‘The Dark Knight Rises’ buckles under the weight of its own excesses
The Dark Knight Rises
Written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan
Directed by Christopher Nolan
In retrospect, it may have been impossible. 2008′s The Dark Knight managed to be the greatest comic-book adaptation of all time by, essentially, cheating. It stripped the genre of its most outlandish acts of superheroism, and imbued its basically rote good-vs.-evil plot with real-world concerns, if not exactly placing itself in a real world setting. It walked a fine tightrope between reality and fantasy, aided immensely by its star turn from Heath Ledger as a fiery, anarchistic iteration of The Joker. It resembled an outsized version of a 1970s crime movie more than it did the likes of, say, Iron Man, or even its own direct predecessor, the origin-story-centric Batman Begins,
Faced with the task of bettering or at least matching The Dark Knight, director and co-writer Christopher Nolan has opted to double down on just about everything. The Dark Knight Rises is quite possibly the gloomiest and most convoluted summer blockbuster of all time, a nearly-three-hour smorgasbord of doomy prophecy, bone-shattering violence, and large-scale destruction. Unfortunately, while Nolan’s singular voice remains intact in terms of the film’s palpable sense of atmosphere, Rises overshoots, bending itself backwards to act as definitive trilogy capper, contemporary social statement, and resonant character piece all at once, ultimately falling a little short in each respect.
Eight years on from the events of The Dark Knight, Batman has long been considered the culprit responsible for the death of Harvey Dent, and Batman himself, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), has become a Howard Hughes-esque recluse, haunting the halls of his own mansion. Despite his weakened physical condition – he hobbles around with a cane thanks to a bum leg – he has to reconsider his retirement when rumors start to surface about a preternatural evil amassing strength in the underworld: a hulking brute who goes by the name of Bane (Tom Hardy). A large host of other players contribute in ways that Nolan would probably prefer kept close to the chest, including a, ahem, cat burglar (Anne Hathaway), a Wayne Enterprises ally (Marion Cotillard) and a peculiarly eager young police officer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), along with returning sage stalwarts Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Alfred (Michael Caine).