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The Dark Knight Rises

I went back and read my reviews of the two previous Nolan Batman films before beginning this review; they were more favorable than I recalled. Nolan has by and large established himself as a director whose films require some thought, and he has brought that sensibility to Batman, which has resulted in the best Batman films ever made (so far), not to mention obscene box office triumph. One could posit that Nolans approach of not underestimating his audience demonstrates that people will go see good, smart films when given the chance. I resisted seeing this movie in the theater for two reasons; one, I find the hype with which Batman fans greet their films obnoxious and obsessive, and desire no part of it. Secondly, come on, even Nolan cant top Heath Ledgers Joker, so whats the point? The trailer looked over the top, so I waited for the DVD rental. This third (and last) installment in the Nolan Batman trilogy finds us sort of where youd expect; Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become Howard Hughes, Batman is nowhere to be seen, the city has been cleaned up, and everything is hunky-dory. Except, well, theres this slinky cat burglar running around (Anne Hathaway), and when she swipes something from stately Wayne manor, she draws Bruce out from his self-imposed exile. That, and theres a muscle-bound guy wearing a mask that makes his mouth look like a metallic vagina and his voice sound like Sean Connery with bronchitis; he has the unlikely moniker of Bane (Tom Hardy), and apparently hes some sort of mercenary/revolutionary/ disciple of the villain from the first film played by Liam Neeson. Also back are Alfred (Michael Caine), Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), now finally commissioner, and Q-stand in Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). We also have two new players, a woman named Miranda (Marion Cotillard) who seeks access to Bruce Wayne to help set up a source of clean energy (wait, didnt The Avengers use that?), and a policeman, Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). All in all an impressive cast. Bane descends on Gotham as a raspy-voiced redistributor of wealth, attacking the stock exchange and severing the island (come on, its New York, even though they filmed in Pittsburgh) and threatening to detonate the clean energy source if anyone interferes with his revolution. But hes trapped all the cops underground and frightened the citizenry, so naturally Batman has to come out of hiding and do battle with this new bad guy. He does, with an entirely new arsenal provided by Fox (even though Wayne Enterprises is verging on bankruptcy), and, gasp, Bane defeats him, nearly breaking his back, and sends him to a third world prison thats exceedingly reminiscent of the one in Chronicles of Riddick. Bane knows of this place as he himself was banished there by wait for it Liam Neeson. So its full circle, and theres a feeling of a trilogy. Bruce must heal his body and commune with the monks imprisoned there to pick up a little spirituality before he can return to Gotham in its hour of need and try to save the city before Bane can blow it up (the bomb he has created from the clean energy has a shelf-life). There are also some subplots about greedy industrialists taking over Wayne Enterprises and

bankrolling Bane, as well as enough time for Bruce and the cat burglar Selina to sort of fall for one another, even though thats hardly explained at all, it pretty much just happens (though one look at Hathaway in her sexy skintight Cat costume and one can hardly fault Bruce Wayne for chasing after her). As one would expect from a Nolan film and this cast, the acting is all very good. Bale is much more comfortable as Bruce Wayne this time, and Batman and his ridiculously raspy voice get much less screen time. The lesser players Freeman, Caine, Cotillard, Oldman all get their moments to shine, and Nolan is more than skilled enough to employ his actors smartly (Caine gets a very nice scene at the end of the second act). Tom Hardy is largely wasted as Bane; hes a damn fine actor, but half his face is covered by the vag-filter, and his voice is so muffled and Connerian that its sometimes impossible to make out what hes saying. It doesnt help that his character looks so incredibly stupid. Hathaway Im on the fence about; while shes easily talented enough to play a role like this (and damn, that suit. Just damn), at times she flirts with an almost Mae West kind of sexuality, and it doesnt really work. We never have time despite being only fifteen minutes short of a three-hour film to delve into her character all that deeply, shes just there to be a sex kitten who kicks ass. I felt dissatisfied with her character. Also theres a point muddled up in this film somewhere about wealth redistribution and attacking the rich, but its partly lost in the need for big spectacle (the entire scene at the football stadium is painfully over-the-top) and partly obscured by Banes occasionally unintelligible dialogue. Hes for the people, but hes a terrorist; he preaches freedom, but runs the city like a warlord. So attacking rich people is bad? Maybe he should have been called Bain (Capital) instead of Bane. Nolan seems to want to make a point about society and greed and wealth, but theres just too much going on and not enough follow through on the politics for it to make any kind of impression or sense. And then theres the whole Jesus thing. Batman is not Jesus. Well, hes not supposed to be, but here he is, sacrificing himself for a city full of people who dont know him. Some of the dialogue refers to him as an almost messianic savior, and during the course of the movie he is figuratively killed and sent to Hell, until he realizes the value of life and re-emerges from Hell stronger and more spiritually attuned for battle (with, you know, a chick in a catsuit at his side). This metaphor borders on the absurd (the seeding of it at the end of the last Batman movie was the only part of that film that I didnt care for) and inflates the movies selfimportance quotient to monstrous levels. The Dark Knight Rises really takes itself incredibly seriously, and, Im betting, so do most of its fans. This is the kind of film they want to see, and their attendance at the box office is more than enough to render anything I have to say moot. But to me, this film is the anti-Avengers; no fun, no humor, just dire preachy darkness and a yearning, a desperate need, to be taken so, so seriously. Dark Knight isnt a bad film, its just not as good as its predecessor, and it suffers from being way too pompous for its (or anyone elses) good. Theres enough to laud

and enjoy, but if you arent a superhero or Batman fan, you could probably give this one a pass and save three hours of your life (I would never say that about the last one. Everyone should see Heath Ledger play the Joker. Everyone). Im sure any Batfans out there would either completely disregard this review or shoot me on sight (they do tend to get worked up, and many film sites have to disable user comments on Batman movies as the fans have been known to threaten reviewers who dont genuflect), and I hope they have enjoyed the Nolan trilogy (which, again, judging by box office results, they have), because frankly, no Batman film ever made in our lifetime is ever going to measure up to the last one, not even this movie. Its all downhill from here, Batfans. December 8, 2012