The Dark Knight Rises

(Due to illness, I will not be reviewing a new movie this week. I'll modify the movie poll to reflect this change. I hope to be back to normal soon. Sorry and thanks.)

Early Friday morning, July 20, 2012, in Aurora, Colorado, a man with an arsenal of weapons began firing into the audience watching “The Dark Night Rises.”  Twelve people died and nearly 60 others were injured.  While this may sound like a plot element from the film it is all too real.  Political pundits and other talking heads will try to spin this tragedy into support for their own agendas; but what it really should point out is the fragility of life, how we aren’t guaranteed our next breath and the need for greater access to mental health care.  Hate me all you want but that’s what it says to me.  And if you are involved in a conversation with someone who says the incident supports the need for more gun control or less gun control and the need to vote Republican or vote Democrat, stop the conversation and point out a dozen people are dead and dozens more have had their lives changed forever.  Did the gunman only target liberals or conservatives?  Did he only kill those pro-life or pro-choice?  Was immigration reform foremost in his mind when he pulled the trigger?  No.  There were probably voices in his head telling him this was a necessary thing to do.  The acts of those willing to kill as many people as possible rarely make any sense and aren’t prevented by endless political debate.  Having now stepped down from my soapbox, here’s my review of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

It’s been eight years since the death of Gotham City DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) who had once be a beacon of hope in a lawless city but turned into an evil madman bent on revenge.  With Batman (Christian Bale) taking the blame for Dent’s death and police commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) participating in the cover-up, a new law was passed giving police a heavy hand in dealing with organized crime.  With most of the crime lords and their henchmen locked up in prison, Gotham is a peaceful, largely crime-free town.  Batman hasn’t been seen since that night and neither has billionaire Bruce Wayne (Bale) who has been secluded inside his rebuilt Wayne Manor.  Bruce is in poor physical condition due to his adventures as the Dark Knight.  His knees, shoulders and back are shot due to the physical exertion of fighting and jumping from high ledges.  After Bruce catches a maid stealing his mother’s pearls, he discovers she’s not just any maid but cat burglar Salina Kyle (Anne Hathaway).  After she escapes, Bruce deduces she really wasn’t after the contents of the safe but his fingerprints on the outside of it.  Kyle delivers the fingerprints to Wayne’s rival businessman John Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn).  Meanwhile, a CIA operation to extract a Russian nuclear scientist gets interrupted by a daring mid-air kidnapping.  Leading the operation is the masked and massive terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy).  Kyle, Daggett and Bane are all connected to a much larger plan; one that will bring Batman out of retirement and test his body and his sanity.
“The Dark Knight Rises” is a terrific movie.  It stays true to the tone and style of the previous installments while adding layers of bigger action and greater mystery.  The entire cast is spectacular, even Anne Hathaway who many people thought wasn’t up to the challenge of playing this iconic character.  She displays a depth of acting ability that hasn’t been seen in her romantic comedies because it wasn’t required for those roles.  She plays Salina Kyle as a heartless thief who lies as easily and believably as the best of them, leading Batman into a particularly dangerous encounter with Bane.
The film looks stunning largely because it all looks real.  Director Christopher Nolan prefers practical effects as opposed to CGI, so most of the gadgets you see are solid and three-dimensional.  While his flying machine, the Bat, may not actually leave the ground, when you see it flying low over the street chasing Bane’s henchmen, it really is there.  It just has a truck under it that holds it up on a pole.  The truck is then digitally removed from the picture.  The thing that always set Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies apart from the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher series is their realism.  Nothing that happens in any of the films is beyond possibility.  That also sets Nolan’s films apart from all the Marvel movies that require Norse gods to be real and genetically modified spiders, to name just a few.  I’m not bashing the Marvel films (I’ve really liked many of them), I’m just saying how this Batman trilogy is rooted largely in reality.
As much as I love the movie, there were a couple of things that stuck out in my mind.  First, Batman has to be told the purpose of Bane’s mask before he makes a target of it in their fights.  It seems to me to be something far too practical looking and functional to just be a disguise.  Also, some of the big crowd battles look very fake as you can see people looking for the person they’ve been directed to fight and throwing punches that don’t come close to the mark.  I’m sure most of the crowd scenes were shot with local extras who aren’t stuntmen so some of this can be forgiven.  If you’re not looking at the right place you’ll never notice it.
“The Dark Knight Rises” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language.  There are numerous fist fights, at least one stabbing, lots of shooting and other acts of violence.  There is a little blood but not much gore.  The one bit of sensuality is brief and has no nudity other than a topless Christian Bale.  Foul language is very widely scattered.
With a running time of two hours and 45 minutes, “The Dark Knight Rises” is a serious investment in time and will test the limits of your bladder.  Could it be shorter?  Probably.  Should it be shorter?  No it shouldn’t.  There’s not a bit of wasted time on screen and you’ll want to experience every second of this last visit to Christopher Nolan’s Gotham City.  I hope his influence is obvious on the Superman reboot “Man of Steel” he’s producing for release next summer.  While it’s hard to tell from the two teaser trailers that have been released, he might have a lot more to do with that film than you might think.
“The Dark Knight Rises” gets five guitars.
Illness kept me out of the theatre last weekend and since Stan's Choice won the movie poll, I have chosen to let this slide.  There are four new films for you to choose from ranging from a classic action/sci-fi reboot to a kids tale of summer fun.  Vote for the next film I'm hopefully well enough to see and review.
Total Recall - As the nation states Euromerica and New Shanghai vie for supremacy, a factory worker begins to suspect that he's a spy, though he is unaware which side of the fight he's on.
Dairy of a Wimpy Kid:  Dog Days - School is out and Greg is ready for the days of summer, when all his plans go wrong.
Beasts of the Southern Wild - A six-year old who lives with her dad in the Delta experiences far more than her young years have prepared her for when floods and prehistoric creatures threaten to destroy their way of life.
The Intouchables - A physically disabled French noble hires a young black Muslim caretaker, not knowing how both their lives will be affected.
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any movie currently playing in theatres.
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.
Questions or comments should be sent to  Follow Stan on Twitter @moviemanstan.