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'Dark Knight' certainly does not live up to its hype

Posted: July 26, 2012 - 11:10am

“The Dark Knight Rises”
Warner Bros. Pictures
2 hours, 44 minutes

There’s hype, and then there’s over-hype. And then there’s over-hype mixed with unrealistic over-hope that breeds a dark kind of fan hysteria.
“The Dark Knight Rises” is the most anticipated film of the year, the most assured moneymaker, and the most obsessed-over film by the geek community, since, well, the last one, anyway. People are rabid over this film, and I’m not talking about the heinous actions of one murderer in Colorado. That guy wasn’t a fan — just an opportunist, and the less attention he gets, the better.
The real fans have been going off the rails in their own way, though. Before the film even opened, several of the big-time critics came out with less than glowing reviews, critiques that met with angry scorn from the online community. Death threats and vile invective, and this from people who hadn’t even seen the movie. The hype plus hope left these diehards with the impression that “The Dark Knight Rises” could be nothing less than the crowning jewel of all cinema, and any suggestion to the contratry was seen as an attack on all they held sacred. It’s too bad director Christopher Nolan couldn’t have come out at some point and said, “Hey everybody, calm down. The movie’s not worth all this fuss. Especially since it’s not very good.”
I, like thousands of other Bat-fans across the country, attended not just a midnight screening, but a Bat-Marathon. Starting at 6 p.m. with “Batman Begins,” followed by “The Dark Knight,” and then the latest film at the stroke of 12:01. I got home sometime around 4 a.m. Make no mistake, exhausted as I was, it was a blast. It wasn’t, however, the best way to see the “The Dark Knight Rises.” Not because of the late hour, necessarily, but because it forced one to directly compare the film with its two, better, predecessors.
I think everyone knows the story of Batman at this point, but I will give a little refresher from the second film, as it ties directly in with the third. At the end of the last film, Batman is forced to go on the run, taking the rap for the death of Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face, and for Dent’s various crimes. Dent’s crusading efforts as Gotham’s District Attorney have given the city a chance at peace and prosperity, but if the public were to learn that the Joker had turned Dent from hero to violent sociopath, all his good work would be undone. So, Batman becomes the villain, Harvey Dent’s legacy is secure, and the bad guys are behind bars.
“Rises” picks up eight years after the events of “The Dark Knight.” Now, you might imagine that Batman has been out there, quietly working against the forces of darkness, all the while a hunted man, for these many years. You might think that, but you’d be wrong. In the first of many missteps, Nolan and his writers would have us believe that Bruce Wayne, a man obsessed with justice, has been hiding out on the second floor of his mansion, a la Howard Hughes, for the better part of a decade. When we see Wayne for the first time, he’s gaunt, aged, and relying on a cane. He surprises beautiful jewel thief Selena Kyle in the act of stealing his mother’s pearls, but she gets the better of him, basically because he’s become so decrepit.
Later, at a doctor’s office, we learn that he has no cartilage in his knees and elbows, and that the rest of his body is so screwed up that he should be bedridden. That doesn’t stop him from donning a robotic knee brace and diving right back into the swing of things when he learns of a new threat to his fair city. Bane, a muscle-bound madman with a creepy breathing apparatus covering half his face, has come to the city to pick up where the League of Shadows (from the first movie) left off. This confrontation is not destined to go well for Batman or the city of Gotham — one of which will end up languishing in a bizarre cylindrical prison deep underground, while the other cowers under threat of nuclear annihilation. Will Batman end up saving the day? Will Bane achieve his nefarious goals?
Well, were this film as nuanced and dark as the last one, that question would be a good one. Unfortunately, it’s not.
“The Dark Knight Rises” is, for the most part, entertaining on a surface level. It rarely drags, and offers some effective action sequences. But it also rarely makes much sense. “The Dark Knight,” had similar issues, but it was rooted in a very good story with very well written characters, so it rose above most of its problems. “Rises,” with poorly written characters and little development, sinks beneath the weight of an inconsistent and unbelievable plot. Bane, who had the potential to be this year’s Joker, ends up just being kind of silly, with a voice that sounds like a muffled, higher pitched Sean Connery impersonation and a stride that resembles a strutting peacock. He looks scary enough, but as it does in numerous other instances, the movie makes virtually no attempt to explain him. At some point Bane got a dread disease and the mask “eases his pain.” How? Is it hooked up to something? Is it filled with morphine? As a friend of mine noted, rather than easing his pain, it really just eases his ability to eat or drink anything.
Looking back, nearly every other scene offered up scenarios that made no sense. Of all the characters, Anne Hathaway’s turn as Catwoman/Selena Kyle was the best performance and the most intriguing story, though not strong enough to buoy the rest of the mess. Michael Caine, as butler Alfred, is, of course, excellent, but as he disappears for half the movie, he couldn’t do much to help, either.
Another friend of mine noted that we while we often give superhero movies a pass on many of their problems with logic, these new Batman movies get no such leeway. That may be true — Nolan deliberately set his tale in the real world, giving Batman and Bruce Wayne real problems to face. In this film, Wayne loses all his money, even seeing the electricity shut off in his giant mansion, on the very day his stock crashes, no less. Either Gotham Electric is the most on-the-ball power company in the country or the writers had just completely thrown in the towel at that point. You be the judge.
Maybe we are too hard on these films, but there’s no denying that “Rises” is shoddily written, even for a comic book fantasy. The first film, “Batman Begins,” has settled in my mind as the best of the three. Not overly ambitious or nuanced, “Begins” at least is very solid and full of captivating performances.
“Dark Knight” is beautiful and powerful, and a mess. “Rises” is just a mess — a fun, action-packed mess, but a mess nonetheless.
Grade: C-
“The Dark Knight Rises” is rated PG-13 for violence, sensuality, and brief language.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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