The Dark Knight Rises
Has helming the finale to two critical and commercial successes ever been achieved by a director for a third time?
Toy Story 3 upgraded Lee Unkrich from editor while Doug Liman had directed the first Jason Bourne film before Paul Greengrass upped the ante. And pedantic it may be, but Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns don't count.
Christopher Nolan may be the first, for The Dark Knight Rises is a tense and emotional conclusion to his epic Batman trilogy which rivals the best of cinema's trios.
Christian Bale as Batman must protect Gotham for one final time
With barely a hint of CGI, it is another cerebral blockbuster spawned from his and his brother Jonathan's creative minds. Rather than taint his canvas with pixelated and shallow happenings, sequences feature tens of thousands of extras and tanks roaming around Wall Street.
Character supersedes carnage, though, in The Dark Knight Rises. The franchise's returning actors, from headliner Christian Bale to the poignant Alfred as played by Michael Caine, offer reliable continuity, with the emotion effectively augmented by Hans Zimmer's sombre score.
Tom Hardy is suitably brutal as Bane
Concern over Tom Hardy's voice as Bane in the prologue is extinguished, albeit poorly in the opening skyjacking scene. The dubbing of his tone in the first six minutes prompted sniggers, but it is the only time the bulking baddie has his vocal chords altered.
Hardy is perhaps the most fearful Batman film villain depicted on screen. Although his face is almost entirely covered by a mask, his hulking physique and shark-like eyes have you fretting for the Dark Knight's well-being. The raw sound of those brutal hand-to-hand combat sequences are the film's centrepiece moments.
Anne Hathaway is appealingly cunning as Catwoman
As iconic as Bale's vigilante is, he is, however, overawed by a member of the rogues gallery again. Not Hardy's Bane, but Anne Hathaway's capricious Selina Kyle: a sly and wry grifter whose dialogue is delivered with alluring confidence as she emasculates the majority of men she encounters.
Some plot strands, to those accustomed to comic book lore, aren't thinly veiled enough, which is a disappointment for a Nolan film, while the middle act is bereft of an adrenaline-inducing money moment akin to the previous film's chase sequence.
But Nolan has again succeeded in delivering his audience an enthralling spectacle, relying on the weight of emotion rather than the element of surprise or anarchy. It's the trilogy The Batman deserves.