Emphasis on anguish on a mass scale more than action. But at 2 hours and 45 minutes, there are plenty of both. The Dark Knight Rises is bound to disappoint those who go out of their way to find something wrong with entertainment they counter. This is a sprawling epic, a worthy final chapter to the legendary superhero. The behaviors and emotions are film noir, the vast stage is cataclysmic disaster cinema. The art is bleak but is it ever supreme art. See it on the largest canvas possible, pay for the IMAX screen.
Anyway, if you’re wondering if there are flaws in “TDKR,” there are. But, Christopher Nolan has proven enough at this point that he’s the greatest action director of the 21st century. We’re roused by the big picture.
Nolan, pushing conventions, is up to more with this final chapter of the saga. How bold it is that he and his co-screenwriter, his brother Jonathan, use most of the movie for the build-up to an astonishing, crackling final hour? We see Batman in action before then but not too much of him. We do, however, get Christian Bale doing his finest work as Bruce Wayne, the billionaire recluse who is adrift on purpose for eight years following the events of the 2008 “Dark Knight” installment. Here is a serious portrait of an ostracized tycoon watching the world sputter from his estate cocoon through conservative news media.
It is said that the villain Bane (Tom Hardy) grew up in a deep brownstone well, born in an off-the-grid prison for the planet’s most unwanted (filmed in Rajasthan, India). His face-muzzle supposedly extends his life, and beyond that ailment, he has super pro wrestler strength (as a member of the League of Shadows, Bane was also trained by Ra’s al Ghul, portrayed by Liam Neeson in flashback scenes). Hardy is unrecognizable in the part, and his motivations are somewhere between murky and ambiguous. His impetus is explained through the reveal of a mole who tells us all, carefully cloaked within the cast.
Easier to deconstruct is Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman (played fiercely and with frisk by Anne Hathaway), who is out to exemplify female independence. In either persona, she seems to fetch the attention of our Caped Crusader. Yet Bruce is also enamored, all too briefly, by Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a business associate. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an idealistic young cop who goes by Blake. Mathew Modine is his close-minded superior police captain.
The name Rachel Dawes comes up, Bruce’s ex-flame from the earlier movies, and much blame is thrust upon Alfred the Butler (Michael Caine, busy dishing caustic criticism of Bruce’s decision-making) for trying too hard to protect Bruce from the truth. Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) is once again the genius inventor of Bat-gadgets, two of them are brand new fantastic additions to this series closer: an updated Batcycle, and a hovercraft which serves first as a perfect Bat-getaway, and then secondly, crucial to the climax.
The ground collapses under Gotham’s feet in the final hour, all city exits blocked off, a population under control by Bane’s guerilla makeshift autocracy. Here’s a carp: I’m not so convinced that Bane or any accomplice villain has the educational know-how to fund, set-up, and to mobilize a plot as large as this one. The poetic justice that Bane initiates, is overthrowing the rich which seems to be his prime modus operandi. But what do lessons in dissecting class struggles can you learn if you end up blowing it all up?
In time, Batman returns from a long exile to penetrate Bane’s city center stronghold, to locate and deactivate a detonating atomic bomb, and to unite his own team of very human avengers. This is where Nolan’s command for bigger than life imagery pays off grandly. A fusion of action/music/poetry, Nolan crafts nothing less than a symphony of the action and drama. “Metropolis” (1927) did that. So did “Dark City” (1998). We hold our breath for exciting revolt, of suppressed people overturning despotic rule.
With falling snow as a splendid visual motif, and with Han Zimmer’s percussive score suffusing a drumming power to the occasion, we get pumped. And it arrives – a bursting, thrilling cascade of action ecstasy. “There can be no true despair without hope!” Bane wails. Batman has lived a life of despair, willing to suffer through it to liberate the people of Gotham he has watched over. This is serious, bruising Batman stuff that transcends comic book origins.
Part I is inexpungible and serves as a crucial prologue. Part II and III of this series deserve to go down as touchstones in the history of the action blockbuster. Part II, with Heath Ledger as the Joker, was a smoother kinetic ride. Part III can be dubbed a Tale of Winter, or corrosively akin to Dante’s “Inferno” under snowfall.
165 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
COMIC BOOK MOVIE / RACE AGAINST THE CLOCK THRILLER / BLOCKBUSTER WEEKEND CROWDS / MASTERPIECE VIEWING FOR ANYTIME OF YEAR
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