The Dark Knight Rises
Disconnected significantly from the flow of logic between the first and second installments of Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” films, “The Dark Knight Rises” is a disjointed mess. Plot inconsistencies from the last two films — about things such as the performance of Batman’s hi-tech armored suit — arise when he battles the least charismatic — or knowable — villain of any of the Batman movies, dating back to Joel Schumacher’s four installments. Tom Hardy’s hulking Bane gets lost behind a cloistering mask that covers his face below the eyes due to a beating his character received while imprisoned in the Middle East many years ago. The mask ostensibly holds Bane’s face together and enables him to breathe. Even more suppressed is any context for Bane’s desire to wipe out humanity via a nuclear bomb, which he aimlessly transports around the streets of Manhattan for a few weeks in one of three decoy trucks.
For such a bloated movie — it runs a ridiculous 165 minutes — you’d think the screenwriters (Nolan and his brother Jonathan) could at least manage to weave a proper narrative together. Robert McKee won’t be referencing “The Dark Knight Rises” in any of his screenwriting seminars. The best thing “The Dark Knight Rises” has on offer is Anne Hathaway’s butt-in-the-air silhouette as her Catwoman speeds around Manhattan on Batman’s mean-machine motorcycle.
Unreliable characters saturate the story. Catwoman has more in common with a black widow than a feline when it comes to loyalty. Her alter ego Selina Kyle is a hypocrite thief who betrays Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne every chance she gets. For his part, Bruce Wayne proves himself to be a terrible judge of character. His misplaced trust in Marion Cotillard’s Miranda Tate, a corporate mover-and-shaker for clean energy, takes a heavy toll. Worse yet, Bruce Wayne betrays Alfred, his most trusted confidant and assistant, in an impulsive fit of anger. Batman doesn’t make for a very persuasive anti-hero this time around. There isn’t much to like or respect in this latest incarnation of a crime-fighter who we discover during a ghostly visitation by Liam Neeson’s Ra’s Al Ghul, was built for failure from the beginning.
Christopher Nolan’s outspoken defense of fans that rained down threats on critics of the movie before they had even seen it, speaks to the bullying hype surrounding the film. The film’s odd pokes at political exploitation — regarding the battle being waged between the world’s 99% and their elite corporate oppressors — come across as half-hearted attempts at pandering. Even without the Colorado shooting tragedy that will forever haunt “The Dark Knight Rises,” the film represents a soulless and gratuitous ploy that favors flimflam over substance. There’s something gross and mean in the way Nolan approaches the material. It’s not an entertaining or enjoyable film to watch. The only likable characters are secondary roles. You keep wishing that Morgan Freeman’s Fox, Michael Caine’s Alfred, and Joseph Gordon-Levvitt’s police officer John Blake would co-opt the story.
The bottom-line is that Christopher Nolan is a better director than he is a screenwriter. He specializes in plot holes and logic gaps in the same the way that M. Night Shyamalan toys with hackneyed suspense device. It would be good if Christopher Nolan didn’t make anymore Batman movies. The world could certainly use fewer comic book movies. It’s just sad that Nolan had to take so many talented people down with him in a movie that sinks under the weight of its own pretentions. You can sit through “The Dark Knight Rises” once, but you’ll never want to see it again.
Rated R. 95 mins. (C-) (Two Stars - out of five/no halves)