The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Christopher Nolan has crafted a finely-tuned trilogy that made audiences take a crime fighter who dresses up as a bat seriously. I was so mesmerized by his work on The Dark Knight that I was open to Nolan’s take on any Batman villain and story. Bane and Catwoman with shades of Knightfall? Awesome, let’s see what he can do. What Nolan gave us was another entertaining action film, but not quite the Batman closer film I was expecting.

While The Dark Knight required only minimal suspension of disbelief, The Dark Knight Rises asks for quite a bit more. If you can believe that Bruce Wayne could become so feeble that he allows a burglar to get the upper hand so easily on him, then Catwoman is a mighty force of chaos. If you can believe that Bane has the ability to magically manipulate everything from the stock market to transportation with no explanation, then he is a very clever villain. And if you can honestly believe that there is a prison existing as a giant hole in the ground that anybody with the right brain could easily escape, then Bruce is truly sent to hell. Those are just the tip of the iceberg.

If you can stand all those unbelievable elements, The Dark Knight Rises is actually a really good movie. The performances are top-notch all around. Anne Hathaway and Tom Hardy really surprised me with their interpretations of Catwoman and Bane. Most of  the action sequences are directed with the right amount of flair and excitement we’ve come to expect from Christopher Nolan. As ridiculous as it seems for all the cops in Gotham to bum-rush a horde of criminals, it’s an amazingly well-shot  scene. Just about every thrilling set piece from the in-air breakout to the climactic chase are perfectly staged. Hans Zimmer’s music continues to be as flawless as it was in the previous film with the right amount of epic in a tension-driven score. Based on all this, the movie seems like a satisfying conclusion.

And yet…I can’t help but focus on the absurdly written script. Maybe I’m just holding the Dark Knight in such a high regard that I’m being too harsh on Rises. I could accept the Joker masquerading around Gotham crafting chaos, but Bane’s ability to hold an entire city hostage with a nuclear device as well as transport Bruce Wayne to a prison outside of the country seemed too over-the-top. I could buy the relationship between Bruce and Rachael (even if I disliked the actress), but when Bruce hooks up with Talia in Rises, it was entirely forced and cliche to a laughable degree. But the multiple endings were the point when everything just got so damn ridiculous, I didn’t even care if the character with the name ‘Robin’ was going to be Batman. I just wanted the movie to end so it could stop shooting itself in the foot, trying to wrap everything up with a nice yet baffling bow.

The Dark Knight Rises feels like a cross between Nolan’s vision and Schumacher’s vision of Batman; a crime movie with the theatrics and ludicrous elements of a campy superhero film. That was one big problem I always had with Nolan’s version of Batman; all his movies are so grounded in reality that their essentially just crime films with Batman included. I’m not saying it didn’t make for a solid trilogy, but it certainly does limit the scope and audience perceptions when Ra’s al Ghul can’t dabble in mysticism and Bane can’t be a luchadore relying on venom. While I appreciate Nolan’s work for delivering a Batman that finally got the recognition it deserves, I’m tired of seeing the caped crusader in only one shade. I’m hopeful for a new version that isn’t afraid to take on stories involving characters like Clayface or Mr. Freeze, but I feel it will take a great deal of time before audiences can ween themselves off Nolan’s Batman.