Bruce Wayne: Christian Bale
Selina Kyle/Catwoman: Anne Hathaway
Bane: Tom Hardy
Miranda: Marion Cotillard
Blake: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Alfred: Michael Caine
Commissioner: Gordon Gary Oldman
Lucius Fox: Morgan Freeman
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, based on characters created by Bob Kane
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, it also has a tendency to swell expectations making even a modest success feel like a failed attempt. After a four year absence, The Bat is finally back in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. The previous films in the franchise redefined the comic-book film genre and raised the bar high for future heroes, the closing film is over-stuffed with characters, has long stretches that are painfully dull, and has an ending that is one of the more ridiculous ten minutes of film I have seen this summer. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES has its moments where it shines but ultimately this is a modest success and as such, it fails.
So, here’s the set-up. Bruce Wayne is broken. After hanging up the cowl of Batman, he sits alone in his estate as a recluse who has no desire for anything other than silence. It has been eight years (in movie time, which is like dog years) since the ending of THE DARK KNIGHT which saw Batman running into the night after telling Commissioner Gordon that he would take the fall for the death of Harvey Dent. Gotham City is now a peaceful place, after the passing of the Dent Act criminals apparently decided to give up the life of crime and play ball on the city league or some such nonsense. Enter the cat-burglar (get it?) Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) who has made her way into Wayne Manor and Wayne’s heart, and the evil Bane (Tom Hardy), a muscle-bound maniac with an impressive breathing apparatus and penchant for causing mass destruction in the City of Gotham which drags a reluctant Batman back to do his thing at the same bat-time, and the same bat-channel.
What I failed to mention in that plot description is the X number of other characters who are trying to be squished into an already over-stuffed 165 minute film; each with their own sub-plot and mission. Did you ever read The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas? The chief criticism of that classic novel is that it has too many characters populating the story. The same applies here except Nolan isn’t Dumas and this isn’t The Count of Monte Cristo. That novel had the room to work through those characters, this is the third and final film in a trilogy and not the appropriate place to unleash a cast roughly the size of a small country. TDKR promised to tie-up the loose ends and conclude the storylines set in motion in the previous two entries. But instead, we are left with only more rope and the promise of continuation in one form or another, hardly a definitive moment to hang one’s cape on.
TDKR works better than it should however because of the cast. While all the usual suspects return and are in fine form it’s Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt who really impress. Hathaway nearly walks home with the entire show as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. I don’t know when Hathaway became a lightning bolt of hatred but she is really good in this film. I am not ready to say she was better than Michelle Pfeiffer but damn she came close. She has a way of using her femininity as a disguise yet can turn around and be high-kicking badass in a Gotham second. She is a character that is largely born out of necessity, doing what she needs to in order to get by, compelling stuff. As for Gordon-Levitt, while I don’t dig his overall character arc, he brings a tough and smart performance to the table. Not easy to do when you are working alongside Gary Oldman for much of the film. Which brings us finally to Tom Hardy as Bane.
Let’s face it; if you are going to use Bane then you go full-tilt boogie and do the deed. You employ every inch of that character and destroy Batman’s world. Anybody worth their weight in comics knows what I am talking about. Things get off to a promising start with the breathtaking entrance of Bane who takes control of an in-flight jet in one of the most spectacular sequences in the entire series, but that’s really the beginning and end of it. Physically, Bane is far superior to Batman which should set-up some engaging encounters; Batman using his environment instead of muscle, perhaps tapping into that belt of his. Yeah, that would have been great. Instead we get one clumsy fight where Batman gets his ass-kicked six ways to a broken back (in a nod to Batman: Knightfall) and a few clumsy fights in between scenes of Bane running a mock courtroom. Yeah, he brings down the stock exchange and takes down some bridges and a football field, but I came to see Bane kick an ungodly amount of ass, not blow things up from a safe distance.
This is a confused film. The first half is at times fascinating and bumbling, the mid-section of the film transitions from smart and compelling to boring and questionable; unfortunately the last act of the film is very clear on what it is: ridiculous. The last ten minutes of this film betray just about every character in the series. I think it is a needless attempt to ensure the longevity of the franchise (not that it needed the assist) but most of all I think it is disrespectful to the characters and thus to the fans.
This film needed coherency, a better story for Bane or a better villain, more Batman, an editor, a re-write, etc. I can appreciate bringing this story into a world that feels very much like the one I see when I open my door, but to then service that world with characters that suddenly seem to be different than the ones we have grown to know over the course of the other films feels like a cheap sleight of hand trick. Nolan is a great director, I think he is one of the best things going for film right now but this is a misfire. There were moments that I really liked this film, but too many sour notes combined with an ending that felt like a slap in the face left me walking out of the theatre shaking my head. BATMAN BEGINS is a solid film, THE DARK KNIGHT will in time be considered a masterpiece of filmmaking, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES will not be forgotten, but it will have to settle for the shadows of the previous films. THE DARK KNIGHT ended with Batman running into the dark. I wish he kept running and avoided this film.
SEE YOU ON FORTY DEUCE,
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