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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Forget Batman Begins. Forget The Dark Knight. Look at The Dark Knight Rises on its own terms. The third, and definitively final, chapter in the Christopher Nolan directed Batman series is an utter mess of a movie. That said, this film has many solid heartfelt moments and action sequences that make up for its lack of focus.
Rises picks up the story eight years later. Gotham is a safe place, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is a recluse, and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) continues to be troubled by the lie that ultimately restored the city. But, no time for that now as an occasionally incomprehensible Bane (Tom Hardy) is coming to town to destroy Gotham for reasons that are never made overtly clear (and the few reasons that are given are murky and eye-rollingly forced). There is also Anne Hathaway as the cat burglar Selina Kyle who…
You know what? Forget the summary. You see, one of the biggest problems this film has is that there is just way too much going on with too many characters. The first hour of the movie is incredibly tough to follow. Bane hatches some scheme to do something to Gotham’s stock market, but because that ultimately does not go anywhere, its addition to the movie is perplexing. While that is going on, there are muddled side-stories about corporate espionage and the haves-vs-the-have-nots. None of it ever really falls together in any meaningful way.
Then the second half kicks in, and Rises becomes another movie entirely. This part is very well done and interesting, because it is focused with a coherent narrative. Everyone in the large cast is all given something of importance to do, and it all intersects. We get some interesting twists and turns, and the film leaves the audience with a (mostly) satisfying ending.
Everyone in the cast is good as always. In particular, Hathaway is terrific as Selina Kyle. Her flippant attitude and seductive inflection are perfect for the character. The only person I had a problem with was the new character of John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Gordon-Levitt is a fine actor, but his character, I felt, was such a Mary-Sue. He did not work for me on several levels.
As I indicated, this film is a mixed-bag. Part of the problem I had with it was more of the idiosyncrasies of the plot devices. Many of these are things we should ignore if we even notice. For me, the way I picked up on them, it really hurt the film. For example, there is a sequence where the military is trying to get into Gotham to get Bane, but are prevented for various reasons. Because of that, viewers are told that the military is not pushing to find other ways in. Really? This is the same military that was able to topple governments, and they cannot get into their own city? I am sorry, but my suspension of disbelief does not go that far.
The Dark Knight Rises is not a bad movie, but it is not a good one either. It is never boring, has some good moments, and delivers a terrific ending (albeit with one, cringe worthy moment), but it also suffers from trying to do too much. It is by far the weakest of Nolan’s Batman films. I do think that this movie will get higher marks than it deserves in internet fandom off the strength of the ending. It is the road leading to that ending which brings everything else down.