REVIEW: "The Dark Knight Rises" Isn't Looking For Anything Logical
Now the pressure's on to one-up what many would call a flat out masterpiece. How could Nolan possibly make a better film? He seems to have asked himself the same, and concluded that when "better" seems almost unreachable, might as well go for "bigger."
Which brings us to "The Dark Knight Rises." Audiences have gone four years without seeing Bale's Batman, but we return to Gotham to find it's been twice as long there—eight years since the caped crusader took the fall for Harvey Dent's crimes and rode off into the night and, as it turns out, into retirement. Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne is now a crippled recluse, no longer needed to watch over the city since the Dent Act led to the dissolution of the Gotham mafia. Batman's false guilt is a secret that weighs heavily on the conscience of Commissioner Jim Gordon (the always fantastic Gary Oldman), but it seems that the ends have justified the means. The streets are safe enough, leaving Wayne nothing to occupy his time. Naturally, this all changes when a pair of enigmatic figures surface to bring out his old self.
The first is Selina Kyle, never referred to as Catwoman though the imagery is obvious enough. Her flirting and thieving is the most compelling part of a first act that feels far less cohesive than one would expect, considering the flawless pacing of Nolan's previous efforts. The other major newcomer and central villain of the piece is Bane, a muscled-out Tom Hardy complete with a face-obscuring respirator whose expressive eyes and conversational, high-pitched voice clash wonderfully with his physique. He's engaging enough, though of course he's no Joker (and who could be?).
He masterminds an assault on Gotham that feels ridiculously artificial. While the Joker was a nihilistic anarchist whose machinations perversely fascinated us , Bane's ultimate goals are far less interesting and spelled out immediately. He simply means to wipe Gotham off the map, but first he wastes time (more time than anyone could possibly be asked to believe, given that Nolan's bat-universe was up until this point populated by thinking humans) with a meaningless revolution the effects of which on Gotham's general citizenry are never shown, begging the question of what exactly the point was in the first place.
It's a central conflict so baffling, so out of step with the realistic tone Nolan worked so hard to establish with the previous films, that in the end there is no barrier greater to one's enjoyment of "Rises" than the simple ability to accept the absurd grandiosity of the events on display and the numerous, immediately recognizable plot holes contained within.
Yet it's far from a disaster. The actors all give about the calibre of performances required of them, even if practically all of the characters are sidelined for huge portions of the nearly three hour runtime and some—Marillon Cotillard's Miranda Tate comes to mind—aren't developed nearly as well as they need to be to justify payoffs later in the film.
Bale gives perhaps his best franchise work both in the suit and out, while special recognition should go out to Anne Hathaway, whose Catwoman needs to seduce, banter, battle, and decide where she'll land on the hero to villain scale. She always delivers, turning each of her scenes into a complete delight. Though she's not the most realistic character by any means, it hardly matters when she's handled so well. She perfectly captures the potential excitement of the larger than life possibilities inherent in the Batman mythos.
It's a potential much of the film would like to tap into, but never quite truly grasps, instead achieving spectacle that, while on an admittedly massive scale, doesn't find the raw depth of emotion that Nolan usually conjures up so masterfully.
Four years ago "The Dark Knight" set the world on fire. As the end to the trilogy, "Rises" should have done more than sit back and watch it burn.