Bruce Wayne – the original genius billionaire playboy philanthropist – comes out of retirement to defend Gotham City one last time in The Dark Knight Rises.
As far as testosterone-fueled thrill rides go, Christopher Nolan’s Batman series has been firing on all cylinders.
Audiences were understandably skeptical going into the first chapter, Batman Begins, after the disastrous Joel Schumacher-helmed Batman & Robin they were subjected to in 1997 (I’m still in therapy over the constant close-ups of rubber nipples on the Batsuit…and the less said about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s portrayal of Mr. Freeze, the better).
But Nolan won over fanboys, casual moviegoers and jaded critics alike by deftly stripping away the nonsense and returning to the essentials; not unlike the 007 reboot, he restored credibility to the franchise by forging a gritty, menacing hero that was far more grounded in reality than previous incarnations.
A few years later expectations were high for Nolan’s second entry The Dark Knight, and charged by the late Heath Ledger’s Oscar Winning performance it went on to shatter box office records.
Possibly the most anticipated third chapter since The Return of the King in 2003, The Dark Knight Rises neither thrills nor completely disappoints, but for a Batman movie it was missing a key element: Batman.
Bruce Wayne spends much of the first act dithering over his role as the Caped Crusader; should he stay in retirement? Should he remain a Howard Hughes-like recluse? His close friend and butler Alfred wants him to cease all ass-kicking activities and retire to Italy with a wife and several kids (no, really — he actually wants this) but a run-in with sexy cat burglar Selena Kyle piques his interest — he shaves, puts on a suit and dusts off his Lamborghini to pursue her. Bruce Wayne is back…but not as The Batman.
Without getting spoiler-ish, Bruce does eventually don the cape and cowl for some much-needed fisticuffs with Bane and a number of his henchmen, and there are some thrilling action sequences both on the ground and in his new Bat Copter thingy (dubbed ‘The Bat’, by Morgan Freeman’s always entertaining Lucius Fox). But Christian Bale spends far too much of the film lamenting his role as Gotham’s savior, and not quite as much time saving Gotham as I would have liked.
The highlight for me was Anne Hathaway’s layered performance as Catwoman – her allegiances shift throughout the film, and I was never quite sure who’s side she would end up on. More than just a pretty face, Selena throws down with the guys and does some ass-kicking of her own, and DAMN do I want a pair of those razor-sharp high heeled boots! (i think i just picked out my Halloween costume) Tom Hardy delivers his own show-stealing performance as the psychotic mercenary Bane; while charismatic and terrifying, his obscure muffled accent combined with long, almost Shakespearean monologues (even during fight scenes) came across as slightly odd to me.
While extraneous subplots surrounding sustainable energy and plummeting stock prices at Wayne Enterprises had me nodding off, and the lack of Batman-related action was slightly disappointing, the movie does manage to kick into high gear during the final hour.
Asses are kicked. Things explode. And we finally get to see what we want out of a Batman movie – a man in a rubber suit with pointy ears punching people in the face.
The Dark Knight Rises was never going to meet expectations, nor was any bad guy going to top Ledger’s now-legendary performance – but it was a worthwhile trip to the multiplex, and a satisfying, if not epic finale to a truly landmark trilogy.
I give TDKR 3.5/5 Batarangs (ironically there were no Batarangs in this movie…the inclusion of one might have prompted me to bump it up to a 4).
Blake Northcott is an author, Twitter-er, and occasional Slayer of Vampires (only the ones that sparkle).You can follow her on Twitter, or pick up her best-selling Sci-Fi/Superhero books Vs. Reality and Relapse over at Amazon.com
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