“The Dark Knight Rises”
By MICHAEL WALTERS
“The Dark Knight Rises” is a fitting, but deeply flawed conclusion for the Caped Crusader that manages to awe, but isn’t a whole lot of fun. Director Christopher Nolan has created a deeply pessimistic apocalyptic world for the summer’s most prickly piece of popcorn entertainment.
It picks up eight years after “The Dark Knight,” and Gotham is enjoying the benefits of peace and celebrating the legacy of crime fighter Harvey Dent. Batman is gone, while Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) does his best Howard Hughes impression living locked up in an east wing of Wayne Manor.
The film adds two new adversaries for Batman to battle. There’s the villainous Bane (Tom Hardy), a muscle-bound monster with a mask that makes him look like the Predator’s distant cousin. And there’s the slinky jewel thief Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), who’s more morally conflicted than she appears. She starts by robbing Bruce Wayne before his very eyes, but could be trying to steal his heart as well. Also vying for the attentions of the Wayne heir is Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a wealthy board member with her eye on the corporation’s energy project.
As Nolan showed in Batman Begins, his Batman movies don’t need a strong villain to succeed. Bane provides sheer menace. He’s faster than Batman and stronger, but his mask robs him of charisma. It’s hard to really root against him when you can’t understand what he’s saying. Hardy gives his character an occasional sing-song lilt in his voice, but his dialogue is so muddled at times the subtleties get lost, and it has you wishing for subtitles instead.
As for Hathaway, she’s decked out in her skintight catsuit with a sly smirk on her face. She never starts chewing the scenery, but doesn’t make much of an impression, either.
Nolan’s gargantuan production takes its time getting going after an awe-inspiring opening scene involving a mid-air heist. But given the massive expectations, and the sheer weight of the backstory surrounding it, it’s simply amazing it comes together as well as it does.
Once Bale pulls the old cape and cowl out of mothballs, and once Bane’s plan to bring class warfare onto the streets of Gotham begins falling into the place, the production really gets going. Nolan’s best sequence involves a terrifying encounter with Bane at a Gotham City football game.
The third installment of a trilogy can be very tricky. And when you’re following up what I consider to be the best comic-book movie of all time, anything is bound to be a bit of a letdown.
“The Dark Knight Rises” seems to have more in common with “Batman Begins” than “The Dark Knight,” but it succeeds in blending both story lines together and rewarding fans with an obsession for detail.
But light entertainment it’s not. Nolan piles on twist after twist as he integrates the Batman legends together and still manages to surprise with his dark nightmarish world. No Batman fan will want to miss the movie that puts everything together, but it’s not a movie I’ll be in any hurry to watch again anytime soon.