Christian Bale returns as Gotham’s masked protector. Eight years — at least in movie time — have elapsed since the events of 2008’s The Dark Knight, and both Batman and his real-life identity, billionaire Bruce Wayne, have gone into seclusion. But the Batman is coerced back into action when an evil masked man named Bane (Tom Hardy, Warrior) pushes a not-so-disguised New York City to the brink of anarchy and nuclear annihilation.
That’s the abridged version of a Byzantine plot steeped in post-9/11 nightmares of terrorism, economic calamity and the widening gulf between haves and have-nots. Clocking in at nearly three hours, Rises is wildly ambitious, it not always up to the task. While the movie doesn’t feel as long as its running time, Nolan’s unremittingly gloomy tone and sprawling narrative are occasionally exhausting.
But I’ll take flawed ambition over perfectly executed mediocrity. Whether seen on the big screen or at home on Blu-ray and DVD, The Dark Knight Rises lacks the operatic tragedy of The Dark Knight or the exhilaration of Batman Begins, but this final chapter is meaty, provocative and even manages a few surprises.
And it’s anchored by a uniformly strong cast, ranging from the franchise regulars to the welcome addition of Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception) as a rookie cop and Anne Hathaway (Love and Other Drugs) as the Catwoman (although she’s not called that).
Farewell, caped crusader — at least until the inevitable reboot. —Phil Bacharach