By Ron Peltier
The new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, centers on daddy issues. The third movie in the Chris Nolan Batman series strains under an improbable, convoluted and illogical plot but still manages to generate some suspense and interest. That it fails to live up to the best of the series, The Dark Knight, and is not as strong as the first in the series, Batman Begins, can perhaps be attributed to the villain — Bane.
Health Ledger’s The Joker in The Dark Knight brought a sense of menace and excitement to that film despite its groaning plot. He made the movie. The third film surprisingly re-circulates the same essential plot of The Dark Knight but simply amps up the spectacle and grandeur. Instead, of a boat load of passengers and prisoners under threat, Bane, the villain (played by Tom Hardy) imperils all of Gotham and its 12 million inhabitants.
One of the problems with Bane is, well, his mouth. Bane has a contraption around his mouth that is needed for his survival, as it helps with the “pain” we are told. How it keeps him alive is not really explained. All I kept wondering is how he eats with the thing covering his mouth. He is fairly buff and presumably needs lots of protein to keep fit. Apparently, his mouth contraption functions similarly to Darth Vader’s mask; remove it, and he dies slowly. The issue here is that with the mask covering most of his face, Bane lacks villain-esque energy and personality. He is all mask and no personality. Sure he is strong and the mask looks evil, but it is the personality that truly scares and Hardy’s Bane has none to speak of.
The film begins eight years after the last one ended. It reminds the audience, lest we have forgotten, that Batman was blamed for Harvey Dent’s murder and has been a fugitive ever since. His alter-ego, Bruce Wayne, once again played by Christian Bale, has also been a fugitive of sorts, withdrawing from all society and becoming a recluse. His paternal butler, Alfred, played again by Michael Caine, tends after him but prods him to start living once again. Bruce is too heartbroken over losing his girlfriend in the last film to do much but wallow around his mansion.
Reprising their roles are Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox. They are joined by Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle and Joesph Gordon-Levitt as Blake. All the actors here are very good with especially strong performances by Hathaway and Gordon-Levitt. Selina has her own issues and eventually finds herself fighting for Gotham alongside Batman. But her decision to help seems contrived, and obviously, we know she will come around, so there’s hardly any suspense.
It makes scant difference trying to explain the plot as it is convoluted, but suffice it to say that the film circles back to the beginning of the Nolan trilogy and provides some rationale. Essentially, “balance” must be restored by blowing up Gotham and killing its residents. Hardly makes sense, but that is often the problem with these movies.
The motivation is a little more than a reason to pit the “good” against the “bad.” This sets up the essential plot of the film as it becomes a “race against time” to save Gotham from nuclear annihilation. That Bane and everyone else in his crew presumably would die alongside all of Gotham generates incongruity, but best not focus on that and simply enjoy the spectacle.
But the spectacle is only pedestrian here. Sure, the film’s financial backers clearly spared little expense, and the film looks terrific, if a little dark. But we have seen all these stunts before.
Bruce Wayne battered from years fighting bad guys eventually finds his purpose again as Bane terrorizes the city. He confronts Bane and receives a serious beat down. Then, Bane, in typical bad guy stupidity does not kill him; instead he deposits him in a “pit of hell,” which he assumes no one can escape; guess what happens? A few push-ups, chin-ups and sits-ups, and Bruce manages his exit. The situation demonstrates Bruce Wayne’s broken, defeated and pathetic spirit.
He must lose everything before he can find the strength and courage to move on. A bit trite.
The dastardly plot by Bane and his secret accomplice is inevitably helped by the sheer stupidity of the police, symbolized by Matthew Modine’s Foley. That 3,000 police are trapped for months strains credulity and simply defies in the most sensible of police procedures. But, again, I digress with plot discussions. This movie really isn’t about its plot, per se. Although it certainly desires to import some wisdom of knowledge.
Like in The Dark Knight, the film requires that regular citizens stand up for what’s right but only after they see a symbol of inspiration—Batman’s famous symbol will do nicely. Several characters essentially satisfy this all-too-familiar plot device. It repeats the same ideas from the earlier film.
The film is not terrible, but it is hardly great. It falls in the okay category. The film groans under the absurd plot and hackneyed philosophical ruminations but does deliver on action and cinematic grandeur.
It has been generally assumed that this is Nolan’s last Batman film, but after seeing the ending, I am not convinced.