Movie fans love their Batman. Hell, I love Batman! Yet, as much as I wanted “The Dark Knight Rises” to be great — in my opinion, it wasn’t.
It was just very good. But, considering how high the bar was set with the last film, “The Dark Knight,” it was going to be a tough act to follow, no matter what.
This final installment in director Christopher Nolan’s trilogy is an attempt to be more than a mere “superhero” movie. It wants to be an epic adventure in both letting go and fighting injustice.
Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has been brooding in his manor over his many losses, his mom and dad, and the love of his life, Rachel Dawes. He couldn’t get past that, no matter how many bad guys he thumped on.
So Bruce has gone into hiding. He’s become a recluse in his own home. He has rarely been seen in public in the eight years since Harvey Dent’s death. Remember, he let Batman take the fall for Dent’s demise because Gotham City needed a hero.
It will take a gutsy burglary right under his nose to awaken his crime-fighting skills, but the presence of a cane suggests the man behind the mask will need some physical rehabilitation before he can don the suit again.
In the meantime, Wayne Industries has spent a sizable amount of its assets perfecting a fusion reactor that could provide cheap energy for the masses. The one scientist who could make it work is apparently killed in a plane crash, or so the new bad guy, Bane (Tom Hardy), would have you believe. Why fake a death in a dramatic jet takeover in midair? Simple. Because it’s cool and because it makes for a great opening scene.
This is just the beginning of Bane’s master plan to bring Gotham to its knees. Unlike the Joker, who was a strong proponent of the chaos theory, Bane is cold, calculated and deliberate.
Sounds like a great story, but herein lies the film’s biggest problems.
It’s tough enough trying to understand Batman’s over-modulated voice, but now we’ve got a baritone British guy, Bane, who sounds like he’s talking into a bucket. I only picked up about half of what either of them said. That’s a problem.
Next, Bruce Wayne must rehab from a second injury during the “winter of discontent” section of the movie. That slows everything down to a crawl and, without giving too much away, will have spinal cord specialists wondering why they’ve wasted years of medical school, when they could have been using the medieval hang-and-punch method all these years.
Then there are the political overtones. Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) gives a rousing speech about the arrogance of the rich, like it was right out of the 99 percenter’s handbook. And the attack on Wall Street? Not a coincidence. It’s not that I disagree with the sentiment; it just feels out of place in a Batman movie.
Finally, there’s the grand plan: Bane says he’s doing this because he wants to give the city back to its people. But he’s like a big muzzled cat playing with his captured mice for several months, knowing that it was never meant to end well for the mouse. Why the pretense?
Having said that, the last 30 minutes is worth the wait. But, in all honesty, I’m pretty sure I can wait for the DVD to see it again. That could spell trouble for box office beyond a massive opening weekend, as the film will require repeat visits to make “Avenger”-type money.
“The Dark Knight Rises” is a very good movie, but with its inherent problems of dialogue, pacing, pointed messages and plot conflicts, I think it forgot its first and foremost role — to be an engaging superhero movie.