The Dark Knight Rises Directed by: Christopher Nolan Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman Running Time: 2 hrs 45 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: July 20, 2012
PLOT: Eight years after the death of Harvey Dent, Batman (Bale) must deal with a new enemy in Bane (Hardy), who is attempting to take over Gotham.
WHO'S IT FOR? There is a fever, and the only prescription is more Batman.
EXPECTATIONS: This was my most-anticipated movie of the summer. Adding Nolan's Inception friends to the cast only enhanced my excitement.
It's always darkest before the dawn. That is a saying that seems to permeate Christopher Nolan's thinking in crafting The Dark Knight Rises. He shows us a situation, things get worse. Our heroes fight, things get really bad. Then maybe, they figure a way out. After all, if you're going to rise, you have to fall.
The end to this Batman trilogy will be a fond farewell for most who see it. However, there are slight missteps with the film. The performances, look, music, and feeling of importance are constantly there, but sometimes the plot isn't.
The Dark Knight Rises takes place eight years after the death of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). There is a new law in effect known as the Harvey Dent Act which seems like a horrific, near-unconstitutional bill, but it's never talked about in detail. It's also brought Gotham peace, and effectively retired Batman. Then Bane (Hardy) comes to town. He's a one-man wrecking crew, but that doesn't mean he's alone. Hardy brings his Warrior-muscles to the film, and has a Darth Vader-like mask over his face. This makes for a limited range from the actor, even though the voice could become somewhat iconic. [I've seen the movie twice, once on an IMAX screen with superior sound. I understand everything he was saying on it. With the other theater, I felt like I understood about 85% of his dialogue.]
There is a really long middle to this movie. I'm not even talking about the run time, I'm talking about the speeches. It feels like we go from Gordon (Oldman), to Bane, to an old guy in a prison and just kind of rotate. There isn't really a feeling of doom during this time, just talk of it. Even the final twist of villainous motivation is talked to death.
If you're going to rise, then you need a comeback. The music shines from Hans Zimmer's lovely, powerful score, and lets us know it's time to get excited. The action never hits the high notes that the music does. After all, we watch Batman be beaten down, work hard for weeks to get back to where he was, or even beyond. And with that emotional growth all he does is punch Bane ... harder? There is also something awkward about seeing Bane and Batman battle in broad daylight.
There are plot issues I noticed the second time around. Why didn't the bad guys just kill Fox (Freeman)? Did Batman always use a knee brace? How did Bane sneak Batman out of Gotham with the whole world watching. You don't notice these things the first time around because everything is on a grand scale. Just like noticing the plot issues, you also realize the great work that Hathaway, Gordon-Levitt, Bale and Caine do with their characters. Even though Hathaway's Selina Kyle (Catwoman is never said) is not necessary for the major plot, she is placed nicely into this story. Hathaway always seems like she has a tough time concealing her big, Broadway-style of acting. Here, she doesn't need to because Selina is almost always performing. With Gordon-Levitt's John Blake, you could say the same thing about his necessity of the plot. He doesn't need to be in the film. But again, he's a happy addition. That is, until the end when it's like they bench him for the big game. Either character could be handed a spin-off that I would be happy to check out.
Thankfully, the end is something that feels completely accurate, and in the spirit of what is supposedly the end to Nolan's Batman. There are paths yet to be paved, but not for Nolan. He's done. Our imagination is left to wander. While The Dark Knight Rises doesn't have as many "wow" moments as the other two films, it never abandons what makes these films work. The belief that one man can become a symbol for something greater will continue to drive people to this trilogy for years to come.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10