THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
*** (out of 5)
July 20, 2012
Christian Bale as BRUCE WAYNE/BATMAN
Tom Hardy as BANE
Anne Hathaway as SELINA KYLE
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as JOHN BLAKE
Gary Oldman as JIM GORDON
Morgan Freeman as LUCIUS FOX
Marion Cotillard as MIRANDA TATE
Michael Caine as ALFRED
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
BY KEVIN CARR
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“The Dark Knight Rises” is an impossible film to review in a vacuum. It’s interconnected with two other movies, so one has to compare it to those films, and by doing so also compare its performances to them. It’s also one of the biggest and most anticipated films of 2012, so it’s not quite fair to talk about it outside of the hype. Finally, it’s director Christopher Nolan’s swan song for his Batman trilogy, so it’s relevant to talk about him as a director.
Oddly enough, taken in a vacuum, I probably would have liked “The Dark Knight Rises” without all of these pop cultural connections. It’s very similar to how I felt about “The Amazing Spider-Man,” which was a good film but didn’t quite stick the landing as a reboot from a five-year-old series. Were it the only Spider-Man movie out there, it stood a chance of being fantastic. Much in the same way, if “The Dark Knight Rises” was not following up the epic and brilliant “The Dark Knight,” it could have been the best Batman movie ever made.
But “The Dark Knight Rises” did follow “The Dark Knight.” It is coming out as one of the most anticipated films of the summer. And it is already famous – prior to its release – for the unrelenting and hyperbolic love from legions of fanboys on the Internet who haven’t actually watched the goddamned film in the first place.
In this context, “The Dark Knight Rises” is a bit of a disappointment. It’s a good movie, and taken against the slate of dozens of comic book movies over the decades, it’s a fine effort. But compared to its far superior predecessor, it underwhelms.
The problems start with the script, much in the same way that they did with “Batman Begins.” The story is hopelessly convoluted and needlessly grim. It picks up eight years after “The Dark Knight,” with Batman retired and Gotham keeping organized crime at bay. However, a new threat is stalking Gotham: the mysterious and apparently superhuman killer Bane, who is hatching a terrorist plot to make the city crumble.
That’s the 10,000-foot level description of the plot, but there’s a lot more going on, including a young police officer who idolizes Bruce Wayne, a cat burglar with questionable motives, a wealthy socialite trying to find a clean energy source, an overzealous deputy police commissioner and a starkly judgmental butler. This makes for a very crowded script, and these characters often get in each other’s way, but I suppose that a combination of Nolan’s ego and his recent box office performance was enough to keep the studio from meddling where it probably should have.
Other script problems include massive leaps in logic and explanation (including a haphazard history of Bane’s powers, which even the atrocity “Batman and Robin” managed to explain more coherently). And like the ending of “Inception,” which literally includes one of the biggest cliches in movie history, there’s plot points that are lazy and woefully predictable.
Yet, amid the plodding running time and meandering nature of the story, “The Dark Knight Rises” still entertains. There are some great action sequences (though not as good as the ones we saw in “The Dark Knight”), and it’s a powerful film. The cast saves the film by propping up the severely flawed script, with the only weak link being Marion Cotillard, who I didn’t like in Nolan’s “Inception” and generally find alarmingly overrated. And, the movie does serve as a nice ending to Nolan’s trilogy.
I’m definitely going to give this film another chance, particularly in the IMAX (since my local screening only offered a 35mm alternative). I’m hoping it grows on me now that I know what to expect. But it’s not ranking anywhere close to being in my best of the year list, where “The Dark Knight” took spot #2 right after “WALL-E” in 2008.
So my apologies to Nolan, Warner Bros. and DC. “The Avengers” stole my heart as the best superhero flick of 2012, and this movie doesn’t hold a candle to it.