The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises, the conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and arguably the most anticipated movie of the year, is a very, very enjoyable film. No, it’s not as good as The Dark Knight, but who really thought it would be? You would have to strike gold again in order for that to happen. No, our finale doesn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessor, but it’s still a very enjoyable, tense movie, that stays entertaining for the majority of its running time.

Our story begins a long time after The Dark Knight concluded. Batman has all but disappeared, as has the man behind the mask, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale). After the night the previous film ended, Batman hasn’t been seen from, and appearances from Wayne have been sparse. Some people think he’s incapable of even walking, although those are only rumors. His knee is badly damaged, sure, and he’s eight years older, but for the most part, he’s still the same person he was in the last film. He is aided by his butler, Alfred (Michael Caine), and together, they live a secluded life in Wayne’s mansion. You’d think that people would notice how Batman and Wayne seemed to disappear at the same time, but apparently nobody did.

Anyway, a new threat is rising from the darkness, as a man named Bane (Tom Hardy) has decided to show up in Gotham and wreak havoc. He’ll lead a revolution against the corrupt people within the city, although that’s only a diversion from his actual plan. A nuclear bomb gets involved, a character twist occurs, and eventually, after all is said and done, Batman has to step in to save the city from destruction.

This may be surprising, but Batman plays a much smaller role in this film than in the previous ones of Nolan’s trilogy. Bruce Wayne is on the screen for about two-thirds of the time Christian Bale is, with Batman only actually appearing in a few extended segments. Sure, those segments are fantastic and you’ll be on the edge of your seat for most of them, but for a Batman movie, Batman is far less of an important figure than you’d expect.

Instead, most of the time goes to the secondary characters, as well as the film’s big important issue, class disparity. I suppose making the movie about the wealthy versus the poor ensures that it’s topical, and I actually didn’t mind that focus, but it felt like it was attempting to cash-in on the whole Occupy Wall Street movement which doesn’t even make local papers anymore. The film is coming out too late to say anything important about the issue, which is a shame because you can see it wanting to make an impact.

The supporting cast sometimes feels like it consists of too many people, and even with a runtime of 164 minutes, not everyone can get their chance to shine. Alfred and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) each get the short end of the stick, with the former disappearing completely for the better part of the second half. Caine definitely gets his share of emotional scenes, but they’re too few in the end, which was unfortunate.

There are two love interests this time around. The first is Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a master thief who begins the film stealing Wayne’s pearls while really just trying to get his fingerprints, which she planned to sell. The second is Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a philanthropist who wants Wayne to allow the world to use his source of clean energy — which has the potential to be turned into a weapon, which is why Wayne didn’t want to use it. They both flirt with becoming linked to the billionaire, but only time will tell if one of them manages to fill the gap in his heart left when the love of his life departed for good.

Bane is an effective villain, even though I had a couple of problems with him. The first is his voice. No, I didn’t have trouble understanding him, nor did I have trouble understanding him in the prologue trailer, wherein his voice received negative reaction and Christopher Nolan ended up altering it to make it clearer. It sounded like it was mixed wrong — as if the voice was coming from all around, instead of from Bane himself. He also sounded tired and apathetic at times. Bane himself is menacing and eventually grows on you, but is nothing like Ledger’s Joker from the last film.

I stayed away from getting too plot-heavy, and that’s done for two reasons. The first is that it takes about an hour for the plot to really get going; there’s a lot of set-up involved, and I don’t want to get into that. Second, I know that a lot of people don’t want to hear anything about what happens in it, so I’ll keep their virgin brains at peace for now.

What you need to know is that The Dark Knight Rises couldn’t possibly live up to the hype that The Dark Knight caused it to have, but that it’s still a very enjoyable movie for most of the time it runs. It’s overlong, sure, but who really wants the trilogy to end? I probably would have been able to tolerate a 9 hour movie if it was all of the same quality. The action is sparse but thrilling when it appears, there are a few very funny lines of dialogue, and it concludes logically and fittingly, if perhaps a little too safe.

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