'The Dark Knight Rises'
Starring: Christian Bale, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman
Rated: PG-13, for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language
Runtime: 2 hours, 44 minutes
Bottom line: See it, but scale down your expectations
(Please read the following review in a fearful whisper.)
I have hunkered down in a fortified bunker in an undisclosed location in order to write this review. See, my response to “The Dark Knight Rises” is not completely positive, which has turned out to be dangerous to one’s health.
When early reviews began to appear on RottenTomatoes.com, the fanboys verbally attacked the reviewers who didn’t praise the movie as the best ever. Even though none of them had actually seen it yet, they considered any review not bursting with zealous devotion to be offensive.
So they bombarded the reviewers’ pages with personal attacks that became so hateful that Rotten Tomatoes had to block all comments on “The Dark Knight Rises” reviews.
To the fanboys who would resort to hate speech to defend a movie they haven’t seen, I have three messages. First, shame on you. Second, get a life. I am as big a film geek as there is, but I find such immature, cowardly online bullying disgusting. No movie means that much, and even if it did, the language would still be inappropriate.
Third, for people who apparently love Batman, you show no understanding of what the character symbolizes.
Now that I have hopefully alienated the idiot sect to the point where they are no longer reading, let’s actually discuss the film.
These reactions illustrate what an impossible task “The Dark Knight Rises” faces. To its most enthusiastic fans, it must live up to the kind of feverish anticipation that leads people to lose control should anyone criticize it.
No movie can live up to that level of expectation, so do yourselves and the movie a favor and dial it down.
No, this is not the best movie ever made. No, it’s not as good as “The Dark Knight.”
“The Dark Knight Rises” is still, however, a mammoth of a movie. It’s a 164-minute, trilogy-ending epic that seeks to elevate Batman back to the mysterious, mythic character he was before Adam West, Tim Burton and others demoted him to a campy punch line.
A movie that big has room for plenty of both good and bad, which is exactly what we get.
The movie does succeed on a number of levels. Writer/director Christopher Nolan and his sibling co-writer Jonathan Nolan do an outstanding job of bringing the series full circle. These three movies will stand as a unified, complete trilogy independent of any other Batman series.
Which raises a word of caution. If you haven’t yet seen “Batman Begins,” you should watch that before seeing “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Nolan also knew exactly what he wanted Batman to represent by the time he left the character (presumably) forever. He restores the Batman legend in a way that, while not entirely unexpected, is undeniably moving.
These positives are not surprising given Nolan’s ability to express high concepts in his previous films, especially “Inception.”
Unfortunately, the movie’s negatives are predictable, too. Nolan’s focus on ideas frequently takes his eye off of story logic and character development. His movies tend to be rather cold, this one included.
Several scenes and plot turns make no sense whatsoever, including the opening sequence, which is highlighted in the trailers.
Batman’s (Christian Bale) nemesis this time is Bane (Tom Hardy), a hulk of a man who wears an apparatus over his mouth and lumbers through the world leaving destruction in his wake.
The film opens with Bane and his men using wires attached to one plane to commandeer and rip apart another plane in midair – all so they can determine what information a particular scientist has given to the CIA. Bane’s scheme didn’t have to be so elaborate, but it sure does look nifty.
This is just the first of many head-scratchers. The story is extremely forced and overwritten to the point of being almost incomprehensible.
Viewers will be divided on the Bane character, too. Whereas Heath Ledger (who is missed so badly) brought the Joker down to the level of a realistic psychopath who sought chaos for no reason, Bane is cartoonish and nonsensical. Meaning, that thing over his mouth makes his dialogue difficult to understand, and his plan makes no sense.
There’s a bit where Bane’s men hire Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) to steal Bruce Wayne’s fingerprints to frame him for investment corruption. Again, Nolan does in five story beats what could be done in two.
Bane’s master plan is also the source of confusing class messages and imagery. He and his men are represented as terrorists, stand-ins for al-Qaida at times and the Taliban at others. They shoot up the Wall Street trading floor in one scene, seeming to channel the popular rage focused at corrupt corporate figures.
Yet when the movie shows actual working class groups — who are rather unmistakable references to the Occupy and 99 percent movements — they are portrayed as mindless and violent.
All of this is part of the movie’s attempt to be relevant, but none of it adds up to a meaningful or even coherent social message.
Nor is this movie as fun as “The Dark Knight.” Ledger’s Joker was twisted and villainous, but he was also mesmerizing and darkly humorous. “Rises” offers nothing remotely as joyous.
Wayne broods around his castle like Hamlet for most of the first act, mired in grief over the loss of Rachel Dawes and hiding from a city that now believes Batman to be a villain. He spends the second act trying unsuccessfully to take on Bane and protect Selina.
Hathaway is the only one who gets to have fun. Catwoman gets all of the wittiest moments, and Hathaway makes the most of them.
Perhaps the most remarkable quality of “The Dark Knight Rises,” however, is that the third act largely compensates for all of these shortcomings.
The first two hours offer only sporadic moments of excitement and spectacle, but the final 45 minutes mostly live up to the hype. The movie finally gets beyond all the preamble, then races to a memorable finish.
“The Dark Knight Rises” is a good but not great film that eventually brings the trilogy to the climax we hoped it would.
Jeff Marker teaches film and literature at Gainesville State College. His reviews appear weekly in Get Out and on gainesvilletimes.com/getout.