Despite a running time that goes a bit overboard, "The Dark Knight Rises" is a full-throttle action epic and a gripping finale for cinema's most believable superhero - even if it's nowhere near as memorable as its predecessor. Following in the footsteps of the massively successful "The Dark Knight," director Christopher Nolan once again dreams big and shows that you don't have to sacrifice substance for explosions and chaos.
What we're left with is a smartly written, intense movie experience that spins its tires in the early going but brings it all together in spectacular fashion. Even existing in the shadow of "The Dark Knight," "The Dark Knight Rises" is mainstream spectacle film-making near its finest.
After his hard-fought battle with the Joker, Batman/Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has clearly seen better days. Now with wisps of grey hair and a cane, he spends his time hanging out on rooftops watching life pass him by, his body too frail to even consider taking on another bad guy.
He may have won the battle with the Joker, but now he's only a shell of his former self and Batman seems destined to stay in retirement. Even Wayne Enterprises is on a downward slope and Gotham City's number-one citizen lives more or less like Charles Foster Kane, loping about his fancy palace without a purpose or future.
Enter Bane (Tom Hardy), a psychotic madman so brazen that the usual authorities are simply no match. After easily escaping the clutches of a CIA team in a frightening early scene, Bane wastes no time in making his presence known to the good people of Gotham City. Wearing a Hannibal Lecter-type mask, Bane begins to draw Batman back out by bankrupting Bruce Wayne and facilitating a coup at Wayne Enterprises.
But Bane isn't the only new figure on the scene. There is a beautiful jewel thief named Selina (Anne Hathaway), a young police officer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) determined to fight the uphill battle of good vs. evil, and a sultry Wayne Enterprises executive (Marion Cotillard) overseeing a rough transition in the company.
After taking its time setting up new characters and plot lines (perhaps too long), "The Dark Knight Rises" settles in with a bevy of dazzling chase and action scenes that are as well done as you're likely to see. But if you thought you were going to see nothing but a never-ending array of over-the-top action, writers Christopher and Jonathan Nolan have other ideas. Though the plot itself isn't terribly complex, it takes the time to setup Bruce's return in painstaking detail.
If there is a problem at all, it's that "The Dark Knight Rises" doesn't have the same memorable scenes its predecessor had. While Heath Ledger's Joker provided quotable scenes that instantly left imprints on fan-boys everywhere, "Rises" sometimes feels like it's on auto-pilot.
"The Dark Knight Rises" is also a victim of its own realism. So much more realistic is Nolan's Batman universe than other action franchises that it becomes more noticeable when it cuts corners with logic. For instance, at one point, an all-out street fight breaks out, reminiscent of something in "Gangs of New York," but Bane and Batman are somehow able to engage in hand-to-hand combat.
But these are minor details. Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy has helped changed the nature of the big-budget action franchise for the better, and it's hard to be harsh on a movie that that shoots for the moon and nearly gets there. Though it may not be worthy of all the hype that has gone into the marketing, "The Dark Knight Rises" is another well-made action flick.
If it ultimately falls just shy of its own lofty expectations, it's only a testament to how high it was aiming in the first place.
by RTT Staff Writer
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