Batman: The Dark Knight Rises
2 1/2 stars
Eight years after the camp frippery of "Batman & Robin" (1997), in which
Despite a cool billion at the worldwide box office, that film, like any studio machine worth its salt, was not for everyone. The atmosphere of grim, free-floating dread, along with Nolan's grandiosity and his occasionally flat-footed way with a complicated action sequence, tipped the experience into "not much fun" for some. Not for me. For me, "The Dark Knight" was a memorable death cackle and a striking vision of Gotham City, that familiar dream metropolis on which all our worst fears as law-abiding citizens are continually enacted, on the brink of annihilating chaos. It felt right -- exploitive, but shrewdly so -- for the unraveling times.
Now comes "The Dark Knight Rises," which makes "The Dark Knight" look like "Dora the Explorer" and is more of a 164-minute anxiety disorder than a movie.
Nolan's third in the planned trilogy will likely satisfy many who fell headlong into the previous two. The new film works on your nervous system the way composer
Nolan's notion of amping up the evildoing in "The Dark Knight Rises" is to simply layer the slaughter in higher and higher piles, though with a refreshing lack of computer-generated imagery. There's plenty of that too, once bridges start blowing up and Gotham's 3,000 police officers (a figure apparently referencing the 9/11 victims) are trapped underground while Bane goes crazy above ground. But at least Nolan shoots on film, and didn't release "The Dark Knight Rises" in 3-D. Who needs an anxiety disorder on an
The film picks up eight years after Wayne, taking the rap for the murder of district attorney
The script by Nolan and his brother Jonathan stirs in the cat burglar known as The Cat (
This is how most lucrative franchises proceed. The final "Harry Potter" film, following its source material, spun an ashen and destructive tale of survival amid carnage beyond previously known limits. "The Dark Knight Rises" features a full complement of cool toys, including a flying machine and (in one of the film's few actual laughs) a hand-held accessory that Bale's Wayne uses to shut down cameras wielded by an entire wolfpack of paparazzi. But grievous bodily harm dominates the landscape, and the way Nolan films two key hand-to-hand combat sequences between Bane and the Batman, the (literally) back-breaking nastiness is just sort of a drag.
In all sorts of stories, the tellers must answer the question: How much do we allow the evil to dominate, to set the tone, of whatever apocalyptic scenario is being unfurled for our amusement? Nolan, I think, fell a little too in love with Bane, even though he sidelines him for much of the movie. The scale of the destruction here is monumental; at one point, a pro football game turns into a deathtrap, the playing field falling away from the players, the result of a string of explosives. The worst comes just after we hear a sweet little preteen boy delivering the national anthem, when Nolan cuts the realistic sound altogether and shows us just how far Bane's team (and the filmmakers themselves) will go to impress us. The effects are excellent. The effect is numbing.
"The Dark Knight Rises" is not dull, or even overlong, despite its running time. It's more an example of what one character, in a cameo, refers to as "the decadence of Gotham" -- Gotham in this case meaning
Not that anyone's actually listening. Like its predecessor, this one has only one thing on its mind. It means to string the audience along, while stringing it out, on a bloody masquerade performed by masked pretenders. In its chosen vision of the world, each hard-won triumph feels like a momentary reprieve from the next 9/11.
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language).
Running time: 2:44.
Credits: Directed by
"Batman: The Dark Knight Rises" Movie Trailer
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