It opens with a funeral, ends with a burial, and fills the nearly three hours in between ramping up to an apocalyptic nightmare.
Yep, “The Dark Knight Rises” is dark, all right.
The final installment of director Christopher Nolan’s grand Bat-trilogy finds billionaire Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) bent and broken in body and sprit eight years after the tragic turn of events of the previous movie demonized the Caped Crusader and drove him into seclusion. All those nights of jumping off buildings, slamming into brick walls and trading blows with bad guys have taken their toll, making Wayne (and everyone else) question whether or not his secretive crime-fighting alter-ego even exists anymore.
Ironically, things have never been better for Gotham City. The prisons are full, the public is comfortable, the politicians and policemen are smug. But there’s a revolution brewing underneath the streets — literally — led by a musclebound madman known only as Bane (Tom Hardy). And when a sexy jewel thief, Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), unknowingly ignites the fuse that leads to an explosive collision of all three of their worlds, Wayne must break the old Bat-cloak out of storage and confront Gotham’s grim day of reckoning.
Nolan doesn’t seem content to stage simply the summer’s most grandiose, grown-up, operatic superhero movie, one that makes others look, in comparison, like kids playing around in action-figure pajamas.
So this one is like supercharged, superhero Shakespeare, woven with conversations about living, dying, hope and despair, and built around a social-strata morality play resonating with contemporary relevance about the gap between those who have so little and those who “live so large and leave so little for the rest.”
There are certainly big expectations from fans for Nolan’s wrap-up of his Dark Knight narrative, and this is a big movie. In addition to Bale and Hathaway, there are other big stars: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson.
Matthew Modine plays a cop who wants to bag Batman, unconvinced they’re on the same side. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is introduced as a zealous young police detective with a surprising link to Bruce Wayne.
There are whopping big action sequences, including an amazing high-altitude airplane heist, a football field that implodes underneath the players, and rollicking downtown chase scenes with the super-cool Bat-cycle and Bat-copter. And Nolan works on an enormous canvas, shooting some scenes with the biggest equipment possible, large-format IMAX cameras. The movie looks terrific, often spectacular. See it on a full-size IMAX screen if you can; it’s well worth it.
Everything looks so good, in fact, it almost makes you forget how confusing the plot becomes, and forgive its many Bat-holes. It’s often difficult to know who’s doing what, to whom, and why. And it’s often hard to hear: Hardy’s villain, Bane, wears a claw-like mask that makes much of his dialogue come out muffled mush.
But in the end, Nolan sweeps it all up into to a big, dramatic, grandly orchestrated, epic finale that works on both superhero and human levels, concluding one of pop culture’s most sensational superhero sagas — at least for the time being — with one of the summer’s biggest waves of pure movie energy.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “The Dark Knight Rises”
STARRING: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine
DIRECTED BY: Christopher Nolan
RUNNING TIME: 164 minutes