‘Dark Knight Rises’ an epic finale
The definition of “epic” is “a long film, book or other work
portraying heroic deeds and adventures or covering an extended period of time.”
To call director Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy anything less than epic is like calling Joel Schumaker’s “Batman and Robin” anything more than tripe.
Nolan (“Inception”) has a keen and masterfully balanced way of engaging his viewers, presenting thoroughly entertaining cinema that appeals to a wide audience, some seeking escapism on the surface and those mining for depth.
“The Dark Knight Rises,” the, ahem, epic conclusion to this particular trilogy, runs short on neither, offering Bat-fans white-knuckle action, dark, brooding drama and enough subtext to spawn several master’s theses.
And it’s all from a series that basically centers on a begrudging billionaire playboy who moonlights as a bat-themed vigilante. Therein lies Nolan’s masterful stroke. He’s taken the stuff of comic books and steeped it in surprisingly believable realism, something numerous filmmakers have tried since and to disappointing effect.
It’s no more evident than with “Rises,” particularly in a post-9/11 America weathering an economic and political tempest, as themes of terrorism, corruption and social stratification rear their ugly heads.
“Rises” is also the thread that seamlessly ties the series together, whereas the previous two films could very well have been standalone features.
Nolan’s Batman is unlike any other portrayed in cinema. Adam West was, well, Adam West, while director Tim Burton’s portrayals were dark in a gothic sense. Nolan’s is über-dark, exploring subjects like fear, chaos and redemption, which assures us there’s light at the end of the tunnel, but more than likely at an exorbitant cost.
“The Dark Knight Rises” picks up eight years after the events of the previous film. Gotham City enjoys a tenuous peace, thanks to the so-called Dent Act, which gave law enforcement the “necessary teeth” to take down organized crime. It’s named after the late district attorney, Harvey Dent, whose insidious fall from grace has been pinned on the Batman (Christian Bale, “The Fighter”), a blame that alter-ego Bruce Wayne had shouldered for the sake of peace.
Wayne has isolated himself from society, holing up Howard Hughes-style in his mansion, as loyal butler and devoted friend Alfred (Michael Caine, “Harry Brown”) watches him slip further into decay.
But something’s stirring below the streets of Gotham: a ruthless mercenary called Bane (Tom Hardy, “Warrior”), allegedly born, trained and mauled in a hellish Middle-Eastern prison and now sporting a sort of gas mask to curb his constant, agonizing pain.
As Bane gradually makes his menace known, police commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman, “The Professional”), torn between revealing the truth behind Dent’s demise and perpetuating the lie for “the greater good,” knows it’s time for the Batman to return.
It’s not until Wayne encounters captivating cat burgler Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway, “Rachel Getting Married”), who’s somehow linked to the mysterious goings-on, that he feels compelled to don the cape and cowl.
But it might be too little, too late. Bane wishes to expose the city’s lies to “free Gotham of its sins,” which entails laying siege to the city, incapacitating the police, “trying” and executing the wealthy and corrupt, and giving Gotham to the people – all under the shadow of a nuclear threat.
That’s putting it simply. “Rises” packs a lot into its 164-minute run time, which moves along at such momentum that it practically flies by. A well-written screenplay by Nolan and brother Jonathan Nolan (“The Prestige”) weaves a new slate of supporting characters into the mix, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“500 Days of Summer”) as a tough but earnest cop and Marion Cotillard (“Midnight in Paris”) as a Wayne Enterprises shareholder and clean energy specialist.
Meanwhile, the principal performers are all at the top of their respective games. Bale goes all in to complete Bruce Wayne’s character arc, while Caine’s portrayal of Alfred is the best and most heartfelt of the series. Hathaway is charming as Selina (who is never actually called “Catwoman”) and brings a necessary modicum of lightheartedness to the drama.
But it’s Bane who almost steals the show. While the character is infamous in Batman lore, he’s not necessarily a favorite in the rogue’s gallery. Hardy, however, makes the character both intriguing and damned scary – all from behind a creepy mask that muffles his voice into something between an eloquent Patrick Stewart and Darth Vader.
As always, Nolan’s cinematography, courtesy of long-time collaborator Wally Pfister (“Memento”), is top-notch, particularly shining in “Rises’” well-choreographed action sequences, including a scene in which Bane destroys a plane from within – in midflight.
“Rises” is a superb bookend to Nolan’s series, leaving no loose ends and most likely upsetting some studio executives who’d rather see the series continue in perpetuity. But those of us who braved the Schumacher films know what happens when a series shifts directors and directions. Two words: bat nipples.
“The Dark Knight Rises,” rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 12 or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.