Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
The Dark Knight Rises

Title: The Dark Knight Rises

Oh Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy: What, Have People Been Anticipating This Or Something?

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three-and-a-half Bat-Mites out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Bruce Wayne is lured out of gimpy retirement when a hulking, masked terrorist threatens to destroy Gotham City.

Tagline: "A fire will rise."

Better Tagline: "SPEAK UP!"

Has Bruce Wayne Moved On From Rachel Dawes? They dangle two romantic possibilities: Wayne Enterprises board member Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) and cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). Which is what you'll find in the thesaurus as an antonym of "Sophie's Choice."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Eight years have passed since the death of Harvey Dent and Batman's disappearance. Thanks to the "Dent Act," crime has all but disappeared from Gotham City, but GCPD Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), still guilty about covering up the truth about Dent's death, yearns for action. He gets it when a Congressman is abducted, and stumbles upon the underground lair of a group of heavily armed apparent terrorists led by the mysterious Bane (Tom Hardy). A reclusive Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is compelled to return to action but finds returning — both to struggling Wayne Enterprises and as the Batman — is more difficult than he thought. And then there's the matter of burglar Selina Kyle, who may or may not be on his side.

"Critical" Analysis: I've said it before and I'll say it again: In the movie department, Marvel pretty much owns DC Comics...except for Christopher Nolan's Bat-films. Now, at long last, the final installment in his trilogy hits the big screens, and it's definitely more of everything. More ambitious set pieces, more characters, more epic in scope. Carp all you want about the film's flaws (and there are a few), but the man has left it all on the screen. One can almost imagine Nolan exclaiming, "And I'm spent!" like Austin Powers after the final day's shooting.

It's the scope that puts everything else to shame. Comic book underpinnings are impossible to escape, and TDKR is no exception (conveniently stashed Batsuits and Lucius Fox's James Bond-ian gadgets are just the tip of the iceberg). But damn, is this movie beautiful to look at. Nolan hates 3D — thank Christ — but is still a proponent of 35mm and filming in IMAX, and the quality is apparent. Gotham's vistas are still fantastic, and the feeling that we're witnessing something somehow greater than just another superhero flick can't be escaped.

Besides that, Nolan (and fellow screenwriter/brother Jonathan Nolan) do what few superhero directors can: They make these potentially ridiculous characters human. Selina Kyle isn't "Catwoman," per se. She just has a set of goggles that, when worn back on her head, resemble feline ears. And I don't remember if anyone actually refers to Gotham's vigilante as anything other than *the* Batman in all three movies. This tactic of avoiding cute nicknames makes them somehow more authentic. Even then, it wouldn't be possible without Bale, who gives his most well-rounded performance of the character to date.

And yet. Whether it's the inescapable cynicism of age or growing impatience with the state of the world, Nolan's political allegories are barely allegorical anymore. Bane's army of Gotham Occupiers and the subsequent attack on the haves by the have-nots demand comparison to similar recent domestic happenings, even if the lesson is still how seldom so-called "revolutionaries" have anything but their own best interests in mind.

It's like nobody in Gotham City ever saw Die Hard.

Complaints about Bane's voice being nigh unintelligible are also still valid, even in the wake of postproduction cleanup. If you see this in a theater with a lot of kids, get ready to hear, "What did he say, Daddy?" about 50 times. It's to Hardy's credit that his physical presence and body language still make Bane an intriguing and formidable enemy for Batman.

Nolan is also the best superhero director at rewarding longtime fans of the franchise (and by that I mean people who are actually familiar with the character's comic book history, not anyone who's seen all the movies). It won't make a difference to casual fans, but those of you more in the know will likely clue in to a few things before the rest of the audience. Congratulations. All those summer days spent indoors are finally paying off.

Is it long? Yeah, two hours and 45 minutes is a lot to ask of your glutes. Are there a few too many flashbacks? Probably (we revisit Bane's horrifying childhood at least five times). Are we asked to suspend disbelief a little too often? "Suspend?" You may as well expel it for the school year.

But let's not overlook what Nolan and company have accomplished. With The Dark Knight Rises, they have completed what is undeniably the finest comic book trifecta to date, if not one of the best three-fers in movie history. TDKR may be the weakest of the three Bat-flicks, but only just, and Nolan's trilogy is still cowl and shoulders ahead of any other comic property.

The Dark Knight Rises is in theaters today. See it. In IMAX if at all possible.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar