Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Director Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises is one seriously crowded movie. There are numerous references to characters and storylines from the previous two films. There’s a broken Batman. A weepy Alfred. Catwoman. A new villain named Bane. (Bane? Really? I know he’s from the comics, but still…) Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a cop who wants to believe in Batman. Something about a nuclear physicist and something under the city that might need to be flooded if the something-something handwavium something.

And that’s just the set-up. The movie zips along from one plotline to the next with such speed the fine cast barely has time to act. Scenes end too abruptly and don’t feed into each other like we’re used to with Nolan movies. The normal immersive fluidity of his style is broken up by having to cut away to catch another storyline. New characters pop up, say a few lines and are dispatched before I quite had time to remember where I’d seen the actors before.

Bane is a problematic character. Described as a thug and a mercenary, he’s still driven and given to zealous speeches that make him sound like a terrorist Darth Vader. At least I think that’s what he was saying. The unfortunate face mask made it hard to understand much of his dialogue.

Anne Hathaway does a good job with the ambiguous catwoman, though I still prefer Michelle Pfeiffer’s sexily brittle Selina Kyle from Tim Burton’s second Batman movie. (I shouldn’t have been thinking wistfully of that campy movie during this deadly serious one. But remember that amazing party scene where Michael Keaton and Pfeiffer dance close, sparks aflyin’, and realize each other’s secret identities? Bale and Hathaway have a dance, but any sexual chemistry is lost to the pacing and their dialogue is all about explaining the plot to each other.)

So, okay, what did I like about this movie? There are some great moments full of feeling and depth. JG-L’s storyline is terrific and he once again shows himself to be a talented and intriguing actor. The sound editors will probably get an Oscar. The Batgadgetry, especially the gyroscopic motorcyle, is pretty cool. The visuals are darkly gorgeous and textured as befits a Nolan film. I love that he didn’t even bother with the cinematography-crushing 3D.

I’ll never know how much the events at the midnight showing in Aurora might have colored my experience of seeing this movie. I don’t think I was so distracted that I couldn’t follow the plot. I think it was an overcrowded and choppy film.

I’ll also never know how it would have played if I’d marathoned the first two films, as smart people did. I’ll do that at some point, on DVD, and maybe read Bane’s dialogue in the subtitles.

In the meantime, I’m giving Nolan and company the benefit of the doubt and giving this 3 out of 5 stars. See it, and see it in the theatre if you were planning to. But definitely do your homework. Revisit the original and especially the stunning second movie given such resonance by Heath Ledger’s haunting and brilliant performance.

Nolan and his team deserve some heavy lifting from the audience when viewing and evaluating this film, and consideration free from distraction. I just wish there had been a clearer throughline, and more time to immerse in the emotional pay-offs at the end. Moviegoing should do that for us in the best of times, and the worst.




3 out of 5 stars

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