As “The Dark Knight Rises” opens, a plane is being hijacked over central Asia, a scientist kidnapped and the plane then crashed. Cut to a charity event at stately Wayne Manor, where a maid is stealing a string of pearls from a safe, then does a backflip out the window and slips away.
That’s how director Christopher Nolan impressively introduces two of three new primary characters in the concluding episode of his Batman trilogy, a dark, lengthy picture that has some impressive action and strong acting while tying up many elements of the series.
Bruce Wayne, of course, is played by Christian Bale. At the film’s opening, Batman is nowhere to be seen. In fact, billionaire Wayne has become a recluse in the eight years since the death of Harvey Dent, for which Batman has been blamed. Wayne lets his business empire erode and the Bat disappear.
He’s lured out of hiding by the fake maid, who turns out to be jewel thief Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), who he tracks down to another high-society fundraiser hosted by Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). Selina, who is wearing cat ears at the masked ball, took more than the pearls. She got Wayne’s fingerprints, too, which she sold to a slimy Wayne Enterprises board member trying to take over the company.
He’s the guy who hired the malevolent Bane (Tom Hardy), the masked hulking “terrorist” who hijacked the plane. But Bane cannot be controlled as he builds a mercenary army in the Gotham City sewers.
When Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) stumbles into Bane’s lair and is shot, young cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) goes to Bruce Wayne, who he somehow knows is the avenging superhero.
Batman is back in the game, much to the chagrin of butler Alfred (Michael Caine) and delight of weapon developer Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), just in time to confront Bane and the Gotham cops when evildoer Bane mounts an assault on the stock exchange and starts his “people’s” revolution.
Because of that, there’s been lots of nonsense spewed this week attempting to connect “The Dark Knight Rises” to today’s politics. On the left, the attacks have come saying that Batman is now the hero for the 1 percent. On the right, Rush Limbaugh expounded that Bane, the character, was somehow a negative reference to Bain Capital and, thereby, a criticism of Mitt Romney.
|Anne Hathaway shines as Selina Kyle in "The Dark Knight Rises." She’s excellent in the action scenes and gives the near humorless movie much of its spark. (Warner Bros.)|
It’s true that Batman is on the side of Wall Street and the rich, who are put on trial in a kangaroo court. But he’s also fighting to save all of Manhattan. Bane has been around in Batman comics for two decades. On both counts, brothers Christopher and Jonathan Nolan would have to be prescient beyond belief to have conjured all this up when they wrote the script two years ago.
What the Nolans have crafted is a twisting, turning comic book story that, like the previous installments of the series, actually develops its characters while crafting some striking action, and this time around introducing a Bat plane to go along with the heavily armed motorcycle.
Nolan’s Batman trilogy has been notable among comic book pictures for its fine acting. That continues here, not surprising given the fact that all of the primary cast save Hardy and Gordon-Levitt have won or been nominated for Academy Awards.
Hardy, whose voice is sometimes so distorted it is difficult to understand, is malevolently effective as the brutal Bane and Gordon-Levitt brings a Boy Scout earnestness to his portrayal of the young cop.
|Tom Hardy, whose voice is sometimes so distorted it is difficult to understand, is malevolently effective as the brutal Bane. (Warner Bros.)|
But the star of the show is Hathaway, whose Selina/Catwoman, is smart, sexy and not to be trusted. She’s excellent in the action scenes and gives the near humorless movie much of its spark.
My biggest criticism of “The Dark Knight” is the same as that for the summer’s two previous comic book blockbusters -- it’s too long. The film runs 2 hours, 44 minutes. Not surprisingly, it loses momentum here and there -- never when Catwoman is on the screen -- and feels repetitious in spots.
“The Dark Knight Rises” isn’t as good as “The Dark Knight,” which remains the best comic book/superhero movie ever. But it is an exemplary third installment of a series that, at least for Nolan and Bale, comes to a satisfying, if overly long end.