You’ve got Bale! Final flick in the Batman trilogy rises to the top
- Last Updated: 11:14 AM, July 19, 2012
- Posted: 10:25 PM, July 17, 2012
THE DARK KNIGHT RISESRunning time: 165 minutes. Rated PG-13 (intense action violence, profanity, sensuality). Opens tomorrow night at midnight at the Ziegfeld, Cinema 1, the Lincoln Square IMAX, others.
Batman is lured back into action after a lengthy hiatus — to prevent a terrorist from nuking a Gotham City closely resembling the Big Apple — in the imposingly dark and hugely entertaining “The Dark Knight Rises.’’
Superhero movies are perhaps the most predicable genre out there right now (sorry, Marvel fans), but take it from someone who can usually spot plot twists half an hour away: Christopher Nolan’s dramatically and emotionally satisfying wrap-up to the Dark Knight trilogy adroitly avoids clichés and gleefully subverts your expectations at every turn.
Eight years after the end of 2008’s “The Dark Knight,’’ Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne is a shattered recluse who hobbles around his mansion on a cane following the death of his fiancée — and his long-unseen alter ego, Batman, is being blamed for the death of DA Harvey Dent.
Bruce is finally forced to don the Batsuit again, though, after a fusion device he helped develop is stolen and weaponized.
The villain is Bane (Tom Hardy), a hulking, bald terrorist with a grotesque mask that includes a Darth Vader-like voice synthesizer.
Introduced in a spectacular airborne stunt sequence straight out of a James Bond movie, Bane simultaneously traps almost all of Gotham City’s police force in an underground tunnel, demolishes half a football stadium and announces to Gotham’s populace that he’s turning over the city to the 99 percent.
The city’s presumed-guilty wealthy citizens — who no longer include Bruce, thanks to Bane’s stunningly staged attack on the Gotham Stock Exchange — are sentenced by a French Revolution-style court even as Bane blows up all the bridges to prevent escape from his planned thermonuclear special event.
The ever-reliable Alfred (Michael Caine), Wayne Enterprises CEO and master inventor Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), and the gravely injured Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) have Batman’s back in his quest, but that isn’t enough.
He must also forge more ambiguous alliances with the slinky Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), who he catches burgling his mother’s necklace; as well as Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), an icy millionairess who helped fund Bruce’s reactor.
Another member of Nolan’s “Inception’’ ensemble, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, plays a dedicated young cop with crucial links to Bruce Wayne.
Written by Nolan, his brother Jonathan and David S. Goyer, “The Dark Knight Rises’’ almost rivals “Inception” for complexity, and some of the political satire doesn’t really work.
Midway through, I was having some doubts about whether Nolan could pull it off.
But boy, does he ever. In the last half hour, everything clicks smashingly together, also tying in characters and situations from the first two films — as well as featuring some of the most emotional sequences ever from a director who has a deserved reputation for coolly cerebral work.
Bale does the best acting of his career here as the anguished hero, and Hathaway is far more effective than I could have imagined, bringing humor to her role without edging into camp (and no, Selina’s never referred to as Catwoman, no matter how outré her taste in action gear).
Given the impossible task of following the late Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance as the Joker, Hardy is nowhere near as memorable but still quite effectively scary — and a formidable physical adversary for Bale’s Batman.
“The Dark Knight Rises’’ builds to a pulse-pounding, nail-biting climax that’s loaded with the kind of surprises that were so absent in some other recent superhero movies that I could mention.
Nolan’s apocalyptic, 9/11-inflected vision of Manhattan and its hero are far more viscerally engaging in a real-world way than the fan-pandering, silly fantasy counterparts that Marvel offered up in both “The Avengers’’ and “The Amazing Spider-Man.’’
I saw this seriously spectacular-looking (and thankfully not 3-D) movie, much of which was shot using 70mm IMAX cameras, at the Lincoln Square IMAX — and strongly recommend that you see it on the biggest screen you can afford.