By Bob Garver
It has been four years since we last saw Batman in “The Dark Knight” and two and a half years since I proclaimed the film to be the best of the decade. Needless to say, my expectations for the “The Dark Knight Rises” were extremely high. While the new film will not be named the best of the decade or even the year (that honor currently goes to the superhero faux-documentary “Chronicle”), it is nonetheless satisfying enough to be considered a worthy finale to Christopher Nolan’s superior Batman trilogy.
“The Dark Knight Rises” sees Batman (Christian Bale) long retired. Eight years have passed since his “murder” of Harvey Dent made him a fugitive. He has reverted to a full-time role as his alter ego, billionaire Bruce Wayne. Bruce has become a recluse, only trusting of his butler Alfred (Michael Caine). His business, led by Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman) is failing after the expensive construction of a clean energy device with the capability for mass destruction, though the project may see new life under the eye of peaceful executive Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). Bruce feels that his best days are behind him when he gets robbed by beautiful cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway).
The rest of Gotham City is doing a bit better. Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) has locked away thousands of criminals thanks to legislation passed after Dent’s death. A young detective named John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) sees holes in Gordon’s story of how Dent died a hero and does some investigating of his own. Things take a turn for the worse when Gordon gets an accidental glimpse of behemoth terrorist leader Bane (Tom Hardy). He gets the message out that the city needs the Caped Crusader one more time.
Batman locates Bane with help of Selina Kyle, who much like him has developed a costumed persona that she calls Catwoman. She leads him to Bane all right, but in a way that sees the two in an instant fistfight with one another. The pummeling leads to Batman being left for dead in a prison pit while Bane unleashes his master plan on Gotham. The plan is for the city to destroy itself and then for he and an unknown accomplice to destroy whatever’s left. The accomplice turns out to be a character known to those familiar with the Batman comics and animated series.
The film’s weakest points come as Batman is imprisoned in the pit. It’s such a cliché for the villain to trap the hero instead of just eliminating him. The pit is one of the more easily-beatable variations I’ve seen on this formula, as the prisoners are allowed daily escape attempts. Is there anyone out there who really thinks that Batman is going to meet his end because he couldn’t pull himself out of a hole? No, it’s just a waste of perfectly good crimefighting time.
Pit storyline aside, the film’s first and especially third acts live up to expectations. The action sequences are as crisp as they’ve ever been and I appreciate that the film has enough confidence in its special effects to allow so many sequences to take place in broad daylight. The movie doesn’t bring add a lot of originality to the franchise, but with such a winning formula in place, can you blame Christopher Nolan for playing it safe?
Three and a Half Stars out of Five.
NOTE: The film, its message, and its legacy will forever be tarnished by its association with the recent shootings in Colorado. The extent of the connection has yet to be established, and even there will be some debate as to its legitimacy, but in any event the movie may now be harder for some viewers to watch. Just remember that the message of “The Dark Knight Rises” is to be a hero. A message like that rings true even in the face of devastation.
“The Dark Knight Rises” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality, and language. Its running time is 164 minutes.