Title: The Dark Knight Rises
Director: Christopher Nolan
Screenwriter: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, story by Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy
Screened at: DGA Theatre, NYC, 7/17/12
Opens: July 20, 2012
“Have you come back to your city to die?” asks Bane (Tom Hardy), a most evil presence (not to be confused with Bain) in this final spurt of the Batman trilogy. “No, I’ve come to stop you,” replies Batman/Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), dialogue which should probably give you the idea that you’re not watching Shakespeare. There is a Shakespearean theme, however, in that the hero, the Masked Crusader, is a flawed character who, having received a bum leg eight years previously, has retired to his palatial home where he broods like Hamlet and seems determined to hang up his cape for the last time.
“The Dark Knight Rises” deals in part with billionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne’s lethargy despite the urging of his faithful butler, Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine), who pushes him to get back into action because the city of Gotham is facing a new, grave danger after eight years of peace. A body in motion tends to remain in motion unless an invigorating force pushes it into action. Therein lies the talent of a woman, Selina, (Anne Hathaway), who in the guise of a servant at one of Wayne’s parties steals a pearl necklace from his safe, one which he is determined to get back. Selina and Bruce, both donning masks for a fair segment of this overlong, one hundred sixty-five minutes comic-book movie, are a match made in heaven—as we find out at nearly the conclusion of the marathon film.
“The Dark Knight Rises,” is directed by Christopher Nolan, who did far better work with “Inception”—a taut thriller, one vastly more entertaining than the current blockbuster—about an industrial thief who gets information that he needs not by breaking into homes or computers but through invading people’s dreams. With a screenplay he wrote with Jonathan Nolan on a tale conceived by David S. Goyer, based on characters appearing in DC Comics “Batman,” in turn created by Bob Kane, Nolan finds Gotham at the brink of nuclear destruction by a crazed terrorist, Bane (Tom Hardy), who wears an gas mask to alleviate the pain he had received in prison. Determined to get revenge, Bane frees one thousand prisoners who are behind bars thanks to the passage of the so-called Dent Law, named for the District Attorney Harvey Dent whose death is blamed on Batman.
With a stellar cast including Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate who is pushing a clean-energy initiative’ Morgan Freeman as Fox, the CEO of the Wayne Foundation; Gary Oldman as police Commissioner Gordon; and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Blake, an idealistic cop; director Nolan eschews a straightforward narrative in favor of a series of brilliant cinematic takes—photographed by “Inception”’sWally Pfisterin India, New York, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Wales largely with fancy IMAX 70mm cameras. The opening scene is reminiscent of 007, an action scene that finds Bane and his men hijacking a CIA plane. Other shots that will evoke cheers from the target audience include the anarchy that follows the release of a thousand prisoners; hand-to-hand combat between a police force and Bane’s cronies; a bridge that goes up in smoke; a depiction of a city gone with seed with rundown corners and steaming sewers; and best of all a couple of airborne shots of Batman’s jet helicopter that curves and fakes to avoid heat-seeking missiles, a clear technological advance from the glorious Batmobile of comic-book fame.
One does have to wonder how Batman could get the better of Bane considering Wayne imprisonment and the bum leg that has caused him to pull a Howard-Hughes isolation. Bane knocks the stuffings out of Batman, a clearly superior force, yet we expect—and we get—a return match that will provide the caped man with greater puissance.
See the movie for its spectacle, but buried within is what could have been a clearer narrative, sharper dialogue (though bad guys are usually given barbed witticisms, this time Bane is vapid), and a more suspenseful evocation of disaster as a nuclear bomb ticks away. There is a tilt toward a political note as Bane comes across as a revolutionary who will redistribute income from the Fifth Avenue tenants who are roughed up, but what good is this experiment in socialism when the city is about to be destroyed?
Rated PG-13. 165 minutes © 2012 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – C+
Acting – B-
Technical – A-
Overall – B-