The Dark Knight Rises as reviewed in The Phantom Tollbooth. Revenge On The Line

The Dark Knight Rises

Stars: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt,
Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard and Morgan Freeman
Director: Christopher Nolan
Scriptwriters: Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan
Composer: James Horner
Warner Brothers
Rating: PG 13 for violence and themed material
Running Length: 165 minutes

Yes, the Dark Knight does rise, many times, in this final episode of the Christopher Nolan version of Batman. Each time, Bruce Wayne/Batman rises, it is to add another notch on his belt of survival of the fittest, though the audience may cringe at the violence in the story. Also, this story is a step-by-step depiction of the take-over of a city. No wonder Homeland Security worries. As for the villain, Bane (a burly Tom Hardy), it is difficult to understand him most of the time because of his mask and when you do, he sounds like Winston Churchill. Whether this was deliberate or not, it is off-setting. Anne Hathaway is a passable Selina Kyle aka Catwoman and now the contest will begin as to who is the "better Catwoman." Julie Newmar usually tops the list, though my favorite is Michelle Pfeiffer, but her storyline is entirely different from Catwoman's in this film.

In Dark Knight Rising, there are many storylines and no wonder it takes almost three hours to tell them. Bruce Wayne and Batman's rise and fall, Bane and his before-and-after, Catwoman, Alfred the Wayne butler (Michael Caine), Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) the Wayne Company inventor, Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and his police history, and the new guy on the block, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake, a young police detective who can go out on his own and get the job down. (Remember this one in a few years.)

To begin, Bane is determined to capture Gotham City and make it pay for the crimes of being rich and spoiled. The beginning part of taking a scientist from one plane to another in mid-air smacks of a Bruce Willis film. As Bane's plan rolls along, he is helped by cat-burglar, Selina Kyle complete with black outfit and mask, who robs Bruce Wayne (now crippled and a recluse) and intrigues him at the same time. Her trademark is bright red lipstick. Then, we have the police, hesitant to do anything because life has been peaceful since Batman left (becoming hated by taking the fall for the late Harvey Dent as played then by Aaron Eckart), is too late. Bruce Wayne has been working with Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) on a new energy source, but suddenly Wayne investments are depleted. By the time Batman makes an appearance, the tide is against him and the middle part of the movie has him trying to escape from a prison that is in a deep well somewhere in the Middle East (reminds me of a "Star-Gate" episode.) The fight scenes will make you cringe. The last third of the film has many twists and turns and this is a pleasant ride. Emotionally, the film will wear on the audience, for just when you think things will get better, guess again. There is revenge on the line.

The special effects are wonderfully done from dismantling a plane in mid-flight to a football stadium sequence that will bring shivers, and then there is Batman's new plane, "The Bat" that is really a hovercraft. Plenty of chases including the Bat-Motorcycle and those huge tires. No wonder the actors were weary at the end of the day.

The main characters of the film wear masks, some out of necessity, some because they can't face their former lives. Taking the mask off is difficult and it's like peeling a personality away, layer by layer. Christian Bale inhabits the role of the Dark Knight quite well, from frustration to fear and even with a mask you can tell this. Tom Hardy's Bane comes off as a sadistic brute with eloquent language. Anne Hathaway's Catwoman is sarcastic and that is a protection for her along with her martial art skills. I liked the inter-play between Gary Oldman's Police Commissioner Gordon and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's John Blake. Here is an older cop who is ashamed of his past in some respects and a new, young cop who sees police work as a place where he can wear a mask of respectability to hide himself. They are given good dialogue, as is Michael Caine as Alfred, the loyal butler who dares to show his feelings.

There is humor in unexpected places, with the side quip that is appropriate to a scene (reference a congressman who is taken with Selina Kyle) and Alfred's droll take on life at Wayne Manor. One never really retires from anything so enjoy your morning tea while you can, for the next phone call can bring something unsettling.

The three Christopher Nolan "Dark Knight" films depicted the creation of Batman, his meeting of a deranged Joker in the second film that brought acting to the forefront, and now a gathering of purpose. Batman came about because of crime, but in "Dark Knight Rises" crime so cripples everyone that out of the ashes, comes something new. This is what Bane wanted, but there can be differences in newness. One with fear and one with fortitude and clear vision. This movie even has love, for a family that isn't yours, to someone who befriended you years ago, and for a city. I liked this Dark Knight film.

Copyright 2012 Marie Asner

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