Don’t come to watch The Dark Knight Rises and expect your spirits to be buoyed and your sadness lifted. Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal offers this review of the much awaited third film in a trilogy, “The Dark Knight Rises”.
“The Dark Knight Rises” is notable for many things—thrilling chases, supercool vehicles, majestic vistas, an epic scale that hasn’t been achieved since “The Lord of the Rings,” a redemptive climax that brings an end, more or less, to a complex saga. The most stunning thing about the film, though—and this is said not by way of praise, but with anxious wonderment—is how depressing and truly doomy most of it is. Batman, played by a marvelous actor with a singular gift for depicting pain, suffers mortally. Drums beat incessantly—before, during and after a series of numbing, Neanderthal brawls between Batman and Bane. History takes a double beating from a script that reprocesses the storming of the Bastille into an attack by terrorist thugs.
Bruce can be forgiven the bleakness of his initial mood. His caped alter ego was unjustly blamed for the death of Gotham City’s district attorney, Harvey Dent, who was anything but the model citizen he’s become in public memory. Now the billionaire socialite has turned antisocial, a Howard Hughes-like hermit (minus the screwiness) licking his psychic wounds and living with the all-too-real injuries of former battles. But two threats conspire to end his solitude.
One of them is brought home—into his own home—by Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman. It’s intriguingly difficult to discern her motives, or loyalties, for most of the movie.
But the most proximate source of the threatening storm is Bane—an implacable, bemuscled villain who wears a mask over his disfigured face, and who speaks in muffled tones that make Darth Vader sound like an elocution teacher. (He’s not the only one with intelligibility problems; the movie’s use of bass frequencies to convey threat and evil does for dialogue what amped-up rock does for lyrics.) As played by the excellent Tom Hardy, who has porked up for the role and is essentially unrecognizable, Bane is not merely evil enough but ambitious enough to bring Batman back into action, since he plans nothing less than the city’s enslavement, if not its total destruction.
Dark comic books have always been around, but with a difference; as pictures and words on paper, they’ve allowed readers to choose their own degree of involvement. “The Dark Knight Rises” allows no choice.