgirl than a slinky Catwoman, Hathaway’s exuberant portrayal was a joy to behold. Fusing the radiance of Audrey Hepburn with the take-no-prisoners intensity of Lucy Liu, Selina was a fanboy’s dream come true.

6.) CILLIAN MURPHY as Dr. Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow

When the snooty lowlife showed up unannounced in “Dark Knight Rises,” he received squeals of approval from fans. Murphy doesn’t need a sack over his head to appear villainous. His face screams evil, and that’s why we love him.

5.) JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT as John Blake

This good-hearted cop could’ve been pure blandness in the hands of, say, Channing Tatum. Luckily, the role was entrusted to Gordon-Levitt, an actor who works magic with even the slightest of characters. His monologue about idolizing Wayne as an orphan is beautifully delivered, and his outrage at the crime in Gotham registers on a very real level.

4.) CHRISTIAN BALE as Bruce Wayne/Batman

By far the most complex portrayal of Wayne ever committed to film, Bale’s mixture of arrogance, idealism and raw ferocity ensured that Batman’s alter-ego would never be upstaged by a scenery-chewing villain (albeit with one major exception). Though his Bat-voice was a touch too gravely for some tastes, Bale’s Wayne was consistently fascinating. He IS the star of the show.

3.) MICHAEL CAINE as Alfred

Few people can make acting look as effortless as breathing, even as they’re standing next to a grown man dressed as a bat. Caine brought such rich emotion and conviction to the role that he transcended its limitations. He can rattle off a one-liner as good as anyone, but it’s his startlingly moving confession to Wayne in “Dark Knight Rises” that will remain etched in my heart.

2.) GARY OLDMAN as Commissioner Gordon

The man responsible for playing a wide range of over-the-top madmen ended up being the least showy actor in the entire trilogy. His understated approach speaks volumes. He’s the soft-spoken everyman that wants what’s best for his city. It’s clear why his family has fled–Gotham is no place to raise children. Gordon has truly sacrificed everything to serve his community. What a guy.

1.) HEATH LEDGER as The Joker

The wild card of the franchise is also the most popular card in the deck. He’s one of the main reasons why these films have earned a place in cinematic infamy. I’ll never forget his entrance in “Dark Knight.” Technically, it’s his second entrance, but it’s the one that resonates the most. The bone-chilling guitar string scrapes on the soundtrack signal his presence as he lets out an of-kilter series of guttural chuckles. As he approaches a room filled with mobsters, he asks if they would like to see a magic trick: he’s gonna make a pencil disappear! He then swiftly produces the pencil and proceeds to jam into one of the thug’s foreheads while exclaiming, “Tah-Dah!” And the audience went mad.

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