Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway on a Cheap Bat-Dinner Date

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Ron Phillips/Warner Bros.
Bale and Hathaway dance while Gotham burns.
The Dinner: Massaman Beef Curry, at Tup Tim Thai (118 W. Mercer St.).

The Movie: The Dark Knight Rises, at Pacific Science Center (200 Second Ave. N.).

The Screenplate: If you're going to go all-in for Chris Nolan's third Batman movie, go IMAX. To extract maximum value from the 164-minute DKR, the extra size and ticket price are worth it. The film may be a bloated, clanging, overstuffed spectacle, like an opera without tenors, but its callow grandiosity is well suited to the very largest of screens. The opening sequence is 007-worthy, as a CIA plane full of terror suspects is nabbed by another ... no, I'll just let you see it. Neither Bruce Wayne nor Batman appears here, as the film is immediately grabbed by scruff of its neck by mighty Bane (English actor Tom Hardy), a supervillain who's equal parts Hannibal Lecter and Lord Humungus. Director Nolan immediately sets himself a challenge he hardly resolves in DKR: Bane may be more formidable, more interesting than out-of-retirement Batman; and while Batman is predictably torn between two women (Anne Hathaway and Marion Cotillard), torn between heroism and fatigue, we know he's going to prevail. The surprise is how Bane's revolutionary rhetoric and secret identity are dropped like an afterthought. Somewhere in the editing (and there was nowhere near enough cutting, we should note), Nolan must've realized that Bane was running off with his movie. Which neither Bale nor Warner Brothers nor DC Comics would permit: Too much money was at stake. For a movie that so plainly engages the class divide (posh Wayne and prosperous Gotham about to be toppled by the angry mob), DKR sides with the ancien régime. This presents something of a dilemma about where to eat....

With his brother and co-writer, Jonathan, Chris Nolan repeatedly invokes Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities in DKR. The gulf between rich and poor has reached some kind of critical point during the affluent eight years Batman has been in retirement. In this way, Occupy Wall Street and the one-percent also provide context for the movie, which is not to say meaning. If, as Bane says, Gotham is "corrupt," the Nolans vaguely blame an authoritarian city regime that has locked up all the city's crooks. The draconian Dent Laws, implemented by Aaron Eckhart's crusading prosecutor in the 2008 The Dark Knight, have evidently created an imbalance in the system, allowing the rich to get richer and the poor to get ... but wait, this movie isn't Robin Hood, is it?

Before Bane gives populist speeches to a city he holds hostage, Bruce Wayne is up in his mansion, hobbling around like Howard Hughes, sitting on a fortune made at least in part from the arms trade. Wayne is in the one percent of the one percent, and his Batman has always depended--as in this movie, too--on expensive gadgets and high-tech tools to fight crime. That Bane's solidarity is a ruse we can easily guess, but it takes a while for Wayne to come down from his castle and see how the 99-percenters (i.e., those of us who buy movie tickets) are living. Then, to make his allegiance even more clear, the Nolan brothers have Wayne lose his fortune--the headline reads, "From Billionaire to Bum!"

Where do billionaires eat? And bums--only at the soup kitchen? For the former, near Pacific Science Center, dining up in the Space Needle is probably the most expensive option within walking distance. However, you almost always need a reservation for SkyCity (as the restaurant is now called). Us bums can always try the food court at Center House (the old armory) or make the short walk across the Seattle Center campus to Lower Queen Anne, where few billionaires are seen. There, low-cost options abound for dinner. Bruce Wayne might not eat there, but Hathaway's cat-burglar character, Selina Kyle, might. She's a recession-impacted criminal who resents Wayne's wealth and, dancing with him at a charity ball, warns of a coming class war. Hathaway's Selina is also, out of costume, the closest to a normal person in DKR; she's a little less hermetically bound to the DC Comic-sphere of humorless heroes and villains. She's also less burned with backstory than Batman or Bane, both of whose histories lead to a pit prison in the desert (actually Jodhpur, India) and the League of Shadows, which you may vaguely recall--along with Liam Neeson--from Batman Begins in 2005. Selina is a gal who would simply eat dinner. Bruce Wayne probably subsists on caviar and protein shakes. Batman never eats. And Bane, based on what little we learn of him, was evidently raised on grubs, rats, and scorpions. All of which limits our dining choices in LQA.

Meanwhile, back in Gotham, Nolan stages an elaborate city takeover like 9/11 times eleven. All the bridges are blown, turning Manhattan (never named Manhattan) into an island prison. Bane traps the city's police force underground in the same underground tunnels from whence he launched his attack. (Nolan deliberately invokes the subterranean sequences of Metropolis here, another sign of the class divide.) Defeated in a cage match with Bane, Batman is sent back to the prison pit to lick his wounds and plot his comeback--and this is only at the midpoint of a movie that could've been split in two, like the last Harry Potter book, or at least been given an intermission. DKR is the rare movie that may require two giant tubs of popcorn to survive. Part of your impatience, as Nolan keeps piling on chase after chase, clang after crash, and even a football game, is that there's nothing new to learn about Batman or his loyal cohort (Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman). Hathaway's cat-burglar, never actually called Catwoman, is fun but shallow. The movie's only real cipher is Bane, a kind of Shakespearean nemesis on steroids, with a voice we can only half-understand beneath his metal mouthpiece. (It looks like a steampunk bondage gag, but it apparently allows him to breathe.) Between Batman's strangled whisper and Bane's swallowed threats, the movie's a contest in ear strength--ours versus the otherwise deafening soundtrack. Like an opera, which DKR often resembles, the movie would've been significantly improved with subtitles.

For that reason, it's nice to retreat to a restaurant, Tup Tim Thai, with the conversational volume and music set to ordinary levels--not Dolby surround-sound and IMAX. It's a welcoming, familiar place, and the Massaman Beef Curry ($11.77 with a small side of white rice) is a familiar, affordable meal. (For comparison, your IMAX ticket is $14.25, plus another $2.50 if you purchase online.) Again, among DKR's cast of characters, TTT would only be suitable for Selina--though not in her mask and leather bodysuit. It's a place for us 99-percenters, not superheroes or supervillains.

As for Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne in the movie, after an explosive climax, its last image is one of food and luxury. This is Chris Nolan's world, created by a billion-dollar trilogy whose last installment reportedly cost between $185-250 million. Batman may inevitably return to rescue us little people from crime and oppression, but in costume or not, he's a protector of the people--not a man of the people.

 
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