Sunday, August 19, 2012

Film Review | The Dark Knight Rises

Dark and Stormy Knight
by Thomas Delapa

Holy overkill, Batman!

In The Dark Knight Rises, the Caped Crusader flies out of retirement, loses all his money and Alfred, gets the guano beaten out of him, and has to save Gotham City from a masked madman with an atomic bomb. 
Whew, all this for one superhero with no real super powers. Where are the Avengers when you need them?

In the final installment from the dynamic box-office duo of director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale, Batman seriously loses his mojo, again. The operative word here is ”serious,” as Nolan morphs his brooding comic-book incarnation into a hooded Hamlet. To agonized alter ego Bruce Wayne, to be Batman or not to be Batman, that is the lofty question.

Hobbled and a recluse after his epic battles with the Joker, Bruce Wayne falls to a new low before he’s roused out of semi-retirement. First his mother’s pearls are stolen by a crafty cat burglar and then a mysterious, hulking mastermind orchestrates an uber-hostile takeover of Wayne Enterprises. In these dire and depressing times, neither Wayne nor Batman is too big to fail. 

Zeitgeist watchers will note that Batman’s capital new bane is Bane (Tom Hardy), whose new boss may or not be Bain Capital’s Mitt Romney. This Bane is a Humongous-like thug (see: Road Warrior) who mellifluously speaks through a metal muzzle. When you can understand what he’s saying, he comes across like a campy Darth Vader minus the cape and charm. Except for the prospect of Chapter 7 bankruptcy, he’s Bruce Wayne’s biggest, baddest stress test yet.  

For all the millions (reportedly upwards of 250) squandered on this production, Batman’s swan song looks and sounds pretty much like a clone of any elephantine action movie. Long gone are the moody gothic designs and lighter touch of the Tim Burton series, replaced by a blandly modern Manhattan and cardboard villains. The only new toy in Batman’s arsenal  is a “Bat” fighter jet that looks like, yes, a big metallic bat. Despite the ultra-modernistic design, its options don't include an auto-pilot, an oversight only flown in as a plot gimmick. 

In this B(r)at Pack entry, Hollywood ageism is the greatest stealth enemy. Not unlike the Harry Potter series, talented pros like Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are pushed into the wings while the spotlight switches to minimal millennials like Anne Hathaway as Catwoman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, cast as an idealistic cop who wants to see Batman flap back into the swing of things. In skin-tight black leather and leading with her rear end, Hathaway is neither cat nor sexy kitten, only a kid actress who couldn’t carry Michelle Pfeiffer’s high heels. Reprising his throwaway role as the super-hapless Commissioner Gordon, Gary Oldman’s American accent is so forced he always seems to be throwing his voice from inside the Bat Cave. And if you’re looking for romance from this errant Knight, the best you’ll get are the bromantic weepy-eyed looks that Caine’s Alfred shoots at Master Wayne.

In the ups and downs of Batman’s last flight, not only must he battle the baddies and his own demons, but also Manhattan’s nasty 99%, who are unleashed as part of Bane’s suspiciously pinko plan of mass destruction. Once the urban masses take over the city, they set up kangaroo courts that send the rich and powerful hopping to their deaths across a frozen river. During the anarchy, Batman finds himself hurled into a prison hell-hole—literally—where his Herculean task involves an extreme messianic ascent that might go over big at the X Games. 

It’s all batty and super-pretentious, and any snickers that may arise will be muffled by the noise and Bale’s obliviously earnest performance, equal parts Dirty Harry and Jane Eyre’s Rochester. If this movie is a tragedy of sorts, as it so wants to be, it’s only because of the horrific real-life events that will forever shadow it. Otherwise, the joke is on the audience. Seriously.