THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012, Christopher Nolan): 7/10
How does Bane eat? Meh, never mind. I could have spent the nearly-three-hour running time in the theater thinking of the logical flaws in this movie and unanswered questions to the overly complicated plot (which feels like it was written along the way, a strange sort of feeling for a Nolan Brothers screenplay — their films tend to come across as meticulously planned from the jump), but there’s plenty of terrific filmmaking here to put that stuff at bay. This is beyond the suspension of disbelief necessary for a comic book superhero movie (of which it seems there’s a new mandate for 71% of Hollywood films per year to be about superheroes); I’m talking about the sheer technical skill it takes to suck the viewer into a most phony, impossible universe.
Part of the reason it all works is Nolan’s dedication to tone. Few blockbuster directors have such an amazing handle on tone (even Nolan’s crappier movies like INSOMNIA manage to stay united in that way), and this final piece of the Batman trilogy is unerringly dark, serious, and punishing. Yet it doesn’t allow that seriousness to impede on the entertainment — Anne Hathaway (who, in her own way, silences the pre-critics much like her BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN co-star Heath Ledger did in the last one with this bravura performance) has a number of clever lines delivered with deft grace and wry intelligence; and the spectacle is so astounding (three cheers to the set design team for some of the best production visuals I’ve seen in this era) that your footing doesn’t get weighed down in the murky mud of the script’s depressing decline into a world of nihilism.
It’s kind of like Nolan doesn’t even care that he’s making a Batman movie: he’s more concerned with a story that mixes a personal identity crisis (sound familiar, PRESTIGE and MEMENTO fans?) with a parable about society’s downfall via political terrorism vs. individual will to power. It’s more like INCEPTION than a comic book. (And it stars no fewer than four INCEPTION actors). The Big Ideas are at least pursued with gusto, even if not particularly original — and they’re more successfully tied in with the character development than in something like, say, PROMETHEUS. It’s just that there is some really slipshod storytelling in order to get there. The pacing is fairly good for a lengthy epic, even when the action threatens to pummel the minor moments in the second half. This isn’t a great film, but as long as we’re going to be subjected to summer upon summer of nothing but superhero movies, Hollywood could do worse than Nolan behind the camera.