By Laurie Coker

Rating: B

Recently I ran across a photo on facebook of a little boy wearing a batman costume with the caption reading “Always be yourself, unless you can be Batman, always be Batman.”  How true. Why not be one of the coolest, albeit perhaps most misunderstood superheroes ever? Director Christopher Nolan, once again, brings us into the life of millionaire Bruce Wayne and his alter ego The Batman, only this time, the villain is far less villainous and the story a bit too choppy for a clear sense of cohesiveness, leading to a sometimes lackluster telling of this final (or is it?) installment begun with Batman Begins.

Dark Knight Rises picks up eight years (as it should) after the previous film, and we find Wayne a recluse, his company on the brink of bankruptcy and the metropolis of Gotham celebrating “Harvey Dent” day and the fact that the famed city is nearly crime free. Batman (Christian Bale), still dubbed Dent’s murderer, remains a mystery and out of site. Meanwhile, a not so daunting baddie named Bane (an utterly unrecognizable and huge looking Tom Hardy) hijacks a plane, kidnaps a nuclear physicist and heads to Gotham to free its citizens of governmental rule and ultimately destroy the entire city with a nuclear bomb, which he plans to steal from Wayne Enterprises.  Whew! A great deal goes on in this segment.

We meet conniving Catwoman, aka Selina Kyle (convincingly portrayed by Anne Hathaway), are introduced to rookie cop and orphan John Blake (well played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), watch Alfred (the delightful Michael Caine) leave, meet Wayne’s financial savior (and lover) Miranda Tate (nicely cast Marion Cotilard) and watch the painful and awkward reemergence (with a plethora of obstacles) of the somber, caped hero.  Familiar faces fill in with the newbies, from wary Commissioner Gordon to the wicked Scarecrow and several in between, and the films special effects clearly meet expectations, although Nolan’s story (one that drags in places) takes precedence over gadgets and visuals, which for me, keeps Dark Knight Rises from overall WOW status.

Nolan and co-scripter brother Jonathan brave two huge issues with this film – terrorism and the economic precipice on which this country precariously perches, and for that I say bravo, but still with a less than daunting villain and clunky telling, the film falters. While flexing their muscle politically, the story hardly qualifies as a heavy-handed commentary, so one rightly needs to focus on other things – Wayne’s financial demise, Batman’s struggles (which actually garner far too little screen time), the introduction of new characters (two) for future films and the salvation of Gotham.

Problem is it all feels disjointed, and the PG-13 rated Dark Knight Rises harbors many holes – in continuity, reality (even in superhero-world) and plot. Still, while I felt bored a few times and am wholly disappointed in Bane’s character (not Hardy’s depiction so much as the Nolans’ vision), I did get into the relationships between Wayne and Kyle and their alter egos and the one between Wayne and Blake (who we will see more of).  I thoroughly enjoyed Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox and Caine, and as always, Gary Oldman as Gordon, although I found his character far more morose than I anticipated.  It is good to see Matthew Modine as Deputy Commissioner Foley, who provides a bit of conflict, especially for Gordon and Blake and Liam Neeson reprise (briefly) Ra’s Al Ghul.

The Nolans manage some cool surprises and do please, especially in the film’s final thirty-or-so minutes, with awe-inspiring and wickedly impressive action and visual sequences. I did enjoy the experience and particularly the chases and wild rides like the Bat Plane and the Bat Cycle, upon which, even I found Hathaway super sexy in her steel stilettos. I am placing a B in my grade book. Given more thought, this might be a bit lower or higher, based on what I am reflecting upon, but for now, I’ll stick with a B.


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