The Dark Knight Rises: Too Dark, Too Much, Too Long

Though a shallow repository of ideas, considered as a work of sheer sensation, Dark Knight Rises has something to recommend. Director Christopher Nolan has continued his experimentation with the vast IMAX format, and the sheer mass of what he has constructed inspires a dull awe—it is impossible not to be cowed by a film that’s five stories tall, as a stampeding Hans Zimmer–led orchestra tramples you. If 2008’s The Dark Knight openly invited reading as the War on Terror Batman, then The Dark Knight Rises is the Occupy Wall Street installment. “You think all this can last?” down-and-out survivor/cat burglar Selina (Anne Hathaway) says upon meeting Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) at a masquerade ball. “There’s a storm coming.” That storm breaks in the form of the living incarnation of Have-Not rancor, Bane—a villain whose visage will remind many of the unmasked Darth Vader, though his purr is closer to Vincent Price talking through a window fan. As throughout the Batman films, Nolan is at his best symphonizing second-unit footage, illustrating how the shock waves of an assault resound across the infrastructure of an entire city, a coordinated assault on Gotham’s pressure points being a particular high point here. As always, all the on-the-nose speechifying keeps the movies running long, while the drum-tight rule of schematic relevance shuts out anything resembling wit, spontaneity, and recognizable human conduct. The history of Batman’s burden is, however, increasingly cumbersome, and it’s Mr. Bane who finally makes the pertinent point: “Gotham is beyond saving and must be allowed to die.”