The Dark Knight Rises is Christopher Nolan‘s conclusion to his Batman trilogy. In a franchise-minded film industry that’s a bold choice as most films these days are left open for more. But Nolan swears he’s done so we have to believe that he and most of his cast are hanging up their capes and cowls. But do they send Batman out on a good note, or a brown one?

The Players:

The Plot:

Eight years after the death of Harvey Dent, Gotham has gone quiet in terms of crime, and Bruce Wayne (Bale) has retired Batman. But Bane (Hardy) is coming for the city. Wayne is at first reengaged with the world when he meets Selina Kyle (Hathaway), who steals his mother’s pearl necklace, and when Bane attacks Wall Street, Batman is born again. But in a straight up fight, Batman may be no match for Bane, and Bane’s got a nefarious scheme to destroy all of Gotham.

The Good:

  • Anne Hathaway: There’s no way to equal the brilliance and perfection of Heath Ledger’s Joker, and his character is missed, but Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman is the character and performer having the most fun here. She gets to vamp and look good doing it, while also delivering a solid performance that never calls to mind Michelle Pfieffer, Eartha Kitt or (for that matter) Halle Berry.
  • Real Movie: That may sound weird, but with so many major motion pictures these days, it feels like television show, and/or narratives that are cobbled together more than thought out beforehand. Nolan knows how to use his camera, knows how to cut, and there’s a scale and weight here that’s been missing so far from this summer’s big comic-book movies.
  • Scale: This is a movie that should be seen as big and loud as possible, and in an IMAX theater at all cost. Sadly, it feels like Nolan fell in love with shooting IMAX more than anything else during the production.

The Bad:

  • Narrative Mess: This is a two hour and forty five minute movie that at once feels bloated and empty. Perhaps the death of Heath Ledger and having to do away with his character ruined where the series could have gone, but that doesn’t excuse Nolan setting up some interesting ideas for where the story could go that ultimately flatline. There’s a whole lot going on that seems to be necessary for the narrative that isn’t that interesting as storytelling.
  • The Ending: Won’t spoil, but it gets exposition heavy at all the wrong moments, and the denouement is problematic.
  • Nothing Under the Hood: This is the first Christopher Nolan film that isn’t about anything. At all. Even some of the continued themes such as lying for the greater good don’t amount to much, and earlier reports that the film had some “Occupy Wall Street” type ideas are all surface, But though comparing The Dark Knight to American policies at the times was also superficial, there was way more ideas about the cost of the greater good, and what creating a superhero would lead to than in this film.
  • The Middle: Nolan is near fatally hamstrung by sidelining major characters from the middle section of the film. It’s one of those films where you wish the middle section was the start of the film somehow.
  • Marion Cotillard: She emphasizes one of the biggest problem with the movie. More so than any other film in Nolan’s franchise, characters here are reduced to being wheels in a cog, and Cotillard is emblematic of how many of the main characters are there to perform narrative functions. Most have little inner life.

Overall:

The Dark Knight Rises challenges Insomnia as Christopher Nolan’s least interesting movie. In terms of scale and size, there’s definitely a lot of spectacle here, but if the previous films engaged because of the ideas or performances behind them, here there’s much less to latch on to. And that’s a big problem. In terms of spectacle, this is a perfectly acceptable film that suffers the same resolution problems as most blockbusters. But as a Christopher Nolan film it’s a crushing disappointment, and possibly his worst film.

Rating: 6.8/10

The Dark Knight Rises opens July 20.

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