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Published: 2012-07-19 - 13:30:14
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The Dark Knight Rises Review

By Joe Lozito

"Rise" Matters

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As superhero trilogies go, Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" and Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" have wildly different tones, but they have followed oddly similar trajectories. In both cases, the first film was good, the second was great, and the third? In the case of "Spider-Man 3", it was a not-as-bad-as-you-remember-it letdown. The film became too much of itself; too stuffed full of everything that made the previous ones great. And it collapsed under the weight of those expectations. So the question is, how does Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises" fare as the conclusion to his wonderfully ambitious Batman trilogy?

Well, Mr. Nolan's off to a great start. "Batman Begins" was an exceptional realization of the Batman origin story, and "The Dark Knight" was even more revelatory - it took the series to another level. It became not just a great superhero movie but a great movie on its own (hence the brouhaha over its Oscar snub). "The Dark Knight Rises" doesn't quite fall into the "Spider-Man 3" trap, but it comes close. It's an unwieldy film, full of characters and subplots, all treated with equal portentousness, and an epic, metaphorical plot that holds a mirror to our times. It's everything that made "The Dark Knight" great but, somehow, "Rises" is less than the sum of its parts.

Rather than taking the series down a different path, Mr. Nolan almost adheres too closely to what made the previous film so great - inviting unwelcome comparisons. "Rises" fits nicely into the series, bearing all the earmarks of its predecessor. That constant, beautifully operatic score by Hans Zimmer, the sweeping cityscapes, the vicious anarchist terrorizing Gotham. (Oddly, this time around Manhattan is used as the backdrop for Batman's hometown. It's a jarring, confusing choice after the previous films were grounded so firmly in Chicago. It's as if Peter Jackson suddenly chose to set "Return of the King" in New Jersey.)

The terrorist in question is the masked vigilante Bane, and he's no joke. Or at least, no Joker. And that's a shame. He's a vicious bruiser, but he's not remotely as interesting as Heath Ledger's memorable trickster. Speaking through an ominous breathing apparatus for the length of the film, Tom Hardy does his best to make Bane expressive but, while his voice isn't as hard to understand as previews had suggested, what he's saying simply isn't very compelling. And his twisted plot - which involves, again, turning Gotham to anarchy - is also far too similar to that of The Joker, who did it with much more style. The script, by Mr. Nolan and his brother Jonathan, ties Bane into the arc of the films, but not enough to make him interesting.

The cast is all top notch, as usual. Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman are given less screentime but still make a great support network for our hero. Meanwhile, new addition Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives a nice turn as a rookie detective, but fellow newbie Marion Cotillard is given much too little to do as socialite Miranda Tate. Fetishists take note: Anne Hathaway out-latexes Avengers' Scarlett Johansson as a wiley femme fatale cat burglar. And as always, Michael Caine manages to turn the role of Alfred into a heart-wrenching Oscar bid. At the center of it all, Christian Bale wears his multiple roles like an old batsuit.

With the success of "Batman Begins", Mr. Nolan was able to throw caution to the wind and make "The Dark Knight" his masterpiece. Perhaps, like Mr. Raimi's final Spidey film, the weight of that success, and the sky-high expectations for the trilogy, made him a little too cautious for this third outing. Where "Dark Knight" transformed the series, "Rises" simply concludes it. It's a fitting, well-made conclusion, and it's a great superhero movie. But as a movie itself, this "Dark Knight" can't rise as high as the bar had been set.

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Movie title The Dark Knight Rises
Release year 2012
MPAA Rating PG-13
Our rating
Summary The epic, unwieldy conclusion to the "Dark Knight" trilogy is everything that made its predecessors great but it can't rise as high as the bar had been set.
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