THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (Christopher Nolan, 2012)
up eight years after Batman (Christian Bale) takes the blame for
district attorney Harvey Dent’s misdeeds, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES finds
Gotham City free of organized crime. Batman has vanished from the
public eye. Bruce Wayne has become a recluse in his stately manor.
a cat burglar posing as a server steals a pearl necklace and Bruce’s
fingerprints from his supposedly uncrackable safe, he’s stirred from his
self-imposed seclusion to learn more about and confront the thief named
Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). She means him no harm. Selina is in
desperate need of having her identity cleared from all records and is
assured she can get it for providing Bruce’s identifying marks.
warns Bruce that bad times are on the horizon for Gotham City. Indeed. Terrorist leader Bane (Tom Hardy), a beefy brute whose face is mostly
covered with what looks like a high tech ball gag, is assembling a small
but loyal underground army to foment a revolution that he promises will
return the city to the people. The time has come for Batman to resume
his public service.
it’s the chronological reversal in MEMENTO, the artful trickery in THE
PRESTIGE, or dream layering in INCEPTION, Christopher Nolan’s films
boast complicated narrative architecture yet lay out detailed blueprints
to follow. The director, who co-wrote THE DARK KNIGHT RISES with
brother Jonathan Nolan, is less successful navigating the way through
his final Batman trilogy entry. Perhaps all of the dots in the first
two films connect in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, but grasping the totality of
Nolan’s vision is a challenge short of rewatching BATMAN BEGINS, which
receives numerous key callbacks. As these comic book films become more
intertwined, whether in their own dense mythology or across a series of
franchise movies, the point has been reached where it would be helpful
to get a footnote-intensive fact sheet along with the ticket. THE
DARK KNIGHT RISES isn’t left wanting for ideas and artistic relevance
to current events. The 2008 financial crisis, Occupy Wall Street,
government-sponsored torture, tribunals, the surveillance state, and the
war on terror are referenced and mirrored in the film’s reality, but
these subjects are commented on in such a muddled manner that their
inclusions primarily amount to buzzword-dropping rather than cogent
commentary. Post-9/11 conflicts are addressed most thoroughly, if
unexceptionally. Where prior Nolan films have resembled elegant
mathematical proofs, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES looks like trial-and-error
calculations scribbled on a scratch pad.
makes the serious miscalculation of hiding the most expressive part of
the villain’s face. Whoever was following Heath Ledger’s Joker in THE
DARK KNIGHT was liable to compare poorly among Batman nemeses, but
Hardy, limited to his eyes, muscular torso, and voice, doesn’t have a
chance to engage in a fair fight.
Catwoman fares better in that she contributes a welcome dash of humor.
As butler Alfred, Michael Caine’s watchful concern for Bruce brings the
depth of feeling to an emotionally chilly film. The opening sequence
aboard a CIA extraction flight gone wrong as it attempts to leave
Uzbekistan delivers a flashy action setpiece that the remainder of THE
DARK KNIGHT RISES, encumbered with scenes of talky exposition, fails to
and all, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES remains a fascinating film, albeit one
that suffers from an excess of ambition and deficiency in unifying its
objectives with clarity. Nolan and editor Lee Smith keep the
proceedings moving even when it seems as though the film is bogged down
in yet another plot payload transfer. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES builds to a
rousing concluding act without the safety net typically assumed with
franchise pictures. Considering its narrative and tonal risks, it’s
just disappointing for a filmmaker of Nolan’s caliber to conclude the
trilogy with what plays like a bloated middle installment.