Jul 25, 2012|
(USA) Action/Crime. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Starring Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard. Category IIB. 163 minutes. Opened Jul 19.
Seeing “The Dark Knight Rises” is a commitment. Prepare properly. Facebook about how you’re going to see it so a bunch of your friends post their spoilerish insta-opinions. This will help set or lower expectations. (Probably raise them actually, since this is Hong Kong and everyone irrationally loves Batman in Hong Kong.)
It’s an almost two-hour-45-minute spectacle of epicness. So hydrate properly. Find a good spot in the cinema away from the speakers and brace yourself for an evening of deafening explosions, amazing action setpieces, timers ticking down on world-ending thingies, bold-faced emotional manipulation (cue a crying Michael Caine), and plenty of brooding men pondering their awesome power from darkened corners. Abstain from any other epics for a few days beforehand for best effect.
Despite this mixture of clichéd inputs, director Christopher Nolan has produced a gripping, engrossing film. The movie dives right into it, with no life preserver for the uninitiated. Taking place eight years after “The Dark Knight,” Gotham City has slipped into some kind of hero-less malaise. It’s suggested that crime has been largely snuffed out, or pushed to the margins, by a draconian new law enacted as a consequence of the previous film. But the result is a Dickensian environment, with gangsters and the unwashed forced out of sight into sewers, orphanages shuttered because of economic stagnation, Wayne Industries in decline, and Bruce Wayne himself (Christian Bale) locked away in a Howard Hughes-style exile in his castle on the hill.
What this city needs is a little Bain Capital. Bring in some private equity experts, streamline operations, restructure the city and turn a profit while you’re at it. (There’s a Mormon in America who would be perfect for this.) But what they get instead is a whole lot of Bane (Tom Hardy), the hulking super-villain terrorist. His big idea is to turn the city into a lawless libertarian utopia, where criminals stalk the streets and the rich are drug out of their homes and into Kangaroo Courts. He believes that this will somehow… achieve… something. Yeah, his plan pretty much breaks down at this point.
Needless to say, Wayne is forced to “rise” to the occasion as Batman. The worst bits of the film are when he is struggling and searching within himself to fulfill his inevitable destiny. (Sadly, this constitutes a full third of the movie.) This is one of the most reluctant superheroes to hit the big screen in a long time. And because the viewer knows exactly what’s going to happen (the very title declares as such), Nolan really slathers on the manipulative sentimentality to raise the stakes and get you to care about Wayne’s inward journey. From a Rocky-esque triumph before hundreds of chanting prisoners, to the aforementioned crying Alfred, to one of the lamest suggested sex scenes of all time between two characters with zero plausible emotional connection, we get the full battery of “please care about this character” treatment. But this is the tax you pay to get to the rest of the otherwise slick and exciting movie.
The two real joys of the film are the meticulously crafted action set-pieces, and Anne Hathaway, who excels in this kind of genre work. Her Catwoman (never actually called that in the film) steals every scene she’s in thanks to a few simple tools that apparently Batman doesn’t possess in his expansive arsenal: charisma and humor. Without her, it’d be more like “The Dark Knight Goes Limp.”